By William Killeen CC
Most Toastmasters crave improvement in their skill levels, and in time, a reluctant though inevitable advancement to more challenging arenas of public speaking. I found that early stages of the competent communicator manual were a great start. However, the biggest increments to personal bests in public speaking happened for me through entering competitions. In January 2014, I entered the Tall Tales Area competition. My feeling of apprehension was palpable back then – less than a year ago – I was not sure what to expect. However, it turned out to be a formative experience indeed. I had some apprehension around the potential strength of competitors from other clubs. I had already joined a speaking club – what more could I ask of myself? Quickly I realised that doing my CC manual training at D18 Toastmasters was a strong developmental backdrop in the competitive sense. The best feeling I got during that Tall Tales campaign was receiving my Certificate of Participation. The fact that I came 2nd place out of 8 speakers was not so important…but the increased confidence I gained certainly was. I would never think about competitions in the same way again. The ambition to advance creates a natural gravitational pull on all Toastmasters to participate in a competition. However, the ultimate prize is developing the tool-kit to survive in slightly alien environments – the sine qua non of public speaking.
In mid-2014, I finished my CC, and continued to hone my speaking skills – voice modulation, movement on stage; pause; rhetorical devices and so on. I was now looking for new challenges. I tried speaking outside my club at Uncensored in Dublin City. That was a great experience. However, the Humorous Speech contest of autumn 2014 was a chance to bring all of the facets of the CC together. Whilst I did well at the Club level, somewhat frustratingly, I came 2nd again at the Area competition. However two Area winners advanced to the Division M (East Ireland) level. That felt very like my first Area competition nearly a year earlier. But I was now a CC, and ready to admit that there would be a fine line between skill levels in good clubs. I won the Division M. I saw some awesome speakers. The most remarkable element of winning first place out of some 20 clubs was the backdrop of support for D18 – the support and advice from my club officers and members was overwhelming. When I went to Belfast to compete for the District UK/Ireland finals, I was feeling confident. Ironically, it turned out to be the most enjoyable speech I had ever done – I thrived on the occasion, speaking in front of 200 people. The fact that I was not placed in the top 3 was disappointing because I wanted our club to be ranked. But I got a Certificate of Participation. When I look at the year in totality, I realise that the competitions I entered have shaped my speaking in a way that I would never have conceived of. Go on; give way to that gravitational pull fellow toastmasters!
From LHS, Niamh Mooney, Division M Winner Table Topics Contest, Philip O’Callaghan, Division M Governor, and William Killeen, Division M Winner, Humorous Speech Contest, 2014
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” ― Maya Angelou (American poet & civil rights activist)
“Look your audience straight in the eyes, and begin to talk as if every one of them owed you money.”
– Dale Carnegie (Self-improvement writer & lecturer)