Apr 01

How to Win a Speech Contest – Even if you lose!

You might be wondering “What? How to Win a Speech Contest – Even if you lose? Wait – is this an April Fool?” Nope. It is absolutely possible because it depends on your definition of winning. Now, I know I run the risk of coming over a bit like a bad motivational speaker, but hear me out…

Last night I had the privilege of winning the International Speech Contest (club level) at my regular Toastmasters club Grosvenor Square Speakers. It was fantastic and exhilarating to win. I was, as they say, over the moon.

But the point is… I’d won before I even set foot on the speaking platform.

You might be wondering: “How did you do that? Did you cheat? Did you bribe the judges?”

No, of course not silly. And in case you didn’t know, the judges are anonymous. What I was able to do was achieve something that I haven’t done for a while…

I won on a personal level!

Originally I wasn’t sure if I wanted to enter the contest at all. Why? Well, I had a lot on my plate already. I’d been a Mystery Speaker twice already in the last week using a completely different speech. I have been mentally focused on a larger project that I’m planning later on in the year, so participating in the International Speech Contest was the furthest from my mind.

After a bit of dancing round the subject I decided to confirm my name for the Speech Contest and The Evaluation Contest. I figured at the very least it would give me an excuse to write a new speech and I’d get to practise my evaluation skills. Not only that but it’s stage time, stage time, stage time! More time speaking’s always a good thing.

And as Woody Allen once said: “80% of success is showing up.” So that was my first personal win.

I chose a speech topic that I’d been wanting to re-visit for just over a year. I did a version of it originally for my number 5 speech in the Competent Communicator manual. The only thing that remained from that speech was the idea and one quote. I trashed everything else. So by tackling that subject again and improving upon the original I grew as a speaker and so I racked up my second win!

Due to the nature of my speech and the fact that I used some storytelling order to illustrate my points I was able to make it count towards the Advanced Storytelling Manual, which was a manual that I was interested in working my way through. Carol West, our current President, agreed to Evaluate the speech for me. As a result I have begun another Advanced Manual and move closer towards my Advanced Communicator Bronze. Therefore I got my third win!

And then I went on to actually come first place in the International Speech Contest (club level) which was, obviously, my fourth and final win.

So regardless of how the contest actually went for me, I’d already achieved three wins on a personal level. If I lost the actual contest I still won because I took part with a re-worked speech and it counted towards my Advanced Bronze.

As it happens I came 3rd in the Evaluation Contest. I didn’t actually see Hilary Briggs, President of Early Bird Speakers, win because she went before me and the contests are kept outside the contest room. She absolutely deserved to win because I felt that she always gives really useful evaluations. I didn’t get the opportunity to speak to her about my evaluation 3rd place, so it will be interesting to speak to her and glean her feedback on how I can improve.

So if you’re participating in any speech contest try to find a way to stack the odds in your favour so that you win regardless of the outcome of the contest. Can the speech count towards a speech module in a manual? Is there a topic that you’ve been wanting to write a speech about, but just never got round to doing it? Is there a speech that you’ve done before but felt that you could improve?

The sheer fact of doing a contest of any kind adds a little extra edge to your delivery. If you’re absolutely confident speaking in public, then this could bring back some of those butterflies for you. That can help you to deliver the goods on the night and increase your chances of actually winning the contest.

“What about if you’re not a member of Toastmasters, what then?” Well, that kind of opens up a huge can of worms as it really depends upon your circumstances. The point is, whatever your speaking situation can you find a way for personal growth so you have a sense of achievement whether you win the award, the proposal, etc or not? That will make you a winner!

Related Article:

How to Win a Speech Contest – Even if you lose!, part 2


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  1. Rory Marriott


    Congratulations on the win at your club and good luck at the Area.

    With reference to your third win and starting another manual, this is an area that every Toastie can gain a win. A phrase that is often used at Toastmaster clubs is “Every Speech should be a manual speech” and this is applicable even if you have used the same material for another speech providing you are meeting the objectives of that project.

    By way of example, in 2007, I was mystery speaker at Greenwich Meridians and delivered a speech to meet the objectives of Project 6 Vocal Variety. As well as the contest evaluators I also received a seperate written evaluation by another member of the audience. A few weeks later a member at my home club dropped out with hardly any notice from delivering a speech, leaving the slot available. It was too late for another member to prepare a speech and knowing the Competent Communicator manual inside out, I knew that becaue my mystery speech used many visual aids it also met the criteria for Project 8 “Get Comfortable with Visual Aids”.

    I made enhancements to the speech based on the 5 evaluations that I had received and duly delivered at my club. Same(ish) speech, different project.

    My question for you therefore is can you take the speech you delivered on Monday, incorporate any feedback you may have received, and then when you are at the Area Contest also deliver it to the objectives of another manual speech and thus ensuring that no matter what the result on the night, you win?

  2. Jason Peck

    Hi Rory,

    Thanks for dropping by. Your comments are very interesting to me. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t quite sure where I stood in terms of being able to deliver the speech again (with re-writes of course) and have it count towards another manual speech.

    I knew that I could re-visit a speech from the Competent Communicator manual for an Advanced Speech project. But I didn’t know that I could re-visit a speech from a current manual and with significant re-writes and a new objective make it count.

    I’m certainly planning to take on some of the feedback that I have been given and re-write portions of the speech as appropriate. I’m actually in the process of doing this right now.

    I think that this would benefit me to a degree. Obviously being able to write a brand new speech and have it count towards a manual is the usual pattern for things. And of course there are some speech projects where it would be a lot harder to do that.

    It’s always nice to be able to go back and hone a speech I’ve delivered previously. That’s why I’ve been enjoying my time as a mystery speaker. With that speech I have a number of evaluations that I still need to review just in case I get asked to mystery speak again during this contest season.

    If I can find an appropriate speech project in a manual that I’m interested in working on and with re-writes make it applicable then I can absolutely complete another project and win no matter the result on the night.

    Now let me ask you a question…

    According to the London Speaker blog between November 2007 and February 2008 you completed The CC manual and also achieved Advanced Communicator Bronze.

    Even if you did your CC number 10 in November you would’ve still had to squeeze in another 10 speeches in 3 months. Can you explain how that was humanly possible? (I thought doing my CC manual in 11 months was fast).

  3. Freddie Daniells

    Hi J: Really enjoyed this article. Would you be interested in having it republished on TLS? I am thinking that maybe it is a little late for this round of contests but it would be good to perhaps put it out in late August or early September. I am sure we can post a link back etc too! F

  4. Jason Peck

    Hey Freddie,

    Thanks for dropping by and commenting on this post. I would be interested on having this article republished on TLS. If you want to post it on the next round of contests then please go ahead, altough it might be more useful for people before the next round.


  5. Jason Peck

    Hey Rory,
    As a quick follow up I did include feedback and made it count towards another speech module. Check out the post
    How to Win a Speech Contest – Even if you lose!, part 2

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