If you are entering the International Speech contest this year, then there are some things you should know. Judges, in order to be unbiased and fair, go by certain predetermined criteria, be it at the club, area, division or international levels. Each judge, at every contest all over the world, will grade on the same nine areas set by Toastmasters International. Together, these nine areas assist each judge in determining how well the speech’s original content is presented, if the audience reacts appropriately to what is being said because of how it is delivered, and if the speaker’s language skills are well developed.
Content, i.e.the manner in which the speaker pulls together his or her original ideas, is of prime importance. Be it from personal experience, observing others or from reacting to a story, the speech must have a recognizable beginning, middle and conclusion. There should be a theme and purpose which runs throughout the speech. Relevant examples and/or illustrations should be provided to drive home the point.
You also have the obligation to not waste the audience’s time. What is stated in your speech must be relevant to that audience’s tastes and experiences. The judges will keep an eye out and a ear cocked for how the audience responds to the speech.
How you personally feel about your topic will also be a factor. If you are passionate about your subject, that will show in your tone of voice, in your mannerisms, and in the audience’s reaction.
Delivery of the speech is extremely important. You very well may have the best speech in the world on paper. But, how does that translate into your speaking style?
Do you fully and purposely use the stage to enhance your delivery? Does your body language work well with your speech or does it distract from it? Judges will carefully watch your hands, your facial expressions and your gestures. Gestures also include how you place your hands, feet and arms when they are idle and if you use that idleness effectively.
Does your voice fluctuate to add emphasis or emotion? Do you pause for effect, and use silence as a tool to draw people in? The judges want to make sure that you annunciate well, so that no matter your cultural or ethnic accent, your words are easily understood.
Judges also watch for your own reactions to what you are saying. Are you passionate about your topic? Do you speak with both assurance in your subject and enthusiasm in the desire to get it’s point across to your audience? How do you react to their reactions?
Language is the final level of judgment. Do you choose your words well and are they appropriate to the topic and your audience? An elderly crowd might not respond well to current slang and tag words, while a younger crowd might lean in a bit and nod.
The judges are also grammarian and ah counters. They will observe your use of the English language, how you pronounce a word, and if you use slip into any of the seven sins of grammar: double negatives, double comparisons, extra words, incorrect verb tense, confused adjectives and adverbs, using the wrong pronoun, and if the subject and verb disagree.
If you take all of these factors into account as you develop and practice your speech, a trophy might soon be in your hands.
compiled by Julie Cosgrove
Editor D25 Newsletter
Taken from the official judge’s criteria sheets for the Toastmasters International Speech Contest.