The Hiatus

After The Region VII contest, I was determined to use my new found experience to get back to the Regional contest and hopefully farther.  I got a speech called, “Achilles Last Stand” to work out pretty well.  As of December of 2008, it still needed a lot of work, but I felt pretty good about it.

Then everything changed.  On December 12, 2008 I lost my job.  I let as many people as I could know in an attempt to use all of my networking options.  The strategy worked … sort of.  I got lots of leads right away, but because of the economy they didn’t pan out.

I stayed close to Toastmasters because I knew the skills I was practicing kept me sharp for interviews and job searches.  It also provided a system for continuous networking.  In fact, the Division E governor called me one day with a very interesting proposition.  He told me he needed to fill the position of Area 13 Governor, my area, and asked if I would step in.  He felt that my exposure as the Area 13 Governor could result in many more networking opportunities.

I knew he was right, but the request brought me to a very difficult decision.  I loved competing, and I was well on my way to preparing for the upcoming contest season.  If I were to take the area governorship I wouldn’t be able to compete, but I would improve my chances of finding a new job.

After a day of though, I decided to be the Area Governor and I took the position in January 2009, half way through the Toastmasters’ year.  Over the next six months I found the District Leadership role was indispensable for the learning of speaking skills. As Area Governor, I got a close up look at what really goes on behind the scenes of a contest and what it takes to put one on.  I got a better feel of what the judges are looking for and how they are affected by different ideas.  Besides the contest experiances I got more speaking opportunities than I realized I could handle.  I was giving several speeches per month and gaining more experience than I knew what to do with.

The first six months I spent as the Area 13 Governor was extremely rewarding, so when June came around, and I was asked to stay on for the 2009-10 year, I wasted no time in accepting.  Although I was having such a great time in the district leadership during those 18 months, I never stopped dreaming about competing.  I conceived a plan in which I would compete in and win the 2012 Toastmasters International Championship of Public Speaking.  Every few months since the 2008 contest season I worked on improving and experimenting with two speeches; the already proven “Wings and Chains” and a speech which I wrote before I got laid off, but then rewrote after finding another job, “Achilles Last Stand.”

I chose not to compete in the 2011 International Speech Contest and continue to prepare for the 2012 competition as I envisioned.  For me, the 2012 International Competition has been four years in the making.  The speech has changed quite a bit since its original form in 2008 and I’m sure it will continue to change as I learn more about it and how it makes my audiences feel.  Over the last four years, “Achilles Last Stand” changed from being a speech about believing in yourself to a speech about the bedrock of persistence and success; Patience.  In the past few months the name of the speech itself, changed since I realized that Achilles never really did have a “last stand.”  Instead I realized that he never stood a chance in the first place.  Therefore I changed the name to “Achilles Never Stood A Chance.”

I’ve already practiced this speech in front of several groups and had great evaluations.  Tomorrow, February 20, I will take the first step toward the fruition of a four year dream by giving my speech to my home club, Reading Toastmasters.  It won’t be a club contest, since no one else is competing, but it’s extremely important none-the-less.  Tomorrow’s speech and reactions will set the pace and mood for the rest of the contest season; a contest season which I plan to end in Orlando Florida on August 18 by accepting the first place trophy for the International Championship of Public Speaking.

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