The 2006 Reading Toastmasters Speech contest started with the drawing of the speaking order. I drew number three which was just fine with me. I didn’t really want to speak first, plus I thought I would be able to learn a little from my two very experienced competitors before it was my turn to speak.
The first two speakers where obviously prepared and took the competition seriously. They were polished and I did learn quite a bit from their speeches. I learned that passion counts for a lot in a contest speech. Both of the speeches were personal and the speakers apparently felt very deeply about their subjects. Then it was my turn.
I knew I had a problem with my speech. I knew I was pressed for time, since there is a seven minute limit. I cut down the story the best I could, but I was still afraid of going over. So, I decided to keep what I had and simply pick up the pace in some of the more intense parts of the story. Time-wise, it worked out well, but the faster pace made some of the speech seem rushed. I believe this was one of the reasons I didn’t win the 2006 Reading Toastmasters International Speech Contest. Another reason, as I realized later, is a speech which comes from personal experiences holds far more attention and is far more credible than a fictitious story.
That first competition ended the way I expected. I came in third out of three. Then three things I didn’t expect happened. First, the first place winner announced he would not be able to make it to the Area 13 contest because he would be away on vacation on the same date. The second place winner was going to the Area 13 contest.
The second thing I didn’t expect was that, since Area 13 only had three clubs, we were allowed to send two contestants each to the area contest. Even though I had come in dead last, I was allowed to move on to the next level.
The third thing I didn’t expect was, after the contest meeting was over, the first place winner came up to me and asked if he could have the text to my speech. The vacation he was going on was in the middle of the wilderness, with friend, in Arkansas and they had planned a night of stories around the camp fire. He wanted to share my story with his friends.
I was highly honored that such a talented speaker was interested in using my story and his complement made me want to work a little more on my speech, trying to make it better. I didn’t realize how much his encouragement helped until after the Area 13 contest was over.