#Toastmasters—5 Reasons Why Speech Contests are Important

On the big day of a speech contest at Toastmasters all that preparation and hard work will pay off in a well-run contest.  Some people will come back with trophies and certificates, but everyone will come back with memories and impressions that propel them towards being a better public speaker.

This is why I get involved in these contests, to become a better public speaker. But I also do it to be a better leader, which is what organizing a contest can help you become.  However, many people feel that the education and leadership training you get in the clubs are enough. Why go that extra mile?

1. Vision

One of the most exciting things about a hike or a mountain climb is the tremendous view you get when you reach a certain elevation above the ground. Staying in your club will help you grow, but the one thing that you realize when you go to a contest is you get your first glimpse of how wide the world of Toastmasters is. There are people from clubs that have different personalities than yours, whose members may follow a club culture that is different from yours. Yours could be a very structured club, and theirs very freewheeling. In hearing how they interact with others in the audience and on stage as speakers, you can see if some element of that “club personality” appeals to you. If it does, then think, “how could I foster that quality in my home club?”

So contests are where new ideas are made.

2. Confidence

Anybody who has made the journey from a newbie giving his or her Icebreaker speak to earning that Competent Communicator manual after 10 speeches knows that getting confidence in public speaking is a process that takes time. Getting over the initial nervousness in an Icebreaker speech is partially a function of getting used to speaking in front of a group of relative strangers. But by speech #10, they’re no longer strangers; they’re fellow members of dear old home club. Speaking to them is like going to speak at a dinner party with friends. That edge of adrenalin you had when you were speaking to a group of strangers is now gone. How to get back that edge? Speak in front of a group of strangers again. You’ll get it that edge back right away!

So contests are where a higher level of confidence is achieved.

3. Determination

If you go to a speech contest and lose, even in your home club, of course there’s disappointment. You work really hard, and somebody else comes in and gives a speech which really impresses the judges more. Sigh.

There is a voice in you which will say, “why bother with all that effort when you have nothing to show for it?” No, you don’t’ have a trophy, but just remember the benefits that I outline in this post and you will really that you do indeed have something to show for it.

When I lost at the Division level in the Spring of this year, after the contest was over I got encouragement from someone who had been behind the scenes helping organize the event. She said she had seen me in the contest the previous Fall, and had seen how I had improved in the six months or so since the last contest. To be honest, I was starting to listen to that small voice I mentioned in the last paragraph, and was thinking of hanging it up and never entering one of these damned contests ever again! But after I got feedback from a kindly observer, I figured well, if working on the contest has improved my speaking ability to such a noticeable extent, I may as well stay in the game just for that if nothing else. I was coming home from the event thinking about what I would do for the NEXT speech contest. I caught myself thinking about this and laughed. “Wow, I am really hooked if I’m already planning my next contest speech!”

So contests are where you stretch yourself behind the comfortable environment of your home club.

4. Network

Your world in Toastmasters consists at first of the 10 to 20 members in your home club. There are three ways to step out into the wider world of Toastmasters: a) training as a club officer in what are referred to as LACE (Leadership and Communication Education) training workshops, b) District Conferences, and c) Speech Contests. I was sitting at a District Conference when I heard someone speaking in a French accent. I introduced myself in French and within 5 minutes, I had met a new friend. Sometimes the interests you have outside Toastmasters will give you a reason to connect. I met someone at a LACE workshop who had just finished her project manager certification exam and I told her I wanted to sit for that exam later on in the year. She told me about a Toastmasters club that was for Project Managers, which I didn’t know existed. Because of that, the Orange County Project Masters club is my second club I’m a member in! So you get so many new ideas and meet such interesting people at the events outside of your club that it is an excellent network you can tap into. Just remember, everyone in that network is motivated by self-improvement, or they wouldn’t have joined Toastmasters. And contests are also great networking events as well.

So contests are a place where new relationships are made.

5. Inspiration

In the past, after I got over my initial disappointment at not winning the contests, I decided to just relax and enjoy the process and start seeing the other contestants not as rivals, but as teachers. What do they do that I am not doing now that will improve my speaking ability? Sometimes you see an effective technique, but occasionally you will find someone that gets their message across in such an effective manner that you no longer become an impartial observer. You are swept away like everybody else in the audience and are captivated by that person’s performance.

That’s the point where you stop saying, “I’m not as good as he or she is,” but rather “he or she is really inspiring. I want to have that ability to inspire too!” And then you mentally picture yourself at some point in the future standing in that exact spot, and seeing yourself deliver a speech that has people open-mounted in astonishment. You are inspired!

So contests are where dreams of the future are made.

These reasons are more than enough reason to join the contests. Now, some of us are the “dip a toe into the water” types rather than “I’ll just dive right into the water” types. So for those I have two suggestions. Get involved in ORGANIZING the contests—there are so many roles to choose from way beyond the variety you get in a regular club meeting. So besides being in one speech contest for my home club, I have volunteered to play a supporting role in the contest for my second club.

And if you are still not sure, then just come out to the contest as an audience member. You will have a good time and the person from your club who is up there on stage will be grateful for a friendly face in the audience.

Go ahead and take a step towards participating in your local speech contests—you will win something no matter what!

5 Responses

  1. Great information to get my club inspired for the contest!!

  2. Tremendous information and you already inspired me with this article !! Great Work !!

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