Contest prep – story selection

As I look forward to the 2016 Toastmasters International speech contest, I’ve given a bit of thought to what makes the best story for that event.

In 2014, I told the story of my first assignment in the Air Force, and how I took an unexpected (to me) situation and, essentially, grew up. Titled, Not Just Another Day, the message was not to let your life turn into a series of “just another day” days. Whether I was taking a class toward my degree or climbing Mount Fuji, I decided early on to never let tomorrow be Just Another Day.

In 2015, I spoke about an experience I had with a fellow Toastmaster named *Susan. One day, after I was with Susan speaking to a prospective club sponsor, I told her what a wonderful job she had done. She replied by telling me, “Rob, no one ever tells me I do a good job.” The message from that lesson was to always take time to recogonize great performance every chance you get.
* not her real name

There are a few lessons from this process that I’ve learned, and these lessons have given me some things to think about for my 2016 effort:

1. You don’t have to win to make a difference. A well crafted message can make a difference to your audience, even if you don’t finish first.

2. Having a simple, relatable message is important to reach the audience (including the judges). Having an unclear message, or too many points, makes you forgettable, not formidable.

3. It’s almost impossible to have too much humor, but necessary to have enough to keep the audience engaged.

4. It’s difficult to over-prepare. I don’t believe I’ve ever done it.

5. It’s a mistake to mess with your speech in the week leading up to the contest.

So what’s next?

First, it’s the chicken and egg part. Decide on a story and a message to anchor my speech.

Second, practice it in a few Toastmaster clubs and get some feedback.

Next, determine a way to open/close the speech.

Finally – practice, prepare and perform

What’s your plan?

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