I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was going to be the Contest Chair for the International Speech and Evaluation Contests at Freely Speaking Toastmasters. Those contests were tonight, and I was both Contest Chair and Toastmaster. The contest chair sets up everything beforehand; the toastmaster runs the contest itself; frequently but not necessarily the contest chair is also the toastmaster.
I’m happy with how it came off. I managed to recruit two speakers for the Speech contest and three evaluators for the Evaluation contest, all of whom acquitted themselves well. I also recruited three judges, two ballot counters, one timer, a sergeant at arms, and a test speaker to make the contest run. The winner of each contest will go on to the Area 31 contest on March 16th.
One point that I forgot to make at the contest is that a weakness of the Toastmasters’ system is that most speeches are given to an audience exactly once. Professional speakers often deliver the same speech again and again to different audiences, burnishing it to a high luster. For most Toastmasters’ speeches, the speaker has only one opportunity to receive feedback from an audience of evaluators and no chance to hone and improve a speech through multiple deliveries. A club contest winner, however, will deliver the same speech again to the area contest. If they win that, they’ll repeat it at the division contest. And if they’re successful there, they’ll deliver it at the district contest. Each time, the competition is tougher and the contestant receives feedback from their supporters, measurably improving their speech.