Last night I attended the Area 4 Humorous and Table Topics Competitions, Western Division, Toastmasters’ District 70 (Yes, we’re a big, BIG organization) It was good to see speakers get up there and take the challenge of competing against their peers. I’d long had reservations about competitions, feeling they are both good and bad, but now I’m beginning to swing in their favour. Reason? They do challenge us to push our parameters of the possible to wider horizons. We expand our potential through them.
I know that despite my years of speaking to audiences, I still feel the adrenaline increase – and it’s sometimes considerable – when I have to get up there and speak in a Toastmasters competition. You really do want to come across at your very best, and you know you are being evaluated by people who can give you the ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ – compared with your competitors – as to your effort. You feel the pressure.
It’s a brave, and probably overly confident man or woman, who does not put in the rehearsal and practice for a Toastmaster competition once you’ve won at the club level. Speaking before the members of half-a-dozen clubs, then, if you win, thirty-five to forty clubs…and perhaps even getting up to District Level where you’ll be standing in front of an audience of -this year, we are informed – of 850 people, is not something to be taken lightly.
Quite frankly, I’ve not made it to this last level – but now it is my intention to do so. This year I’ve made it to Divisional Level and will be competing against seven others on 13th of October. I’m feeling pretty proud of myself, having made it to Divisional Level for the first time. Not only that, I’ve done it in a Humorous Competition. Like so many, I doubted my ability to be funny. Yet now find that, after a few successes and a fair bit of practice, I can make people laugh.
My advice to all those who wish to become better speakers: take the challenge. Stretch yourself. Get out there and accept the invitations that come along to enter Toastmaster competitions. It will really improve your confidence, competence and, in time, bring you to excellence. Be in it!