I arrived at the Lancaster City Library ready for the 2006 Division A Humorous Speech Contest. I had gotten lots of feedback from those who have heard my speech and I remembered that feedback as I practiced. My mentors where indispensable; I used their knowledge and advice to the fullest extent possible.
I was fully prepared and felt good as I walked into the library and found the room in which the competition would be held. When I settled in, I had a conversation with one of my mentors who told me she felt I would do very well in the contest. After the conversation, I felt even better about my chances; perhaps even a little cocky.
The table topics contest was first. By the quality of the speakers, I could tell that I was no longer on the club level. The division contest was a whole new level of competition, which I had never seen before. Then it was time for the speech contest. I competed against four other speakers. Each one was very experienced. I spoke third in the order and I was ready. I stood walked confidently to the front of the room, shook the Toastmasters hand and began my speech. I felt good. This may sound funny, but I actually felt too good. I got more laughs then I had ever gotten with anything I had ever done before. The audience was rolling in the isles – almost literally.
I felt a lot of energy from the group and I was excited about the whole experience. Slowly, I began to realize I was moving around a lot – perhaps too much. Perhaps I was losing control. At the moment, I didn’t care. I was having fun – lots of fun. I finally realized how out of control I had gotten at the end of the speech. When I reached the end, instead of waiting for the Toastmaster, I headed right to my chair. I didn’t properly give control of the floor back to the Toastmaster.
There were two more speakers left and, to me at least, they were the best of the day. I sat watching them and thinking about my mistake; a mistake I had never made before … ever. Would the judges count it against me? I wasn’t sure, but I had a feeling they would. As I later figured out, there were several other problems with the speech witch made it nearly impossible for me to win in the first place.
In the end, I didn’t win the 2006 Division A contest. I didn’t even place. I wasn’t entirely sure why, but in the time since, I’ve come to the realization of several reasons why.
First: I was not in control of myself. I was making many distracting movements and motions. I had indeed lost control.
Second: As I already stated, I didn’t properly transfer control of the floor to the Toastmaster. By itself, this would not have been the end of the world, but at the same time, it’s not something judges like to see nor is it something that makes for a good meeting.
Third: As a contest speech, my presentation was flawed from the start. I didn’t have a personal lesson to learn and I didn’t personalize the speech. A personalized speech, even if it’s completely made up, is far more impactful than a speech which merely discusses historical and current facts and figures.
All in all, this would be an excellent speech to give in a night club, but if I want to have a greater impact on the audience, which we usually do as Toastmasters, I need to remember the above lessons.
The next contest season would be the 2007 International Speech Contest, and as I left the library that day, I already had a good idea of the speech I would do. I also knew I had a lot to learn from that day’s loss and, with the help of my mentors, I’d be able to do it.