Toastmasters Speech Contest–Five Ways to Participate

It’s the height of the summer, when parents are starting to plan for their kids to return to school.   In Toastmasters International, it’s time for clubs to start planning for their Fall Speech Contests.

As  a Vice President Education, it’s my duty to support the Toastmasters International educational program for all of my club’s members.    I consider the Speech Contests to be not just a nice extra to the regular educational program that goes on every week at our Toastmasters Club, but a vital part of that educational program.

1.   Be A Contestant

I always encourage members to join the Speech Contest as contestants.   Some are worried about competing against others who are better than they are and not winning.   What I say to that is this:   you are in it to be a better speaker period.   Let me use an analogy of going to the gym.    If you go to the gym, do you get any health benefit from being stronger than the next person?    No!   You only get a health benefit if you are stronger than YOU used to be because of your efforts at the gym.   In a similar way, whether you win or lose the contest, you will always win as a personal matter if you go with the attitude that your goal is to be a better speaker.    And for those that are ambitious at trying to improve their speaking ability, that  ambition to improve will win out over any fear they might feel, so you have to encourage that aspect when you talk to them about being a contestant.

I feel a personal triumph in this area because in my previous club, I tried for TWO years to get someone other than me to join the contest, and I succeeded in the Spring contest this year in getting someone to join the Evaluation contest.    Now, since I’ve moved to Chicago and joined a new Toastmasters club, I was able to get FOUR people to join the contest, two for the Evaluation and two for the Humorous contest.    That’s progress!

2.  Help Put on the Club Contest

For those who are not quite ready for that step, I encourage two additional ways to participate in the Speech Contest.   In order for there to be a Speech Contest, there have to be contestants, of course, but there always have to be a group of people running the contest.    And here is where there are opportunities for members in the club to participate in the process, support their fellow club members who are contestants, AND gain credit in their Competent Leadership Manual for doing so.

3.  Be a Test Speaker

But a third way of participating in the Fall Speech Contest is to participate in another club’s contest by being a test speaker.   You see, in the Fall, District 30 here in the Chicagoland area is doing the Evaluation and the Humorous Speech Contest.   For the Evaluation Contest, you need a test speaker from another club to come in and do a speech, usually one from the Competent Communicator Manual, so that the Evaluators have a chance to each evaluate the same speech.

But if your club is supplied a test speaker by the Area Governor, that means your club has a chance to provide a test speaker to THAT club, as a neat exchange.    And this gives someone who is really ambitious and trying to complete their Competent Communicator manual an additional chance to speak.

4.   Attend the Area Contest

If you aren’t participating in the club contest, or if you enter the club contest and lose, you can STILL help out your club by going to the next level or area contest and supporting the representative from your club when he or she makes her speech.  I’ve done this in the past  and I can tell you the person doing the speech really appreciated my support.    (He won second place in the contest, which is great considering it was his first contest ever!)

5.  Help Put on the Area Contest

Of course I encourage club members to go and support whoever will in our Club Contest and who thus is going to be our representative in the Area Contest.   But just like the Club Contest, it takes a group of people running the contest to make it work.    And the Area Governor, who puts on the Area Contest like the VP Education helps put on the Club Contest, will definitely be looking for volunteers from the various clubs in his or her Area.    And here’s the great thing about participating in the Area contest–you get to support your club member who’s in the contest AND you help out the area contest.    It’s a great way as an Area Contest volunteer to meet the people in the other clubs and gain your first experience at networking within Toastmasters at the next highest level than your club.

I found that those who volunteered at the Area contest were enthusiastic about their own Toastmasters Club when they returned because they got to see a glimpse of the wider world outside the club, and they got to see some really impressive and entertaining speeches besides.

So each way of participating boosts one’s enthusiasm AND one’s confidence, so consider explaining all of these opportunities to those in your club!    It reminds me of a saying of Plutarch, who once said “the mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”   Start getting some fires kindled in your club!



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