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Are we done yet?

May 6, 2014

The event I went to on Saturday night was a Toastmasters competition. They call it the “International Speech Contest,” not because the speeches have anything cross-cultural about them, but because the winners can end up competing at the international level (this year in Kuala Lumpur).

The rules state that the speeches be 5-7 minutes long and substantially original, but those are the only stipulations. You could talk about anything. In reality, however, the International contest has come to mean one thing: inspirational speeches. I’m not sure if it is because most International contest winners go on to be motivational speakers, but if you want to win, you have to tell your tale of Overcoming and Realizing.

You know how it goes – intro – the person finds themselves in a pickle. Either suddenly or over a long period, they have lost their way. They were missing an important piece of information. Then something happens and BOINK! they are forced to face the error of their ways. They have a revelation, and, armed with that new knowledge, march bravely into the future.

One person had an addiction. Another had a friend die of cancer. Dead uncle. Dead husband. Lost opportunities. Lost friends. And so on.

Inspiration is good. We can all use a TED talk every once in a while. The problem on Saturday night is that there were nine speeches. All 5-7 minutes, all inspirational. So much inspiration.

After a while, it got to seem like a pop song. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, chorus. Over and over.

It was like sitting down to one of those ice cream parlor challenge dishes, where there are nine scoops of ice cream and five bananas and a foot high pile of whipped cream, and if you can finish it all in an hour, you get it for free. If you can’t, you end up $32 poorer and significantly sicker.

That’s how I staggered out of the event on Saturday night. Bleary and a little sick from too much.

It’s interesting, the idea that a good speech has to be an inspiring speech. I guess I like my inspiration in small doses. After a couple of contestants, I would have given anything to hear 5-7 minutes on sheep shearing or ravioli making or the time Uncle Fred fell asleep while on a roller coaster.

The young woman who won talked about SuperHeroes and wore knee-high red boots. She didn’t talk about overcoming obstacles as much as getting off your butt and doing something. And that was pretty darn inspiring.


  1. rotarykat permalink
    May 6, 2014 23:10

    So true! Our District had finals Saturday night also. 5 speakers. One who overcame undocumented status to get education, one wife lost to breast cancer then second one survives breast cancer, an important life lesson from a football coach. The winner (the only woman) faced obstacles of raising a child with autism.

    Some were a little … maudlin, maybe? It was my first time seeing a contest, though, and I enjoyed it. The Table Topics contest earlier in the day was impressive. That’s nerve wracking enough just at the club level.

    • June 9, 2014 10:14

      I have never seen a table topics contest. THAT would be great. My friend and I were discussing what we need, and both of us agreed impromptu speaking is our biggest challenge.

      Hey, I’m an area governor!

  2. Gretchen permalink
    May 7, 2014 04:14

    The first step is always getting off your butt. Hard to do!

    • June 9, 2014 10:12

      Yes, my butt has gravity all of its own.

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