I arrived at the Wyomissing Library on a Saturday Morning ready to compete in the 2006 Area 13 International Speech Contest. Shortly after arriving, I found I would be one of only two competitors that day. The other competitor was my fellow club member who I had just competed against about a month earlier. We knew each other’s speeches, so I knew it would be interesting to see how things turned out.
I worked on my speech, cutting out a few lines in order to make it fit neatly in the 7 minutes allowed and then polishing it. I practiced the story, in order to make it seem more natural. Finally I was ready to compete, I was ready to do a better job than I had in the previous contest.
My fellow club member pulled number 1, so I would not be speaking first, again. That was fine with me. At that time, I still didn’t like to go first. He had, obviously, been practicing himself. His speech seemed smother and more powerful. He seemed more confident and relaxed, but that was ok with me, because I felt good about my story as well.
After he gave his speech and the judges had their time to do their job, it was my turn. I was introduced and I stood in front of the group at the Wyomissing Library outside Reading Pennsylvania and began telling my story. As I told my story I saw the eyes of my audience grow wider. I saw their faces change expression throughout the story. I saw the eyes move from disbelief to belief and back again. Most importantly, I felt good while telling the story. The pace was good. The tempo was smooth. The speech was great. When I sat down, I felt I had done well.
At the end of the contest, I wasn’t really surprised by the verdict of the judges. I had come in second. The speech my fellow club member gave was great. In fact I still remember his main point to this very day. He used the seen in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Indi had to make a “Leap of faith.” He had to step out over what appeared to be a cliff, hundreds of feet high. After Indi stepped out, he found the cliff was an optical illusion. The point of the speech was, sometimes we have to make a leap of faith to get what we need.
I still remember his point, because he told a personal story of how he worked his way out of a very dark time in his life, plus he used a reference that many in his audience recognized. These aids made his story very easy to understand and remember. A personal story and a recognizable reference were two things my speech was missing.
When the contest was over, I had three conversations with three different people. The first was with the District 38 Governor, which happened to be in the audience. She made a point to discuss my speech with me. She told me what she liked the most was my passion for the story I told. She said she could “feel” the story as I told it. She also told me that my voice was rich and clear. She also mentioned that she wished I had a lesson or thought she could take away from the story. I was very encouraged by those observations and already began to get excited about the next contest season.
The second conversation was with the chief judge of the contest who broke protocol by telling me that I had lost by only 2 points.
The third and final conversation I had was with one of the judges who, also broke protocol by telling me he had voted for me because, he thought I developed my story better than my fellow competitor.
I was very encouraged by everything everyone had said to me and now the stage was being set for the next contest season; the 2006 Humorous Speech Contest Season.