September 1, 2017 – by PEARL MATIBE

Win or Lose, Compete

For someone to win, someone must lose. Achieving first place is a goal that cannot be shared. Whatever the loss, it can always be turned into a positive outcome. We learn and grow.

Personally, I learned a lesson—not everyone can be on top and not everyone can be on top at the same time. When a job is open. You’re not the only one who is applying.

The question might be how, then, might you influence success?

To bring out the best in ourselves, competition is often encouraged. Contestants at times feel a great deal of pressure. What do you gain by competing? A sense of pride. You challenge yourself and learn from others competing that may be better than you. In the Evaluation Speech Contest, though, you will only have an opportunity to see only the contestants that, by random draw, present after you— plus observe a five-to seven-minute target speaker before you present a two-to three-minute evaluation. The best competitor of that cycle will advance. The measurable criteria and rules are laid out on the judges’ ballot and speech rulebook.

Just as I had once stepped up the stage stairs to compete in the Humorous Speech Contest, so too now will hundreds of Humorous and Evaluation Speech contestants stand before an audience and judges in competition with one another.

Believe it or not, competition is a lifeline. Without it, a part of you may not grow stronger. Let’s always encourage our new members—and tenured Toastmasters—to tap into an innate spirit to make the competition that lives inside each of us, flourish.

Competition isn’t only good, it’s great—it promotes growth. Speech contests are a Toastmasters tradition. Here’s an idea. If there was no competition, we may not have:

  • Faster jets
  • Landed on the moon
  • The Internet

We, the human race, owe much to advances in space technology because of competition. Without competitors, we may not have new car brands, remarkable new creations in technology and lower retail prices. Competitiveness allows you to become more creative. Hence the saying: necessity is the mother of invention.

Like an athletic sport, regular practice is necessary to prepare for a Humorous Speech Contest— five-to seven-minutes in length that must be thematic in nature, have an opening, body, and close. In addition, it’s not to be a monologue (series of one-liners). Each competitor is vying for the top spot and to come as close as they are able to their own concept of what a perfect performance is. Also, they will walk away without knowing what the final numerical scorecard points were by the judges.

Some may not wish to compete, some believe by not competing, they journey the path of less resistance.

Oratory History

I find aspects of the old world have relevance, still, in today’s public speaking. Recently, I had the privilege to review a book written about the Roman Empire, Cato versus Caesar, which reminded me of our modern Toastmaster context of speaking in front of an audience.

Back then, it was considered an essential part of educating, young boys, in public speaking, for success. They used to send their sons away (e.x. Julius Caesar) to study under a master or employ a slave. (Marcus Tullius Cicero [106 – 43 B.C.E.] is considered one of the best public speakers of that time. Of significance about Cicero’s ideas, is sentiment. This was an age when a speaker’s gravitas was of the greatest importance for success. Back then, and still true today, a speaker ought to persuade the audience, entertain and arouse their emotions. On the Toastmaster judges’ ballots, however, judges are unable to judge the audiences’ emotional impact—there are no points allocated for ‘emotion’.

Marcus Tullius Cicero, born 106 and died in 43 B.C.E. (Before Common Era)

Both Aristotle and Quintilian studied and discussed oratory. The idea that the art of public speaking (in Latin: Ars Oratoria), must be studied remained true throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance periods. Without ‘studying’ it, it was deemed that you did not have a complete education. Post-American Civil War, World War II and all the way up to present day, the ability to wield words well has placed many people firmly in our history books.

As advice for today’s oratory, I’ll cite Quintilian,

“The orator should use the plain style to instruct,

the grand style to move,

the intermediate style to charm”.

From ancient Rome, to Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan—they all demonstrated speaking styles defined in the Roman Empire of 44B.C.


Haven’t competed before? Take a chance. Speech contests are a place that promotes chance taking—healthy, safe contest environments bring out the best in you. What’s more is that it motivates you to be goal oriented.

No matter what oratorical style you decide to use, Humorous category or evaluation speech, I wish you all happy learning success.

Win or lose, compete.

Demosthenes used to talk with pebbles in his mouth and recited verses while running.

Demosthenes, Greek Orator born 384 and died 12 October 322 BC, used to study in an underground room he constructed himself. He also used to talk with pebbles in his mouth and recited verses while running. To strengthen his voice, he spoke on the seashore over the roar of the waves.

He is regarded as a “…overflowing fountain of genius…” that inspired Cicero’s speeches against Mark Antony. Cicero also tried to imitate his career.

Who knows, maybe if you study Demosthenes’ fifty-six prologues (openings of speeches), you might just craft openings that will propel your public speaking success.

Compete in a Speech Contest? WHY NOT?

Trophies on Elizabeth Carter’s mantlepiece

Each month, I will share with you my thoughts on a particular topic.  It will align with our calendar of events. This month, my blog is “Compete in a Speech Contest? WHY NOT!”

During my tenure as a Toastmaster, I have competed in all 4 contests, and have made it to the Division Level in 3 out of the 4 (Table Topics is my nemesis, lol! ).  Since becoming part of the District leadership team in 2015 which prohibits me to compete, I now observe and coach others.  As we approach the season of the Humorous and Evaluation contests,  I’d like to share with you what I have learned over the years and hope that you will ask yourself; WHY NOT?

