by Elly Malaxos District 25 International Speech 1st Place Winner
Contest season is here. What better time to sharpen your tongue and wield your speaking skills?
What? Really? Oh, yes, ABSOLUTELY!
It’s fun, a little nerve-wracking, and certainly a darn good experience. I encourage everyone to try it!
How do I know? I won first place last year in the District 25 International Speech contest.
For new members, that means I won my club contest, the Area contest, I advanced and won the Division contest and then the District contest. That win entered me into the Regional contest, and that’s where the fun ended. If I had placed, I would’ve competed at the Toastmasters International semifinals then finals.
Worldwide, over 30,000 Toastmasters enter club-level contests every year. Winning District-level put me in the top 121 Toastmasters in the world competing at Regionals. What an achievement!
Winning stirred up a mix of emotions from shock and delight to pride and gratitude. I was shocked to win because my fellow contestants are all great speakers. I was delighted and proud to win because all my hard work paid off. And of course, I was eternally grateful for all the help and encouragement I received along the way.
My speaking skills improved through the process. I could see and hear the impact of small changes on my speech as I practiced it over and over. To advance through the contest levels requires preparation and practice, feedback, refinement, and more practice to lock in every single Toastmasters lesson learned.
Most of the time when I give a speech in a club meeting, it may be weeks before I give another one.
I practiced my speech at least thirty times leading up to the Division contest, probably more. The repeated practice sharpened my skills like honing a knife. It super-charged and accelerated everything I’d learned in Toastmasters. It compressed the learning cycle into just a few months and laser-focused the application of feedback and refinements, including word-choice, specific movements and gestures, camera angles, even changing the examples or tightening the phrasing for clarity or time. So many small tweaks can be made to a speech.
I practiced alone and in front of a mirror. I recorded myself. I delivered the speech several times in my home club, Fear-less Toastmasters, each time gathering important feedback and implementing changes. I couldn’t have made it as far as I did without the support of my home team!
From beginning to end, it was an excellent experience and helped me refine my speaking skills.
I encourage everyone to experience the contest cycle. It isn’t just for the most seasoned speakers. Whether you win or not, look at it as an opportunity to supercharge your Toastmasters learning experience. And don’t forget to take advantage of the simple truth that we all tend to practice harder and perform better when we are competing. Good luck, contestants!