Why Compete

Wild 008

Why a speech contest?

Why would any rational person willingly go through the mental (and even physical) anguish called a “speech contest?”

Everyone who has competed has their own answer. For the author, the anxiety and discomfort was just a small fee I paid for the opportunity to grow. Every contest stretched my best performance a bit and every contest was a lesson about how others speak and compete. Every time I wanted to back out (sometimes four or five times per contest!) I learned a little more about myself.

I learned, grew and dealt with excitement, hope, and despair; I met a few neat people; I listened to how others saw and heard my speech. Occasionally I got a ribbon or a plastic trophy. It was well worth the cost.

Here are a few of the lessons I learned. In future contests:

I plan to dress a tad above the general level of the crowd, but not in formal attire. (Judges will form an opinion before I speak – I want them to believe I’m a professional, not that I’m making a statement about my hip clothing or team preference.)

My general plan, regardless of the contest, is “tell a story, make a point, arouse emotions and close with a bang.”

It’s important for me to understand the judging criteria – the judge’s ballot sheets help somewhat, but District and TM publications carry subtle hints of real value. For example, one year the theme in our magazines seemed to be, “What TM does/did for me.” That was the message I put in the speech I took to a District contest.

I can cover 650 – 750 words pretty comfortably in seven minutes; so I will write a 700 word speech to start. I’ll cut it back to 600-650 for the District contest because it will take a little longer for the larger number of people in the audience to react during my talk.

I tend to power ahead in an adrenaline-driven surge, so I will practice pauses – counting the seconds of silence mentally – and I’ll practice saying the words correctly. No, I won’t memorize the speech but I will concentrate on speaking each word “thoroughly” and clearly – “bringing” has “g” sounds in the middle and on the end, for instance.

After the contest club members and other friends will give me feedback – if I ask. (Sometimes I must persist – “What did you like? What stood out? What should I have done differently?”).

Throughout the event I will try to encourage the other contestants – I know what they’re suffering; oh how I know. But they are there to compete with me and bring out my best, not to destroy me.

I suffer speech contests to learn and to grow – and I have always had a great time competing. What are you doing to drive your skills to a higher level this year?


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