What is stopping you? These are the common reasons I hear:

  • Fear- I haven’t yet seen anyone faint or die in a contest, and if you never approach fear head-on, you will never move ahead in life.  There are far more greater risks we have taken in life, and we have survived, haven’t we?
  • Preparation- If your club contest is in August, you have some weeks to write a Humorous speech, edit, practice, re-write, edit and practice.  And if you are fortunate to move on the Area contest, that gives you time to get feedback, revise and practice. For the Evaluation contest, sign up to be an Evaluator at every meeting prior to the contest, and/or reach out to a neighboring club and ask to be an evaluator at their meeting.

Have a structure for your Evaluation.  #1 point many members don’t realize; An Evaluation is a Speech…

  • There should be an opening, a body and a close
  • Use one of the evaluation formats to construct your comments. The most popular one is the Sandwich Technique (commend, recommend, commend), but there are more advanced formats such as POSE (Purpose, Organization, Suggestions, Encouragement), CODE (Content, Organization, Delivery, Effectiveness), and GLOVES (Gestures, Language, Organization, Voice, Eye Contact, Stage Use).   These are ways to organize your content to provide feedback to the speaker.

You can make most situations funny.  A number of Humorous Speech Contest winners stated that they didn’t think they were funny.  They won with their ability to create humor with their words, visuals, and situations.

  • A humorous speech is not a stand-up comedy act.
  • Using information from the Toastmasters Humorously Speaking Advanced manual, here are some ways to add humor to a speech:  Exaggeration,  Surprise, Play on words, Expression, Implication.
  • The delivery is key; the set-up, pause, punch line, punch word, and pause (for the response)

  KNow the Rules.  In a contest, you are not being evaluated, you are being judged.  The person with the highest score wins the contest.

  • Understand the judging criteria and scoring.  Your goal is to get the maximum number of points in each category.  Too often, I have seen contestants wonder why they did not win, and it was because they did not understand the scoring criteria
  • Know the timing rules!!!!  If you go over time, you are disqualified, regardless of your judging score.  In the clubs, I know we glaze over this, but in the contest, the rules must be strictly followed.  If you are over 7 minutes 30 seconds in the speech contest or 3 minutes 30 seconds in the evaluation contest, you are disqualified

Opportunity to expand your depth and knowledge of Toastmasters.

  • You step out of your comfort zone of the regular club meeting agenda (also, the roles in the contest do count towards projects in the Competent Leader manual and the speech can count towards your communication manual, as long as they also meet those objectives).
  • You joined to improve your communication and leadership skills.  This is another way of validating your progress.  How much have you improved as a communicator, and how much have you improved in providing feedback?
  • Your speech writing is done for a different purpose. You will then think differently about every speech you write after that point.
  • You expand your network.  The people I have met from being involved in contests have become friends and great resources. This comes not just from competing, but even helping out at an Area, Division, or District contest.

Try it at the Club Level.  Here are some tools to help

Speech contest information on the Toastmasters website:

Judging form for the Humorous Speech contest:

Judging form for the Evaluation Speech contest:

There are pre-canned downloadable presentations that the club can facilitate on evaluations:

Feel free to Google key words; “Toastmasters evaluation …..”, ” Toastmasters Humorous Speech….”  to find a wealth of information.  To see humorous speeches, search YouTube

I hope this information encourages you to consider participating.  WHY NOT take the leap and compete.



In the July/August timeframe, the District hosts club officer training. Whether you are a brand new Club Officer, a tenured Club Officer, or not a Club Officer, there are several reasons for you to attend a Club Officer Training session.

  • It is a great way to meet and network with other Toastmasters.
  • You gain confidence in your role and being part of a leadership team.
  • You gain new ideas, and offer your ideas to others.

If you are a brand new officer/ new Toastmaster…

  • You become part of group of peers, which is now your support group.
  • Just like starting a new job where you are trained, we similarly provide you the tools and resources to be successful.

If you are a prior officer and holding the same or a different position…

  • If you are repeating a Club Officer role, volunteer to lead a general session or a breakout session. You would be sharing your expertise with others.
  • Go and support a newer officer. Introduce them to people you know, and help them expand their network. In addition, after the training, if the new officer has other questions, you can answer them.
  • You meet more people who can be future resources for questions, joint club meetings, or future leaders If you are not a Club Officer, you can attend the training for these reasons…
  • If you considering a Club Officer role in the future, you can understand the responsibilities in advance. You can even volunteer to be the Assistant to the role.
  • Are you a leader in another organization? Take the information from the Toastmasters roles and incorporate the responsibilities into your role. There may be best practices that could benefit your other organization.

The added benefit to what is described above is that if 4 officers attend the training that completes half of the requirement for goal #9 in the Distinguished Club Program (DCP). The DCP is the measurement that recognizes that clubs are providing a positive and supportive environment that leads to member success.

Visit our website at to find the training location nearest to you.