As I awaited the final decision of the judges on the Division A contest in 2007, my stomach was tied up in knots. After talking to several people, I was under the impression that I won the contest. However, I had reason to believe … I didn’t.
As I practiced my speech I made a mistake that many new to the world of competitive public speaking make. I tried to milk every last second. This process worked great the previous year and it was working great this year. The point of milking every last second is to put as much information into your speech, so it is better understood and better received. The down side of this practice is it’s easy to do what I was convinced I had done at the Division contest. I was ninety-nine percent sure I had gone over on time.
Since then, I’ve learned, if you see the red light, at all, during your speech you’ve gone too long. It’s true, you have an extra thirty seconds past the allotted seven minutes of your speech, however, that time should be used for the times you need to recover form unforeseen circumstances.
The contest chair and the chief judge stood in front of the room ready to announce the winners. The first announcement was not a winner. Instead, I heard, “There was one disqualification.” I didn’t have to wonder who was disqualified or for what. I knew. I was disqualified for going over the time limit. I wanted to go home right then, but, instead, I waited. That may very well have been a mistake.
After the announcements and the contest was adjourned, one of the ballot counters broke protocol and told me that I had won on paper, but was disqualified by two seconds. I’m not sure if she was trying to make me feel better, but it didn’t work. I’ve told my story several times and I usually end it with, “…Then, I went home kicked the dog and crawled into a bottle of alcohol and didn’t come out for a week.” This usually makes people laugh, but they might not have laughed if they realized how close to the truth it actually was.
After I shook off the blues, I began thinking about the next year’s contest. I had many ideas, but none seemed to come to fruition. “This isn’t a problem” I told myself “I have ten months to prepare.” After all, is plenty of time to get ready for a speech contest … isn’t it?