At this weekend’s Toastmasters District 22 Fall Conference in Topeka Kansas, many people had the opportunity to see some outstanding presentations, including some fantastic contest speeches. Watching these marvelous efforts, the question came to my mind of how these contestants handle that “next speech” in their home club after working so hard to give a contest-quality speech.
I didn’t just think of this myself…oh no. During the conference, I was approached by a fairly new Toastmaster (pre-CC) who had competed and won her Club and Area Humorous Speech Contests this fall. That sort of thing happens when you wear a Tuxedo to dinner.
She asked my opinion about how to handle new expectations in her club environment, now that she was an Area speech contest winner. Listening to her question, I felt like she was concerned that if she were to deliver a speech in her club that was not a potential contest winning speech, she might lose some of the respect of her club members.
I have to admit when I look at it from her point of view, it seems like a pretty reasonable concern. After all, she had raised her own personal bar, so to speak, and was now struggling with whether or not she could consistently meet or exceed those new standards.
Are you wondering about the long answer, or do you just want to hear the short version?
Of course, you’re going to be able to read both (and if you read aloud, you’ll hear both too).
The short answer: “Don’t worry about it.”
That’s it? Don’t worry about it? That’s all you’ve got?
The less-short answer: Remember that the Toastmasters program includes an incredible assortment of resources to allow you to learn and grow as a speaker and leader at your own pace. As you earn that first Competent Communicator (CC) award, you improve those basic delivery skills such as using gestures, vocal variety, and organization. With the Advance Communicator (AC) manuals, you develop and fine tune such critical competencies as storytelling, facilitating, and persuading (among many other skills).
As you develop those skills, some of your own shortcomings are going to be revealed to your club. The strength of your club environment is that your fellow members understand and even expect this (they’ve been through it too). They are not there to judge you, but to support you in becoming a better speaker and leader throughout each speech you give.
That means in this environment, you are actually not expected to make every single speech better than the last one. That’s right! You have permission…no no.. encouragement to take a step back once in a while. Why? Because doing so will help you take two steps forward. I speak the truth!
I understand the very real concern of that next speech not being what you’ve come to expect from yourself. After all, you practiced and prepared for the recent contest with great effort and conviction. That’s what your Toastmasters club is there for, after all. There you are, getting the opportunity to stretch your abilities and practice that next skill you need to reach another level.
Just remember that each speaking opportunity should include a goal (i.e. learning how to use visual aides, handling Q&A on controversial topics, or breaking the ice, etc.) and sometimes by stretching yourself, you’ll find the greatest opportunity for improvement. Hey, you may even surprise yourself with how amazing you become.
You just may not surprise your club, because they already know you’re going to get better. Just watch and see!