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.