As I walked into the hotel near Exton Pennsylvania, I couldn’t help but think about how exciting the entire experience was. I also couldn’t help notice that my butterflies where replaced by Rottweilers. I had made it to the District 38 International Speech Contest. In just a few hours, someone will be crowned the best speaker out of three-thousand Toastmasters in Eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey and I wanted to be that someone.
I don’t ever remember being that nervous – Well except for one other time, but that is a story for a future post. I had practiced my speech many more times and shared it with another group in the two weeks between the Division E and the District contests. I was completely and totally ready for this contest and I had a good feeling about it.
As soon as I walked into the lobby, I saw a fellow Toastmaster who I recognized right away. Bill was a grizzled Toastmaster veteran and he was normally full of advice. However, on that day he only had one piece of advice for me. He told me, “The contest is already over. The preparation is the actual contest. Whoever prepared best will be the one to win. The only thing you have to do now is have fun.” Then he ended our contest by telling me something that turned out to be prophetic. He said, “You don’t need to worry about this contest, you will at least place in the top three today.”
I went into the bathroom to get a hold of my nerves and then I went out to meet as many people as I could. I wanted to meet everyone so I would feel like I was speaking to old friends when I was on stage. Those who knew me and heard my speech had very up-beat and positive attitudes. The more I spoke to them the more confident I felt.
Before I knew it, it was time to go to the briefing room where I would pick my speaking order. There were a total of six contestants in the room. Every one of them appeared confident and ready to compete. Unfortunately, that unnerved me a little. I began to ask myself if I was as ready as these people where.
I picked the fourth speaking slot. I was used to speaking first and I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I’d have to wait for my speech. As I found in the next few months, that was a good thing.
The speech contest was now ready to start. The first contestant was called and she walked to the stage and began her highly entertaining speech and then a thought occurred to me. “I forgot my speech!”