The Toastmasters 2014 Spring Contest Season is open now and running nearly at full speed. Most clubs have had the contests and the area contests are under way. March 29th we had the District 59 Area F3/F4 Contest and what a day it was.
If you’re a Toastmaster and haven’t been to any of the contests outside of your club, well you’re really missing out. If you haven’t been to one in a while, it is time to check them out again. Areas F3 and F4 decided to run joint contest so that less people are needed to run the contests and this has been a wonderful idea, one that I would recommend to other areas that might be struggling to get the enough support staff on boar. It has also meant that people can see more great speeches and evaluations, than if the contests were limited to just one area. The impact is just that much more impressive.
One of the reasons that I love living in Europe is the cultural diversity. On Saturday there were contests held in French and German, in addition to English. One of the contestants participated in 6 different contests (English, French, and German), for those of us with command of one language this is quite a feat! There was another contestant that did all of the English and French contests, and a few contestants did English and German contests. At the area contest level, the quality of speeches is a notch above what you’d expect from the club contests, but there really wasn’t a bad speech in the bunch.
I like the Evaluation Contests because you get to hear a great target speech and then see what advice the contestants have for the target speaker that would make their speech that much better. The English target speech was called “Why Men Don’t Listen And Women Can’t Read Maps”, so as you might expect it was about relationships, a topic that most of us can relate to. The German Target Speaker was not a Toastmaster, so while his speech might not have conformed to the expectations of the audience, the speech was about something that everyone could relate to and that was trying make sense of the things that we have to do in our lives today and applying the idea of doing one third less things to be one third better. For most of us our “To Do” list is getting too big and complicated, it would make sense for us to have a “To Not Do” list. Even with the speaker not being a Toastmaster, the contestants were still able to apply Toastmaster style evaluations, showing where the speech was strong, where the speech could be improved, and summarizing their recommendations.
It was nearly impossible to have attended the contest on Saturday and not be awed, inspired, and changed for the better. There were so many great themes and messages and I thought that I’d share a few of them.
- Trust is at an all time low in our society- and why should people trust us
- There are a lot of ordinary people doing wonderful things, being modern day heroes- don’t we all want be heroes like this and doesn’t the world need more people being modern heroes
- Legendary UCLA Basketball coach John Wooden would rather have outstanding teams than teams with outstanding players that don’t perform well as a team
- Do we deal inspiration or are we users of inspiration
- What do we want to accomplish in our lives (especially for those of us that are already parents)
- We are enough- we need to transport this message to our kids so they live it
- We’re too quick to judge ourselves and declare ourselves failures, in the long run many of these failures really aren’t failures but a way of changing our direction
- We shouldn’t play with our smart phones when we should be present. Pay attention to the people you’re with, when you’re with them
- Music is a mood changer and can really inspire you
- Communication makes the world go round, we need to speak the same language to each other and make sure we have the same understanding of the words used (don’t assume)
On a personal note, at my club contest I was talked into competing in the English Evaluation Contest for the first time, so I’m honored that I placed 3rd in the F3 competition. I’ve entered various speech competitions in the past, but this was the first time that I tried the speech evaluation contest, so now I’ll be watching the evaluation contests with a different perspective.
On April 5th, the Division F Contest is being held in Mannheim, Germany. Not only the winners from F3 and F4 will be there, but areas F1, F2, and F5 will be competing there as well. Contestants will be competing in French, German, and English contests. Given the level of competition at the F3/F4, I’m excited to think about the quality of the speeches and evaluations that I’ll see in Mannheim. Considering all the great messages I picked up on March 29th, I can’t even imagine what messages I’ll take away. This is a rare opportunity to see some of the best speakers in Southeast Germany. I challenge you to attend and not leave a changed person. If at all possible, the division contests are worth checking out and I hope to see you in Mannheim.
Note: The picture above is of some of my fellow club members and me taken at the F3/F4 Area Contest. I've posted several pictures from the contest at our club's Flickr group.