For the past few months in Toastmasters, I have been crossing off bucket-list items. One item is to complete my Competent Leadership (CL) manual. (Yes, I still don’t have my CL award. Imagine that.)
To obtain my CL, I would have to chair a speech contest. It still took a mentor giving me a very strong nudge before I contacted the VP of Ed to sign up to chair my club’s Humorous and Table Topics contest. He responded within the hour: congratulations, I was contest chair!
Could I do this?! I had experienced enough contests to have a very general idea of the roles to be filled and how to run one, but not much else. With that said, I knew where I wanted to start: Chief Judge. Someone who was experienced in running a contest and someone I knew could have my back.
Joe. He was on my short-list almost instantly, and he wasn’t competing (or maybe I just made that presumption and ran with it, I don’t remember anymore). I do remember asking if he would like to be the Chief Judge, and waiting with baited breath when he said he needed a bit of time to consider and would get back to me. When he did say yes, I let out a huge sigh of relief.
To say this contest experience was overwhelming and positive is the tip of the iceberg. I felt extremely lucky I got to experience this amount of teamwork and this amount of support. Members signed up to compete in droves: at one point I was fearing I would have to put a cap on the number of contestants. Many others signed up for roles. And the roles that weren’t filled upon the initial signup, I ended up hesitantly asking members/TM friends from outside the club. Without exception, every single person I turned to said, “of course I can make it, how can I help?”
I hope someday I’ll be able to repay them all.
I felt like I put everything I had into this contest. I pulled from every contest I had ever experienced. I adopted/borrowed all the great ideas I had come across (i.e. sending out all the eligibility forms ahead of time), tried doing a few things differently (having briefings quite a bit earlier), and had some lightbulb moments (using Trello to keep everything organized). Was it perfect? Not really; there were some latecomers and yours truly kept bumbling up words during the contest. And I don’t think I’ll ever truly forget the unforgettable reaction from one Table Topics Contestant upon hearing the question (the audience was rolling on the ground laughing, I kid you not!) Overall, it rocked. Overall, WE rocked and showed ourselves what a great contest looks like.
To say this was the best darn contest I ever Chaired is both an incredible bias and the plainest truth. This was my very first contest experience; I have nothing to compare it to and in a sample size of 1, it was the best contest I’ve chaired so far.
Thank you to all those that signed up and showed up to do their roles. Thank you to all those that came from outside my club to support me in my first attempt. And thank you to all those that came from within the club to cheer on all of our contestants…and perhaps a little bit to cheer on me as well.
Next contest season, I may just be crazy enough to Chair again.