Contest Season Is Here Again

I’ll never forget  my first District Officer training in Stanstead (ah, the high life) when I was Area Governor. One of the District committee said he thought speech contests were a waste of time. I disagreed, and so did most of the other officers – vociferously.

Let’s face it, most of us want to win. Yes, that plays a big part and gives you the motivation to enter and do your best. But, if you speak to past contest winners, they will tell you that entering contests made them better speakers; and winning their club contest and progressing to the next levels catapulted their speaking into a whole new dimension.

But, if you just want to enter for the fun of it and not work too hard, that’s ok, you can do that too.

If, however, you do want to use the contest to improve your skills, you have to prepare.

I’m lazy. I don’t like to practise my speeches and usually rely on adrenaline to fuel my performance on the night – except at contests. I enter contests if there is something I want to improve, usually evaluations or table topics.

But, I hear, you can’t prepare for Table Topics. Yes, you can. Here’s how:

1. Listen to experienced Table Topics speakers, not only in your club and other clubs but on Youtube – just search Youtube for ‘Toastmasters Table Topics contest winners.’ Listen closely and find out what draws you in, makes you listen, makes you laugh (if it’s funny).

2. Volunteer for a Table Topic at our club and other clubs you visit – there’s an extended TT session tomorrow night at Waverley – ask the TTMaster if you can speak.

3. Use the resources at Toastmasters World HQ. Here’s one http://www.toastmasters.org/Members/SpotlightArticles/TableTopics.aspx

4. Read this blog – I’ll be posting hints and tips on how to tackle Table Topics as well as directing members to posts and videos.

5. If you’re really keen, ask your partner, friend, parent to ambush you with table topics at odd moments of the day and night. Ok, that may be taking it too far, especially if it’s the middle of the night. But, the element of surprise is key.

6. Be prepared – get a copy (from the VPE) of the TT contest judges’ ballot and find out what contestants are judged on and stick to the criteria during the contest.

7. Come to the club meeting tomorrow evening when I’ll be hosting an education session on impromptu speaking. It won’t be boring, I promise. We are going to show a DVD with 3 Table Topics contestants at the District 71 Table Topics final in 2011, the crème de la crème of contestants in our District (UK and Ireland).

The Humorous Speech contest is different. This takes more preparation. Again, you can:

1. Search Youtube for ‘Humorous Speech contest winners’.

2. Read the club blog – I’ll be posting new videos of Humorous Speech contest winners and directing members to ones already on the blog.

3. Tell your mentor you are entering the Humorous Speech contest and enlist their help.

4. Spruce up and practise an old manual speech where the audience laughed and told you it was hilarious. You don’t have to prepare a new speech from scratch.

5. Prepare a new speech – find the humour in a situation and exaggerate it.

6. Laugh at yourself.

7. Practise.

On the night:

1. Prepare to enjoy the contest and have fun – yes, you really can!

Post written by Moira Beaton DTM

VPPR Waverley Communicators.

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