Who Needs Contests, Anyway?

Photo Credit: Ruth Benny

Photo Credit: Ruth Benny

My colleague and dear friend Cynthia Holm has already posted quite a serious, informative and factual article about the upcoming Humor and Evaluation contests.  However, my post is meant to persuade you with reasons not to enter or participate in these contests.

You read correctly.  This is a warning: Participating in the Toastmasters contests is the most dangerous way to accelerate your learning, and to obtain the benefits that Toastmasters offers on an even larger scale!

You might be thinking, as many Toastmasters often do, “these contests are not for me.”  And you’re right!  I mean, what’s wrong with staying safe and cozy, within regions of our comfort zones?  Let’s face it: After about three or four Toastmasters meetings, we’re finally starting to get comfortable making speeches in front of the same group!  Why mix things up and start speaking to a whole new and (gulp!) larger group of strangers all over again?  Daily life is scary enough without having to practice for it.

Regarding the Humorous contest:  I find it hilarious that Toastmasters assumes everyone has a funny story to share!  Certainly I have my own funny bone.  And naturally, as a human being, I can giggle like anyone else.  But if I wanted to find an excuse to choose one of those goofy moments and practice telling it to an audience, I would first go join a public speaking club of some sort!

And whatever you do, stay away from the Evaluation contest!  This one seems like the most useless of them all.  First off, none of the participants can possibly practice in advance to make a competitive advantage over the others, since they all evaluate the exact same speech.  Secondly, who ever heard of a competition designed to judge you on how well you listen and give feedback?  I suppose if you wanted to excel professionally, or be a manager in some company, you might want to learn to inspire employees while giving the annual performance review.  But how many people are in Toastmasters that aim to advance in their careers!?

Don’t get me wrong.  I thank Toastmasters for the opportunity.  It seems like there’s always more ways to take my speaking to the next level.  But there’s something very comfortable about working through the manuals at my own pace.  I don’t enter a beauty contest to become more beautiful.  How can entering a speaking contest make me a better speaker?

Nathan Ohren
Area E6 Governor

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