Essex Toastmasters was well represented at the April 8th Division International and Evaluation Speech contest. Pamela Olsen and Dan Sadowsky were top notch competitors with Pamela taking 2nd place in the International Speech Contest. I sat down with both contestants to get a closer look at what it's like to compete.
Q: What has your experience been with the contest(s) to this point. (I'm assuming this wasn't your first rodeo?)
Pamela: This was my first prepared speech competition. I have competed at the club level in one evaluation competition before. I have been a Competition Chair before, I’ve taught other Chairs, and I’ve been the Test Speaker in many evaluation competitions.
Dan: Before coming to Essex Toastmasters, I had been encouraged for some time by my area director at U.S. Fund for UNICEF Toastmasters to organize a contest there. Though we could never pull off a contest, I did coach a new club member, someone who was incredibly eager to compete, to get on a fast track to complete the requisite number of speeches to qualify to be our club's designate to compete in the area contest. From sharing that experience with her, I became inspired to enter a contest myself, which I did for the first time this past fall with our club's humorous speech contest. It was an exhilarating experience--lots of nerves, but mainly anticipation--and I was so proud of myself for preparing a performance like that.
Q: Speaking of nerves what was it like? Were you nervous?
Dan: With no competition at the club level, I won by default and went on to take second place at the area level. Then I tried an evaluation contest for the first time this Spring. It was a different experience: not the huge rush I got from delivering a performance speech, but entirely fulfilling because of the focus on excellence of speech feedback, something I value very much.
Pamela: I do get nervous when performing, though I’ve learned to enjoy that feeling. It requires a lot of energy, which is also a lot of fun. The support I received from members of Essex Toastmasters has been superb. Knowing that the Essex folk were in the audience gave me more confidence, and made it more fun, since you all know the speech, and you can enjoy it on a deeper level than those hearing it for the first time. That support was invaluable!
Q: What did you gain from this experience?
Pamela: I understand much more what kind of story is required. It must be heart-felt, personal, life changing, and uplifting. Last year’s winner did a speech on bullying. Lance Miller, another International Speech Champion with whom I’ve coached, did a speech on being validated as a human being years ago, and how infectious that can be. By practicing this contest speech, I feel I improved technically in the ability to use inflection to make my speaking voice sound much more natural, as though I’m just having a conversation. That’s a hard level to find sometimes.
Dan: From the experience of competing this Spring, I met new Toastmasters from other clubs who are performing at the highest levels. That inspires me to continue to strive for excellence in whatever I do for Toastmasters. I am happy that I was able to help and possibly inspire others with my contest performance, as well. I also learned that the most important contest is the one in which you compete against your personal best. Judges' recognition is nice, but it doesn't top achieving more for yourself than you previously thought possible.