The 2012 Division E International Speech Contest

On Thursday night, the Division E contest was every bit the challenge I thought it would be.  The two speakers I had to compete against, both, apparently, had thoroughly practiced there speeches during the three weeks between the Combined area contests and Thursday night; both speeches where tight and ready to roll.  Fortunately, for me, even though I had a very busy three weeks, I was also able to practice a lot.  The unknown candidate was also there.  From Area 16, the Scranton area was the one speaker in the contest I hadn’t seen yet.

I picked third out of four speakers.  Interestingly enough, out of the three speakers who had all seen each other’s speeches, I was last.  I was happy with that position, because it gave me a chance to relax and gather my thoughts after the speech contest started and to get a little inspiration from the proceeding speakers.

The first speech which Bonnie was giving was about her friend who had a son with a heroin addiction and ultimately died from it.  She hadn’t changed any of the words, but the whole speech was crisper, tighter and she was ready for the Division Contest.  Justin’s speech about Steve Jobs and some of the apps for the Ipad and Iphone which can help us be better Toastmasters, seemed to start strong but end weak at the Area contest.  On Thursday night, it was clear Justin worked hard on his speech.  He closed all of those holes and reworked the end to create a very strong and somewhat intimidating speech.

Then it was my turn.  I started my speech by telling the story of how Achilles got shot in the heel with an arrow.  I started just after the Trojan archer Paris had shot the arrow into the famous heel.  I quickly compared Paris facing an “invincible nemesis” to our own seemingly invincible problems.  Then I shared my story of how I lost my job and took nearly four months of job searching to find another.  I then showed how I used the same method to defeat my “Personal Achilles” as Paris did in the Greek legend.  The secret is patience coupled with persistence.

I felt good when I first started my speech.  I did the introduction to the speech and then started into the body.  Then it happened.  A slight stammer.  It happened in a portion of the speech I had trouble with early on.  I gave the speech in front of several groups and it appeared I had mastered the first couple of sentences of the speech, but I stammered.

After my speech was over, I sat down and I felt that little stammer was a hug problem.  The fourth speaker took the stage and gave a very entertaining speech about her brand new cat.  I sat thinking about my one slip and hoped the judges would forgive me.  At the end of the contest I listened to the results and I heard my name. But not at the position I wanted to hear it.  I came in second.  I was not entirely surprised to hear Justin had won first place.

I don’t really know if that stammer caused my loss, but I do know that with the level of competition that was at the Division E contest, that was all it would have taken to miss first place.  However, Justin’s speech was very tight and I had a hard time finding a weak point.  Justin is on his way to the District 38 contest and I sincerely believe he will do very well.  All I know is it would make me feel a lot better if he wins the district contest.


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