Speech Contests

Speech contests are an exciting part of Toastmasters, and a valuable way to stretch yourself as a speaker. Speech contests are held twice a year, in the fall and in the spring. The fall contest usually consists of two categories–a humorous speech contest and a table topics contest. Occasionally a tall tales contest will be held in place of one of these contests. In the spring, another two categories of contests take place–the evaluation contest and the international speech contest.

You are welcome to enter both categories of each contest. All contests start at the club level. Club members sign up to participate, and a club contest is scheduled in lieu of a regular club meeting. Experienced Toastmasters are brought in from outside the club to ensure fair and impartial judging and selection of winners.

The winner in each contest category moves to the next level of competition, which is the area level. Representatives from each club in the same area as Aim High will compete against each other and the winner will be named the Area contest winner. Again a team of judges will determine the winners. These contestants will move to the next level of competition, the division level. Winners at the division level go on to the district level contests, which are held during the fall and spring district conferences.

Competition ends at the district level, except in the case of the International Speech Contest. The winner of this contest at the district level will represent District 55 at the Semi-Final Contest in conjunction with the International Convention. Semi-Final contest winners then compete in the International Contest with a new speech later in the Convention. The winner of the International Speech contest is named the World Champion of Public Speaking.

District 55 is lucky in that we have produced several World Champions of Public Speaking, David Henderson from San Antonio won in 2010 and David Brooks won the contest in 1990. Another Texan, Jim Key from the Dallas area won this competition in 2003. He was from the same region as District 55 when Toastmasters International had regions. Regions were removed in 2009.

All Toastmasters in good standing who have completed at least six speech projects in the Competent Communication manual are eligible to participate in speech contests. Other rules apply and are available from Toastmasters International. Before you participate in a contest for the first time, ask the Contest Chair, Chief Judge or the Vice President of Education for a copy of the contest ballot, so you can become familiar with the judging criteria.

Club members who do not participate as contestants are usually asked to participate as contest helpers. Just as in a regular club meeting, there are numerous roles that must be filled in order for a contest to run smoothly. Although the judges are brought in from other clubs, club members are asked to serve as contest Timers, Ballot Counters, Sergeants at Arms, or even as the Contest Toastmaster. The Contest Chair or Chief Judge will brief you on your duties before the contest begins. However you choose to participate, contests are always a great learning experience–and a lot of fun!

Humorous Speech Contest. The Humorous Speech Contest is a great way to challenge yourself as an entertaining speaker. This 5-7 minute humorous speech should be a well-developed presentation surrounding a central theme–not a stand-up routine or series of one-liners. Vocal variety, gestures, and speech content all play a part in a successful humorous speech.

Table Topics Contest. The Table Topics Contest is very popular, if only because it requires no preparation! Contestants are escorted from the room then brought back in one at a time to speak on a pre-selected table topic for 1-2 minutes. All speakers are given the same topic, and all speakers are given the same amount of time to think as they approach the lectern. The Table Topics Contest is a great way to test your skills as an extemporaenous speaker.

Tall Tales Contest. The Tall Tales Contest provides contestants with an opportunity to create and deliver an original, highly improbable tale. Humor and exaggeration are expected, and props may be used as appropriate to support the story. The tall tale speech is 3-5 minutes long.

Evaluation Contest. The Evaluation Contest, like the Table Topics Contest, requires no advance preparation. In this contest, a Toastmaster called the Test Speaker gives a prepared speech which all of the contestants will evaluate. After the test speech, the evaluation contestants are given five minutes to prepare. As with the Table Topics Contest, the contestants are escorted from the room then brought back in one at a time to give their 2-3 minute evaluation. Every speaker has a different approach but they all have the same goal–providing a polished and effective evaluation for the speaker.

International Speech Contest. The International Speech Contest is so named because it is the only speech contest that is carried all the way to the international level. Because the World Championship of Public Speaking is at stake, this contest is taken very seriously. The topics for these 5-7 minute speeches are usually very meaningful, and many speakers give reflective, touching, inspirational, or dramatic speeches. Of course humor is often an element of these speeches as well, but most speakers strive more to convey a message to the audience rather than to simply entertain them.

Once a speaker has won the Semi-Final Contest, this Toastmaster must develop an entirely new speech to deliver at the International Speech Contest. This requirement makes the contest a lot tougher, but it also separates the novice speakers from those worthy of the title “World Champion.”


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