Poise of a Champion

Monday night I found myself attending the local Division L International Speech and Evaluation Contest after receiving an invitation from a friend. This was the first non-home Division contest I attended, and I was quite happy to see a number of familiar faces.

One of those familiar faces was a Toastmaster by the name of Chris Archer. We had never been formally introduced (I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t know my name) but I had seen his speech on Saturday when he presented his speech at the famous Just Pros Dragon’s Den. Both versions of the same speech were almost the same, word for word: a great speech then and a great one now.

Yet, something was different.

I couldn’t explain why something felt a bit different. After Chris was announced as the Division L Champ (a worthy win), after many guests congratulated on his win, he quietly told the Division Governor the title of his speech was actually “Please Don’t” rather than “Please Stop” (as had been written on the Agenda) and would appreciate it if the correct title was passed along to the District level.

It clicked. THAT was why his speech had felt different.

From that one simple sentence Chris earned an enormous amount of respect in my books for two simple reasons. First, he did not make a big deal about it. Mistakes can/do happen often in contests, and his mistake was not the only typo on the agenda. Even in my own Division contest, the agenda switched the names around so my name was listed (erroneously) under the Table Topics Contest and the gentleman that was supposed to be in the Table Topics contest had his name listed underneath the Humorous Contest. That night I ended up bulldozing through the crowds to find the Contest Chair so he would know of the mistake. ASAP.

Secondly, Chris adapted the speech to suit the error in title. Thinking back, whenever Chris mentioned his title “Please Don’t”, he changed those words in his speech to say “Please Stop.” I’m fairly sure nobody knew the difference, and I only realized the difference because I was within earshot when the conversation was had.

That night I definitely thought Chris handled himself like a Champion. He didn’t make a big ruckus over the unfortunate mistake; and he even managed to adapt his prepared speech (on the fly no doubt) to the changed title, rather than trying to power through the speech as is.

That, ladies and gentleman, are some traits I think are in a Champion.


8 thoughts on “Poise of a Champion

  1. Well done for Chris. Did his Division proud. This is one reason I don’t think speech titles should be given out ahead of time or printed. Plus, a speaker may want the element of surprise.

    • Thanks for the comment Paula! It is a tricky thing to navigate with the titles; if done well it can be a powerful pre-speech tool to get the audience hooked. There was another contestant that also had their title printed wrong. When the Division Governor disclosed the change, the audience started laughing. I still can’t figure out why they were laughing though.

  2. this is a great reminder! i could see myself not reacting the way he did so it was excellent to see how he handled the mistake! i also agree with paula about speech titles not being printed-i think it does the contestants well do have that surprise element.

    • Thanks for the comment chelsea! I totally agree, I almost had an anxiety attack with the mixup at my own Division Contest and I couldn’t imagine keeping my cool in the same manner as Chris did. Congrats again on your test speaker gig 🙂

  3. As you say, props to Chris for changing his wording on-the-fly. What a true champ!

    I do think it’s fine to publicise speech titles ahead of time, though. It seems like a great opportunity to intrigue your audience about what you’re going to say:

    After all, you get to choose the title, so it’s entirely up to you how much you disclose (if anything).

    If the title’s just read out at the start, it becomes like part of the speech itself, and the audience has no time to “stew” on it, wondering what it means and what you’ll say.

    Anyway, it’s always inspiring to hear great speakers, and I even enjoy hearing target speakers too.

    • Hi Craig, thanks for your comment! I do agree, if it is done right/well, then the title and any introductions allowed can be a powerful tool to set up a speech. If it’s done poorly then it can be just the opposite.

  4. It’s an interesting issue. I do enjoy using my title’s to hook or intrigue the audience, and to prime them for what’s coming. But there can be challenges. Back when I was making my first journey to the district 21 finals, I was delivering the following speech: http://www.publicspeakingwisdom.com/1/post/2013/05/1.html and the title was ‘The Naked Truth’ – But how the chair actually introduced the speech was:

    ‘The NeKid Tooth’

    I think the audience must have been more perplexed than intrigued… ; )


    • Ian, many thanks for your comment! My goodness, I would certainly have been both perplexed and intrigued if such a title for a speech contest was presented. The NeKid Tooth indeed!

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