Speech Contest Recovery

March 20th, 2005 by Steve Pavlina

Last night I competed in my Toastmasters division speech contest. I took third place. While I was certainly aiming for first, I feel good that I did my best and ran up against my limits again. The first place winner was George Gilbert, a professional speaker/comedian who’s been speaking and performing about as long as I’ve been alive. All of the speeches were excellent, and before the winners were announced, I honestly didn’t know who’d place first, second, and third. George’s speech was wonderfully humorous, mine was more emotional, and the second place winner Brandi Harrington gave a very direct and straightforward speech with a good dose of humor.

I accomplished my goal for this speech, which was to connect emotionally with the audience; I knew I’d done that when I saw tears in the audience. In terms of developing a speech to win the contest though, I may have missed the mark. I didn’t aim for a speech with much humor, but in retrospect I think I would have needed to do a lighter more humorous speech in order to win. The judging is structured with a rating sheet and multiple judges, but it’s still very subjective. How do you compare a speech that makes you laugh vs. a speech that makes you cry vs. a speech that makes you think? Even some of the judges were noting the difficulty of that. The contest/dinner was very long, and the banquet room chairs weren’t so comfortable for such a long event. I was there about 5 hours total and didn’t give my speech until 9pm. I think under those conditions a humorous speech is likely to get a better audience reaction, so I may try a different type of speech if I do this again next year.

Dinner included fortune cookies. My fortune said, “You will take a chance in something in near future.” What does that mean when you live in Vegas? :)

In a few days I’ll postmortem this contest cycle to figure out what I’ve learned and how I can improve. But for now I’ll be taking a day off with my family. In a few hours I’ll be picking up my wife from the airport. She’s returning from the Natural Products Expo in Anaheim, CA. So as I’m recovering from contest hangover, she’ll be recovering from convention hangover.

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