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Things I Learned from Putting on a Speech Contest

September 22, 2014

This post is mostly for Kat, who is also a Toastmasters Area Governor, so I know she’s going through the same thing as I have been recently.

One of the chief duties of an area governor is to put on two speech contests a year for your clubs. I have six clubs in my area. Putting on a contest is a highly formalized, bureaucratic affair, with tons of paperwork. The process is complicated by having virtually no budget, and by being surrounded by longtime Toastmasters, who are both helpful and a little frightening. The frightening part is the formality and the absolute insistence on sticking to the rules and to the way it has been done before.

Normal people get a contest chair who organizes the contest. I got one, but my chair dropped out because I thought I was helping her and she thought I was too controlling. Maybe a bit of each. Anyway, I spent a month trying to find a new chair, all the while doing most of the work myself. By the time I got a new chair, everyone had gotten used to me doing everything, so I was de facto chair and my new guy was great, but in truth, I did 70% of everything by myself.

So, what did I learn?

1) Some people will just never respond to any communication, ever. Ever. I don’t know what they are doing in a communication club, but there you go.

2) No matter how much you communicate or how clear you try to be, 70% of people either aren’t paying attention or don’t care. There’s  a reason advertisers repeat everything 1 million times – so maybe people will listen once.

3) Some of the people you thought would be lame are great, and some of those who seem like Steady Eddies will totally flake on you. But that lady who organizes the food deserves Sainthood for her efforts, let me tell you.

4) That Square or Paypal thing you can attach to your phone to take credit cards is like magic.

5) “Let it go” is a perfect mantra for event planning.

6) It’s not at all about you, even though you might think it is. In the end, you’re just the wallpaper for this great thing that gets built in front of you.

7) Being organized may not be the secret of life, but it is close.

The contest went great. The competitors were magnificent. The speeches were funny, touching, poignant, smart, well-thought-out. I could not have been more proud if they were my children. We even made a couple bucks.

So, Kat, how did you do?



  1. September 23, 2014 08:36

    Whew! Exhausting but so glad you had a good outcome. “It’s not about me” has been my wedding (and funeral and work and party) mantra for decades. Works like a charm!

  2. Elvie permalink
    September 23, 2014 09:12

    Teachers say it takes at least 30 times before anything sinks in. So I guess a million times is about right for adults. lol

  3. September 24, 2014 22:40

    It’s me, Kat! Our contest is Oct. 4 so I still have all my hair so far. I have a very strong chair who is also a co-worker, so communication is easy. We are down to four clubs in our area, with one that’s a little wobbly, so encouraging contestants has been a challenge. I think the Tall Tales format has kept some away. We also have a very dedicated new DTM in our club who was area gov last year. She has a new title of assistant division governor this year and has taken that to mean she needs to help with the speech contest – so no shortage of help. The planning part has been going just swimmingly – until today! The chair asked the chief judge for names of her entourage – chief timer, counters, etc – so we could put it in the program and she said…get this…she said…”Oh, good question! Let me ask (aforementioned DTM) if she has any ideas.” Then an immediate reply email to confirm she has actually lined judges up has been met with radio silence. Yikes!

    I concur with your lessons, and that goes triple for #1. What the heck?! I love the perspective of #6. I would add #8, the Toastmasters Corollary – The affront taken at a breech of speech contest protocol is directly proportional to the number of TM acronyms tacked on to the persons name. DTM, PDG, LGET, QT.

    I was the contest chair in the spring and do event planning as part of my job, so this part hasn’t been too bad, really. (Although ask me again on October 3). But trying to get the officers from each club trained and the president’s to be responsive to the area governor visits is taxing. I sent an email to three presidents asking them which meetings in the next four weeks would be convenient for my visit, and NONE answered on the first request! None!

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