It’s Contest season.
You can tell that it’s contest season because it’s taken me 3 weeks to write this blog post!
Contest season is that time of the year when all Toastmaster clubs everywhere in the world embark on a mission to see a speaker and an evaluator from their club rise up and compete against other Toastmasters in their Area, District, Division, and finally – at the world finals!
On the 5th of March we held our club level contest, the first step in this process where representatives from City of London Toastmasters competed for the chance to represent their club.
And what a night it was…
Since this is an official Toastmasters contest, it requires quite a few officials to run smoothly. We were lucky enough to have some big names in the Toastmaster world agree to help us out, and we had judges and functionaries coming from all over London to assist us. Special thanks go to all of the judges, many of whom travelled a long way to help make our contest official.
Now, every Toastmasters meeting needs someone to run it, and for the contest, we managed to bag one of the areas most experienced Toastmasters to be our Contest Chair: Andy O’Sullivan (previous District B governor, and current VP of Mentoring at London Public Speakers). The Contest Chair has the unenviable job of not only acting as the Toastmaster for the evening, but also for making sure that the rules are be both explained and adhered to. Andy managed to not only accomplish both of these tasks, but also to get the crowd fired up and raring to go. After whipping us up into a frenzy of excitement, which he managed to keep up throughout the entire meeting, he introduced each of the contestants and the contest got underway…
International Speech Contest
The first part of the evening was our International Speech Contest, consisting of a number of speeches, each between 5-7 minutes in length. In order to enter this contest you must have already completed 6 speeches in your Competent Communicator manuals, so we had the City Speakers elite competing, and as a result – a cracking quality of speech. 5 of our members competed in the competition, and the range and quality of the speeches on offer was outstanding.
Ian was chosen first in the draw, and showed us how it was done with a speech entitled “My Yellow Jersey Day”. Ian took a journey from Land’s End to John O’Groats on his bike, and took us all on this journey with him during his speech – weaving an inspirational message in the process.
Paul came next, dramatically drawing us it with a hard hitting tirade on being uninspired in your job, before rolling out a speech packed with laughs encouraging us to counter that. He made used the inspirational story of Tony Hawks to great effect in his speech: “Fridge Man, Inspiration Engineer”.
Nikola helped us put some perspective on the challenges that life throws at us with his speech “You can’t control the wind, but you can adjust the sail”, encouraging us to change the way we think and take control of our lives.
Sam was up next teaching us how to effectively get things done and achieve whatever you want with his speech “Application is the key”. He enthused about how you can achieve more, got us all thinking about the things in our lives that we wanted to enhance and improve, and gave us some tools for achieving this.
Isaya finished this contest in style with his speech entitled “Crossing the Zambezi River”. His emotive account of how his grandparents trekked from Zimbabwe to the Zambia to save the life of his grandmother. On the way he captivated us with the story, and showed us how this story parallels some of the many challenges that we face in our daily lives.
We had a break next, to recover from all the excitement, and since the evening was a contest double-bill, after the break we got to see more performance Toastmastering with our Evaluation contest. There are no entry requirements for this contest, but again we got to see some great performances from some top Toastmasters.
To make the evaluation contest fair, all the participants evaluate the same speech, and are not allowed to watch each other compete. To add some extra intrigue, we organised a speaker from another club to come and give a speech to be evaluated. Dolu Ilori from CASS Toastmasters agreed to do that for us, and delivered an impassioned and emotive speech “Hope floats, Faith flies”. She told us about the time she nearly died, and the perspective that gave to life.
The speech was so good, that you wondered what recommendations the evaluators would be able to find. Nevertheless, the contestants had all been scribbling notes furiously during the speech, and were then all escorted out the room by the contest’s Sergeant at Arms (Maciej Fronczuk) for 5 minutes of isolated thought.
This gave them some crucial time to collect their thoughts and plan their evaluations, but being the keen Toastmasters that we are – we took the opportunity to engage in a round of Table Topics (prepared by Agnes Lovasz ) to pass the time!
Upon the return of the first contestant, we cracked straight into the Evaluation Competition with baited breath.
Paul Rocks was the first contestant chosen for this contest, and gave a powerful summary of the speech, picking up and all the highs and managing to find constructive and useful recommendations.
Christine came next, demonstrating her evaluation skills thoroughly, and backing up each point she made with specific examples.
Ian gave his evaluation in his trademark high energy style. The enthusiasm he brought to the evaluation really highlighted his commendations and recommendations, and also showed us how to make an evaluation interesting as well as encouraging, and useful.
Femi closed the Evaluation Contest impressively with a confidently delivered, humorous, and well observed evaluation that completed the contest in style.
Once the contests were completed, our judges had the tricky task of voting for their preferred candidates. Our counters (Jairzina Weir, Helen Justin, and Matt Roy), tallied all the votes, and our Timekeepers (Grant Fletcher & Juliette Valencia) had reported on how closely each speaker had stuck to his or her allotted times, it was then left up to our chief judge, Simon Cooper (from Excalibur) to pass final judgement, and declare a winner.
The role of chief judge is crucial to a contest, not only does he have to co-ordinate all the other judges, and take responsibility for communicating the final results, but he’s also responsible for ensuring the fairness of the contest and it’s compliance with Toastmasters rules! Simon did a great job in this, and performed the role with supreme professionalism.
At the end of the contest, Simon and Andy presented the awards for both contests to the contestants. Each contest was extremely close, and neither had any disqualifications. Simon took the opportunity to revel in the moment, building suspense before dishing out the awards:
International Speech Contest
“Without further ado, the winners of the 2013 City of London Toastmasters International Speech Contest were….”
In 3rd place: Nikola Prevlevic
In 2nd place: Ian Macfie
In 1st place: Isaya Taingwa
“And the winners of the 2013 City of London Toastmasters Evaluation Contest were….”
In 2nd place: Paul Rocks
In 1st Place: Ian Macfie
Many thanks again to all the various people who made this contest possible, it was a great night and one that will go down in club history for 2013! In addition to all the people mentioned above, without whom the contest could not have taken place, a special mention had to go to all of our judges, who travelled from other clubs all across London. Our judging team consisted of:
- Simon Cooper, from Excalibur Speakers
- Paula St Ange, from Bloomsbury Speakers
- Dave Longley, Assistant Division 71 Governor Education & Training
- Dick Dixon, from Tube Talk
- Margaret Kramarz, from London Corinthians
- Amanda Zwarts, Area 53 Governor
- And Stella Meadows, from our own City of London Toastmasters
So now the contest’s over, it’ll no doubt take several weeks for the excitement to die down in City of London Toastmasters – especially since the contest season isn’t over yet. Isaya and Ian go on to compete in the Area finals tomorrow, and who knows – could even go on to conquer the District, Division, and World!!
Make sure that you go along to support them on Monday (25th March) at the Area 58 contests in Broker’s Wine Bar, Leadenhall Market. It’ll be a big night, let’s see if it can top the excitement of our own contest!
See you there…