Winding Down

What would you cross the Grand Canyon to tell me?
– Chelsea Avery

Those were the inspirational words spoken to Ryan Avery by his wife, chelsea (she is one amazing lady). Whatever he was crossing the Grand Canyon to tell her, that message would have to be important, inspirational and what he truly believed in. And that message was his Championship Speech.

Recently, my club held their International Speech “Contest”. I put that in quotation marks because we found out close to the actual day we did not have enough members with the over 6 CC speeches requirement to be judges. (A good chunk of our members right now are newbies). Without enough time to kidnap ask Toastmasters’ from outside clubs to help, Plan B was launched: we would send someone from our club to represent us at the Area Contest.

It would still be a contest. Myself and another Toastmaster would both present our International speeches, and the members would vote by ballot whom they thought was better.

Call it the self-fulfilling prophecy if you wish, but I always had the feeling I would lose against the other speaker (he is one of the handful of “Toastmasters I want to be when I grow up”) and that feeling was cemented as soon as he said his first line. His voice was raw with emotion, taking us on a roller coaster ride of some of the most nail-biting moments of his life. You could have heard a pin drop. Votes were tallied, and his name was announced as our representative. He looked surprised, but I wasn’t surprised at all: between our two speeches, his was the better one. At the end of the meeting, I happened to see the number of ballots counted: seven votes in total, 6 for him, 1 for me.

Slight ouch. I thought I would have at least been able to put up a better fight than that. I confess there was a small part of me that hoped for a miracle and I would get to advance. This was a speech I would have told myself if I found a way to go back in time. I think this speech had potential, but I will be the first to admit I wasn’t able to really rip it apart over and over again and construct something better. I don’t think I even put a quarter of the effort as my friend Paula (see her blog here). In that respect I failed, and I fully accept the result and consequences of my (non) actions.

I remember all the changes to my Toastmasters’ life these past six months. Hard to imagine it was only back in September I sat down in front of the computer, staring at that blinking cursor and thought “okay, now I have to write a speech and be as funny as possible.” I spent hours just to reach the skeleton of the speech it has since became. It has brought me so many amazing experiences I would have never achieved otherwise. I have gained so much more from the journey (and constantly practicing and making minor revisions to my speech) than from reaching the destination itself.

My goal from the beginning was to enter the Humorist and International Speech Competition. I can check that item off from my Bucket List, and start preparing for next year. In the meantime, I have volunteered to be the test speaker at my Area’s Evaluation Contest (that is how I’ve wormed my way into the Area Levels, haha!)


Picture I took on my road trip last summer. It reminds me it is not so much about the destination, but rather my experiences along the way.


5 thoughts on “Winding Down

    • Yeah the ouch stings a tad, but thank you. I do hope (too) this will be another growth step for the future. I expect to hear an awesome speech from you in the near future 🙂

  1. Take heart, Vivien!

    Recently I entered my first contest at our club (just as an evaluator – see for the outcome). The voting for the speech contest was similarly polarised, but I thought the guy who came second did a really good speech.

    Just think, if each voter in your club thought your colleague did about an 8-out-of-10 speech and that you did a 7, the vote would be a landslide. There’s no proportional representation in contests!

    Not sure if you’ve seen it, but recently I read a great article by John Kinde about TM contests, called “Thinking Like a Loser”. It’s full of pithy perspectives on coming 2nd, like these…

    “Take the International Speech Contest. One person wins, tens of thousands lose. So you’re in good company.”
    “It’s not about winning – it’s about growth. …If you lose and grow, you’ve come out on top.”
    “My slogan is: I learn more when I finish in second place. You tend to think you were pretty good when you win. Your analysis goes deeper when you lose.” – John Kinde

    Keep plugging away! It’s all a process of improvement.

    • Thanks for your link to the great article and your own experiences in the contest, Craig! I You’re right I think it’s a good opportunity for me to take a step back and keep on growing. I too entered into an Evaluation Contest (wayyy back in the day) but I have not entered one since. It may be time to reconsider that one too.

      • I enjoyed the evaluation contest SO much – far more than if I’d been doing a speech. Yet, ironically of course, I needed to present my eval verbally. So in a way, I think doing evaluations might be the back door through which I begin to more enjoy speaking!

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