International speech contest in Vilnius

Last weekend The Toastmasters International Speech Contest in B Division took place. This was my second B Division level competition where I did not get further. The first contest I took part in was last fall in Tallinn and it consisted of 2 parts (I took part in both): 1) 5-7min prepared Humorous speech and 2) 2-3min Table Topics (improvisational) speech. You can read about it in this article

Also, this time the competition was in two parts (I also participated in both): 1) 5-7min prepared International speech contest and 2) 2-3min test speech Evaluation contest. The winners will go to Poland at the end of May, where the next round will take place - the District competition (followed by the semi-finals and then - the final in America). 

More details about Toastmasters and how the regions are divided can certainly be found on their website, as I have not planned to present it here. Instead, I wanted to outline my thoughts after my second B Division competition, in which the first three medals were taken by Finnish representatives. 

If you read the story of my experience in Tallinn... then this time my experience was not so bad. Of course, there was a desire to win, because why else I would be participating in the contest..!? There were a total of 6 contestants in the prepared speech and 7 in the speech evaluation. After the experience in Tallinn, I already knew approximately who my opponents were.

This time, too, I had not made my speech according to the evaluation criteria template, because I naively hoped that my own story and authenticity were more than just bare criteria. Of course, that is not and will not be the case if one participates in a competition where the speech is evaluated according to the fulfillment of the relevant criteria. My speech was about how I've managed to change quite a few different jobs in 13 years. With this speech, I wanted to inspire and encourage those who feel bad about the fact that they too change jobs a lot, or are at that stage in life when they don't know what to do next.

I didn't make the top three in the B Division competition, but during the entire period of the time-consuming process since the club-level competition on March 20, people were coming to me saying how my story resonated with them, inspired and, even, arguably, helped - to feel good about how they are, to gain confidence, that the desires of the moment are the right ones, or simply to understand that they are not the only ones who feel like they cannot find their place on earth. And that alone was a great satisfaction!

Just like every preparation process and competition goes through transformations, my originally created speech also went through 4 transformations. 

  • I had my first version of the speech on March 20, that I delivered within the Riga club. 
  • On April 3rd, after making a few minor changes, I delivered it again within the club as a general rehearsal before the Area competition on April 6th. After this competition, I received feedback not only from the Riga club but also from Lithuanian and Estonian club members. It was clear that the speech needed further polishing. It was extremely difficult to process the speech when it was so beautifully learned, and experienced, and each sentence seemed an integral part that together makes up the story.
  • After a few days of rest, I started to have new ideas, which I implemented accordingly in the next version. On April 17, within the framework of the Riga club, I delivered the 3rd version of the same initial speech, introducing an attractive element of a volleyball ball, which charmingly complemented my story. 
  • After the evaluation I received, I realized that I was on the right track, and by April 27, I revised my speech even more. 

If you only knew how fantastic it is to hear how each time you manage to make a speech better and better. Even though it didn't win or even make it to the top three, the awareness that I've been able to improve on what I initially thought was the best version, is fantastic! And it was on a recent podcast that I heard a great quote from Ernest Hemingway: “The first draft of anything is shit.” And I have to agree to that.

The emotional roller coaster was not so big this time, because I knew what was waiting for me, but I learned my lessons and reflections - cannot without them:

  • I am not learning one main thing - the speech of the competition should be made in such a way that it 'checks' the right points to even hope for the top three. The task for the next competition is clear - to put my authentic story in the frame of evaluation criteria.
  • The first draft is shit. And even though it seems that nothing can be removed or added to your speech, you can always remove and add. The whole process took almost 2 months to edit one speech 4 times, arriving at the best of the versions at the time.
  • Every time before practicing the speech in front of the mirror, I did 5-10min of vocal warm-up exercises - the way it is usually done in a choir. Believe it or not, it gives results - both the thrill of being able to shout, and the strength, depth and stability of the voice.
  • I adore being on stage. To tell my story. Love finding the connection with the audience and looking into the eyes of those sitting in the first rows, as well as sliding over the whole crowd to the last rows. 
  • The first sentences are usually the most difficult, but then something clicks - it seems that the speech is going on autopilot as if from a teleprompt, and the brain is simultaneously thinking about: "Oh, I didn't perform that action I had planned. It’s ok - I will do it at that other moment of speech." However, I haven't figured out yet whether it's good or not, but I feel like I'm an observer of myself during the speech. 
  • In expressing the emotional dynamics of the speech, I drew parallels with the experiences recently acquired in the rehearsals of the “Dramaturgu Teātris" (Playwrights Theater). And there is much, much work to be done. And it's exciting!

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