The Art of Speaking  

Talking up a challenge

I was visiting Toastmasters to see if I wanted to join, when mention was made of a speaking competition. I always protest when people say I am competitive, but I guess I can understand why I give that impression.

Hearing the word competition hooked me into Toastmasters, even though I had no idea what competing entailed. Two months after handing over my cheque to become a member, I won my first contest.

For anyone who is unfamiliar with Toastmasters, members write, practise and present what are known as manual speeches. Each one has a different focus like vocal variety, persuasion, or body language.

All are designed to improve your speaking skills.

Toastmasters teaches you not only to speak more effectively, but also how to weave information into a clear and concise presentation. Most speeches are five to seven minutes, so there is no time to ramble.

In a competition, you use the same basic speech each time you go forward to the next level. This is the only time you get the opportunity to improve and hone the same speech.

It is fascinating to see how a speech given at the club level of competition, morphs each time it is delivered, in order to make it stronger.

There are a few different contests in Toastmasters, but I like to compete in the only one that continues all the way to the International level. Anyone who competes in the International final will have already been in five previous competitions.

I have been a Toastmaster for a little over two years, and this month marks my third year as an International Speech contestant and the second time competing at the district, or fourth level.

The winner is picked by a panel of judges, which means the result is subjective. Everyone in the audience has their own opinion of who should win, and because the standard of speeches is so high, almost anyone who gets on the stage – COULD win.

If you worry too much about whether the judges get it right, you may not enjoy the experience if you aren’t the one they choose. I approach each competition as an opportunity to enjoy a new experience, and hone my skills.

Although I would love to win, I am there for the experience more than the trophy. The only person I compete against is myself. If I can sit down with the knowledge that I have done my very best, I am happy. I don’t have to win to feel like a winner.

Although I didn’t win a trophy last weekend in Surrey at the fourth level, I was pleased with my efforts. I managed not to get disqualified for being over my time limit, like I did last year, and I feel that I did my best.

If you are a Toastmaster who has never competed, I would highly recommend the experience.

I went into this year’s competition knowing that I wouldn’t compete again, at least not for a few years.

We have many incredible speakers in the Kelowna AM club, and I am happy to pass on the torch of competition to someone new. With the District 21 conference next year being in Kelowna, I will certainly be there to cheer them on.

Reen Rose, an educator, speaker and author, is the treasurer of the Kelowna AM Toastmaster. Her weekly column, The Happiness Connection, appears Sunday.

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About the Author

The mission of a Toastmaster Club is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment that offers every member the opportunity to develop communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.

There are eight Toastmasters clubs in the Central Okanagan.

For more information and/or to find a club near you, check http://www.toastmasters.org.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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