I entered my first Toastmasters competition on Thursday.
It was a bit of a shock for me. There were two other speakers entered, and both of them are among the most talented and prolific speakers in our club. I had heard the runner up's speech a week earlier at another local club. He's so talented, so precise, so conscious of what he's doing that I immediately resigned myself to accomplishing nothing more than completing the ninth out of ten speeches required for the Competent Communicator designation, the first rung on the communication ladder.
I wrote my speech at the last minute. It was a description of a recent event in my life that served as the basis for the tenth and final speech: "Inspire Your Audience". It was an emotional topic for me. As usual, I procrastinated and didn't rehearse as much as I'd like.
But I knew the story well enough to deliver it extemporaneously. I had the added advantage of speaking last. It's natural for people to remember the last thing they heard. Perhaps that factored into the thinking of the judges.
I get to try again on 14-Apr against some other local clubs. If that goes well I'll get to move on to the district competition on 22-May.
I've got to present my ninth and last speech soon so I can have that Competent Communicator designation in hand. I'd like to do it before 24-Apr, because that would mean that I finished the ten speeches in two years. I gave my first one on 24-Apr-2008. I had long stretch of six months where I didn't speak at all. I switched jobs and clubs, so it took me a while to recover my stride.
I don't know what the next steps will be. Toastmasters has two tracks: communication and leadership. I don't know if completing that first booklet and achieving a Competent Leader designation is a requirement, or if I'd have the option of going on to more advanced communication work.
Whichever I choose, I'd like to start accelerating my rate of progress. I need to be writing, speaking, practicing more.
This was a good start. It's astonishing how you can get better at something with regular practice. I've appreciated having the opportunity. I don't know where it will lead, but it feels good to continue to progress, grow, and learn.