This article introduces new Toastmasters to speech contests and how to prepare. Beginning Toastmasters are eligible to participate in the upcoming Humorous and Table Topics competitions.
The purpose of a speech contest is threefold: to challenge us to do our best, to experience and learn from great speeches at the club, Area and Division level and to help you grow as a speaker.
Levels of contests
There are four contests each year: Humorous, Table Topic, Intenrational and the Speech Evaluation contest. Each club holds a contest and the winner competes at the Area contest. Each Area is make up of around 4 or 5 clubs. The winner of the Area contest competes at the Division contest and the winner of that contest competes at the District level.
I have reached the Area level in Humorous and International and Table Topics. Once I completed in the Table Topics competition at the Division level but I was unplaced.
Each contest is judged by a number of judges who use a special Toastmasters form with the judging criteria. Each judge nominates their 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice and from these a winner is determined. You can easily find these forms online by Google searching.
What happens in a Table Topics contest
Every contestant gets the same topic which is chosen by the contest chairman. All the contestants are taken out of the room so they can’t hear how other people respond. Each contestant is brought in to the room in turn and introduced by name, then given the topic – name, then topic. Once the contestant has finished he can take a seat and hear the remaining speakers.
Humorous Contest – what happens
This is a contest where you give a prepared speech on a topic of your choice. Your speech should be entertaining and make people laugh. You can choose any subject but avoid topics that are controversial or offensive. You need to deliver a speech not a series of jokes or one-liners – you are not doing standup comedy but developing a speech – with an introduction, body and conclusion.
You are probably thinking “I am not funny – so I wont enter the contest”. But there are hundreds of ideas available to you – for example, observations of the world, funny experiences in your life, or a complete work of imagination. You are free to stretch the truth and make up some or all of the story – it is just meant to be an entertaining speech.
You can use one of your manual speech assignments and get the speech evaluated so your speech will count towards your Competent Communicator Award.
Be very aware of the lights!
You can be disqualified for speaking too long or not long enough.
The Humorous Speech Green light on 5 minutes, Yellow 6 minutes and Red on 7. The light stays on but no warnings made once you go past the disqualification time of 7’30”.
The Table Topics Contest Green on 1 minute, Yellow 1’30” and Red on 2’30”. Disqualification occurs if you speak less than 1 minute or longer than 2’30.
When you see the Red light – finish quickly then sit down. Thirty seconds can go very quickly.
How to Prepare for the contest
Humorous – think about some funny situations you have been in. What humorous observations have you made about the world? Get ideas from the Internet, news stories, magazines – then use these as the starting point of your speech.
Get some ideas from Youtube. Search for toastmasters humorous speech contest and view recordings of winning speeches. You can observe the delivery, vocal variety and gestures.
Table Topics - a Table topic is a mini speech of around 2 minutes – and should have a structure. Your first reaction will probably be shock wondering how to respond to the question. Restate the question or pick out a keyword – then choose a structure to use – Give the Plus and Minus / Before and After/ Use 1 or 2 examples. Finish on a strong conclusion.
Have a go and enter the contest
Any financial member of the club can enter the contest. Table Topics doesn’t need any preparation and I am sure you can think of some humorous situations or observations in your life.
When your VP Education asks who would like to enter – say “I will have a go!”.