“You Better Be Running”
Tony K. Dahlman
April 8, 2014
Toastmasters International Speech Contest
District 27, Division C
U.S. Department of Education LBJ Auditorium
We’ll start with the good news. I won the Evaluation contest and will be advancing on to the District 27 Conference on May 3. Unfortunately I don’t have any video of the evaluation (my videographer forgot to tape me, but she is really cute, so I have forgiven her).
The test speech was by a man named Robert who gave us a good informative speech on how to prepare for retirement. I was able to get in some good compliments on his storytelling and calls to action and was able to share some improvement tips in loosening up some of his gestures and focusing his message. While there are some areas in my evaluation that I wish would have been a little cleaner and I could always use some more enthusiasm, I was pretty happy with how it went.
Unfortunately during the five minute preparation of the contest, I had to deal with a little bit of drama. For the last few years I have been taking some books of quotations with me into the preparation room. If I come up with something applicable then I use it as an introduction/closer for the speech. While out preparing one of my competitors complained to the Sergent-at-Arms that I should not be allowed to have those books. I told the Sergent-at-Arms that it specifically stated in the rules that I was allowed to have any materials of my choice. My fellow contestant was not happy with this and asked for the chief judge.
At this point the chief judge walks into the room and gives me the same spiel that I am not allowed to have those books with me. I tell him that I am specifically allowed to have them in the rules. He then pulls out a copy of the rulebook and asks me to show him.
After a little but of fumbling, which is not helped by the tremor in my hands that flares up when I am nervous, I finally find the line I am looking for on page 11:
At the conclusion of the test speech, all contestants shall leave the room. They then have five minutes to prepare
their evaluation using materials of their choice.
Even after insisting that these books are the materials that I wish to use to prepare, the chief judge continues to insist that these books are illegal and how “they won’t be allowed during the district contest”. Yet, I still can’t believe these are not consider materials under the rules.
Ultimately, he finally left and allowed us to continue our preparation time. I have had similar problems at previous contests where people seem to be creating rules out of nowhere, especially when it comes to videotaping contestants. I still haven’t decided if I am going to make a big deal about this at the District conference. I believe I have the rules clearly on my side, but I am not sure it is worth the aggravation that I know it will cause me.
There is no avoiding it anymore, it is time to talk about the International contest. I thought I had made some pretty good changes between the area contest and the division contest. I completely changed up the conclusion to make it more clear that I was attempting to use running as a metaphor about how we need to keep working hard in all areas of our life. I also cut out some unnecessary context out of the first two stories that would allow me to slow down and add more pauses without worry of going over time.
Unfortunately it was addition of the new conclusion that probably did me in. It happens to me in higher level contests that my brain will just go completely blank. Sometimes I can get out of it with a short, barely noticeable pause, but during the second line I completely blanked on what I was supposed to say. I even knew that it was a reference to the second point of my speech, but for the life of me, I couldn’t come up with what it supposed to be. After completely saying something non-nonsensical, I decide to just move on to the third line. After one of the smoother speeches I have given in any of this season’s contests, I completely botch the conclusion.
So while I have gained a lot of insight from the workshops and books I have read from 2012 World Champion Ryan Avery, I really haven’t trained like a champion, for if I had, I would have had my new conclusion down cold and have been one step closer to my dream of speaking on the stage at the International convention. Instead I took 2nd.
The winner of the contest was the speech immediately following mine about a mother’s trip to the beach. Unfortunately I wasn’t paying very close attention to it because I was so angry at myself for screwing up the conclusion. From what I remember, it was pretty well delivered, but she ultimately had no point. Maybe she can prove me wrong, but I don’t think it is going to hold up against other Division winners in the District International speech contest.
My next step is to start putting my efforts into training for the evaluation contest. My efforts into the International contest haven’t allowed me to evaluate near as often as I should and now I can work on the things that I have to better my District 2nd place finish from two years ago.
My videographer has informed me that I need to stop beating myself over my gaffe in the conclusion. She is probably right (she usually is), but it is going to be a little bit of a sting to fall short of my dream for yet another year.
Photo credit: F. Ayodele, 2014
Video credit: K. Koudelka, 2014