Toastmasters: Winning your Area Contest

Just one short week after my club contest win, I competed in our Area Contest. I was representing my club in the International Speech Contest category; I did not compete in the Table Topics category. I retold the story from my club contest, about my experience joining the US Air Force after graduation from High School. I did change the title, and the message, from Things aren’t always as they seem to a hopefully more relevant Just Another Day.

More good news: I Won

Why the title change? There’s a story there.

You see, I had another speech I was working on for the next level of contests, and it had to do with the day my company was downsizing. The message I was trying to get to work was not to let adversity, like being laid off, be just another day. I was stuck on the bad day, good day, just another day message, and at the last minute decided to stick with my previous speech.

However, I had submitted my speech title to the Area Contest Master. Now of course, I could have changed it when I arrived at the event, but then it hit me – those days at Edwards AFB, weren’t just another day. In fact, letting those events not be just another day was what invariably shaped my life.

So I rewrote my conclusion to that effect, changed my traditions and it was off to the contest!

In other speeches, I have felt like I was able to connect with the audience, even if I couldn’t tell if it was a strong or potentially lasting connection. Sometimes the smiles and head-nods mean they really got it, sometimes just that they didn’t hate it. I don’t know about you, but often I struggle to tell the difference.

What made this unique was what happened after the announcements. The contest was over, and a few friends came up to congratulate me. While I was speaking to one of them, a member of the audience I didn’t know (a rarity for me in our district) came up and said how much she really appreciated my message, and how “I won’t look at every day as just another day any more.”

I was very surprised. How could something I had worked out just that day worked so well? I mean, she could have easily said, “congratulations” or “I enjoyed your speech” and that would have been lovely. Instead, she made a point of telling me how I had reached her.

You may have heard this before, and you may or may not believe it, but finding a message that works and reaches your audience is what makes the whole process worthwhile. But in truth, winning is nice too. 🙂

And of course winning means two things:
– I need to keep delivering this speech in practice and tighten it up.
– I get to deliver this to a larger audience at the Division Contest.
– Finally (I get that this is three) – I’m going to plan to use the same speech

I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

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