Thursday night was the Humorous Speech and Table Topics contests. I presented my speech, “The Divine Origin of Beer,” and participated in the Table Topics contest as well. This was possibly the best area contest I remember. There were three of us speaking and all three speeches were well prepared, well thought out and funny, if I do say so myself. I realized that the voting could have gone for any one of us, but in the end I was able to walk away with the first prize and the honor of going on to the Division E 38 contest in Bethlehem, PA on October 21st.
The Table Topics contest was pretty much the same. The answers I heard were very good and I wasn’t really surprised by the results. An old friend from Under the Red Umbrella, the Travelers Insurance corporate club, took home the first place prize. He has always been a freak of nature at Table Topics. He has that rear talent of being able to make up a great story or putting together a great presentation at a moment’s notice and it shows that he loves to do it. He, too, will be going to Bethlehem on October 21st.
I was reminded of the importance of the contest seasons and how they help us get out of our comfort zones and help us push back our limitations; just the preparation alone for this contest was an exercise in leaving my comfort zone, because I had to find the time each day to practice, even though I didn’t really want to, most of the time. I practiced my speech in front of my own club twice and will be doing so in front of some of the other clubs in my area, I hope. Then being in front of a group in a high pressure situation like the contests definitely ups the ante and the pressure will get higher at the Division E and District 38 contests, if I make it that far.
Toastmasters provides many ways to get out of your comfort zone; in fact another name for Toastmasters could probably be ‘Get-out-of-your-comfort-zone-masters.” Some claim just joining was the craziest thing they did in years. Toastmasters provides increasing ways to step out, starting with the icebreaker speech and then continuing through the other speeches in the Competent Communicator manual and then all of the advanced manuals. On the leadership side of Toastmasters there are whole other sets of ways to push yourself out of your comfort zone starting with the Competent Leader manual, then club leadership, then district leadership and higher if you so wish.
I feel the Comfort Zone issue is an untapped resource for Toastmasters. We as Toastmasters speak about the benefits of public speaking and leadership, but maybe we should also be talking about the many opportunities to get out of your comfort zone and the benefits members can reap from it. But the benefits could be a whole other post.