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!