Recently, I competed to be the “World Champion of Public Speaking – 2006” which is held annually by Toastmasters International. I placed second in the area, one step beyond my club competition. Some would say that my pursuit of this recognition is a bit quixotic, but I would disagree. It helps me to keep my edge for when I’m called upon to speak at a moment’s notice. After two consecutive years working toward this end, I have determined not to give up my pursuit of one day being recognized as the “World Champion of Public Speaking.”
I want to share some of the lessons that I have learned along the way to this goal. They are humorous and inspiring. I hope that you’ll enjoy both sides of the message. Take each one with a grain of salt, as I have, and you might be able to spice up your dinner next evening.
Lesson 1: If your major competitors are not native English speakers and the primary language of the contest is English, placing second is not a stunning victory. Both times, I did triumph over a native Spanish speaking person.
Lesson 2: If you are the first speaker, chances are that you will not win the contest. Again, on both occasions, I was the first speaker to level set the quality expected by the judges. Like in baseball, I saw myself as the leadoff batter, out to warm up the pitcher to see what he had to throw!
Lesson 3: Easy topics will usually win over complex topics. Strike three! On both outings, I strove to be original in my presentation. This year, I was beat by a rival who compared the butterfly’s transformation to Toastmasters’ transformations.
Lesson 4: If you want to challenge you audience to see things differently, don’t use the contest to do so. I know for next year that I’ll stick with safe, warm, fuzzy idea that make people feel good when they walk out of the room. Thought provoking calls to action just don’t get good marks with the judges.
Lesson 5: Try not to get sick before your speech. I felt the precursor to a massive allergy attack just hours before taking the platform. If I felt better, my concentration and delivery would have been sharper.
Lesson 6: Children may be God’s gift to parents, but not when they wake you at 4:45 on the day of your speech. That’s right, my adorable four-month-old daughter decided that she would start her day early on the day of the competition!
Lesson 7: Don’t ever speak about pain; it is just not that exciting. I thought that I could persuade my audience to see that at certain times, pain is a good thing. Wow, did I ever miss my target!
I could probably go on with several more lessons, but I just don’t have the time. Out of everything that I could possibly learn, I came to realize this one very important point. Toastmasters is a platform to have you opinion be heard, but chose your time and place carefully!