Thursday, April 15, 2010

First Competition

I took the next step in my Toastmasters competition last night after winning our club contest: the area contest. I was up against two winners from other local clubs. The prize? The chance to move on to the district competition and, perhaps, the international.

Contests are run very much like regular weekly meetings. Everything is very formal. I've been an observer at AA meetings for years. Toastmasters meetings remind me of them. They're structured and formal, with lots of applause and encouragement. The contests have judges and rules, prizes and protocols. There are two competitions: one for tall tales, where contestants speak for 3-5 minutes about the wildest imaginary stories they can think of, and another for international, which require 5-7 minutes talks on more serious topics.

I was one of three contestants in the international competition. I came in third, but I was happy with that. The other two speakers were both far more experienced that I am, and it showed. Their writing, rehearsal, and delivery were top-shelf. I had heard (and evaluated) the winner's speech a month ago, so I knew what I was up against going in. She didn't disappoint. It was a most impressive performance. I would have voted for her as the winner if I were a judge.

The second-place finisher at my club entered the tall tales battle and won, hands down. He's an incredibly accomplished guy and a great speaker. He has an instrument-level pilot's license. He went to the Caribbean on vacation with his family, piloting a 40 foot sailboat. His story described how he tied up the boat and went with his family to head into town on a windy day. They were strolling along the beach when they saw their $750,000 chartered boat had torn free of its mooring and was gliding into the harbor without a pilot. My friend jumped into a motorboat, climbed aboard, and stopped the vessel just a few feet short of shoals and a wall. He would have had an embarrassing call to a charter company and their insurance company if he hadn't acted so quickly.

The name of the boat? "Vela Via", Italian for "Sail Away". Delicious irony!

I enjoyed the competition very much, but it tells me that I can do much, much better. I have to work harder at improving my writing, rehearsal, and delivery. My inclination towards procrastination will be the death of me.

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