Toastmasters Humorous Speech Contest Analysis

Over the last three weeks, I've reviewed the Toastmasters District 17 convention 2017, analysed the Toastmasters District 17 table topics competition 2017 and provided you with insights from some of District 17's most successful competitors. Today I'm examining the Toastmasters humorous speech contest that took place at the 2017 District 17 convention.

Read today's blog post to see the top three speeches in the Toastmasters humorous speech contest held at the Toastmasters District 17 convention 2017 and my thoughts on what they did well and where they can improve!


Toastmasters Humorous Speech Contest

Timing: 5 - 7 minutes

We judge Toastmasters humorous speech contestants on speech development, effectiveness, value, audience response, physical delivery, vocal delivery, manner, language appropriateness and correctness.

  • 1st Place - Helen Clark
  • 2nd Place - Janette Edwards
  • 3rd Place - James Gay

1st Place - Helen Clark

Martin's Thoughts - Why Did Helen Win?

Helen won the District 17 Toastmasters humorous speech contest in 2016 and was back in winning form again in 2017. She is a very entertaining speaker who can incorporate self-deprecating humour while taking us on a journey. And yet, half the audience will never experience this specific trip, and a large percentage of the rest haven't experienced it yet.

Helen started with the firm opening statement "Menopause!". This opening immediately had the audience thinking, "Wow... Where is she going to take this?"

Comical word play backed up her initial premise that "Menopause" was nature's way of turning her into a man. Making her case further, she outlined three key physical changes she has experienced, where she used exaggeration to great comic effect.

Metaphors were used, referring to how she has changed from "Barbie" into "Ken".  She also included lots of physical humour, outlining some body changes.

Helen used props and clothes changes with ease, and managed to do this without giving any clues they were going to be used. One change involved taking off a layer of clothes to reveal a set of funny clothes. Building on this, she introduced the other clothes change, pulling clothes from a box discreetly placed at the back of the stage. She also had one final hidden piece of clothing which she produces near the end of her speech.

In her conclusion, she shows how she has fully embraced the idea of being a man by showing some highly amusing male stereotype characteristics that she has taken on. Although, in the final statement, she changes tack, and shows how she's very comfortable as a woman in a very entertaining manner.

This speech was hilarious and is an excellent example of how to write and deliver a speech in the Toastmasters humorous speech contest.

2nd Place - Janette Edwards

Martin's Thoughts - What Did Janette Do Well?

Janette immediately engaged the audience by asking a question, that made use of an alliterative triad "Trim, Taught and Terrific". She didn't get quite as strong a response as she would have liked, so asked them again and quickly brought the audience onside. She then included an element of banter with one audience member, which gave her first laugh and made her appear very relaxed and confident.

She changed direction moving from a seminar style speech to a self-deprecating, humorous speech, and we were all on board wanting to hear more. She also cleverly weaved in a Toastmasters joke that had the whole audience laughing.

Janette added humour by suggesting that some of her less healthy choices were a brilliant strategy that others hadn't considered. She built on this by using words and phrases with different meanings depending on the context, and switched these very well achieving big laughs - e.g., "I said 'No' to alcohol, but the alcohol didn't listen".

How Could Janette Improve?

The were many times in Janette's speech where the audience was in fits of laughter. However, when introducing and concluding each step of her program, these felt a little bit flat as there wasn't so much humour in these sections.

As Toastmasters we are often advised to signpost our speeches to help the audience follow us. In the case of humorous speeches though, this can result in flat spots. In contrast, Helen's speech used more of a story structure with comical transitions that helped her avoid this issue, and it's something I believe Janette should consider in her humorous speeches in future.

What Was The Highlight?

Janette brilliantly disregarded most of the strategies her husband gave her in her speech, by having multiple witty comeback lines. I enjoyed laughing at this highly entertaining speech!

3rd Place - James Gay

Martin's Thoughts - What Did James Do Well?

James had a very anecdotal style of speaking that gave him a sense of authority in his speech by making him appear as though he was speaking from a place of experience and truth. He had an overhead projector setup, with a series of slides adding to this sense of a knowledge base that embedded his speech.

The first minute of this speech wasn't full of laughter. However, during this time, the comedic premise was cleverly being built up - how to take the benefits of squatting to an exaggerated extreme.

For the rest of his speech, James told us about the many unusual places you can practice your squat technique and the positive impact a squat can have on your life and other peoples lives. Each new location and the positive impact it had was more exaggerated than the previous and said with sincerity leaving us with comic squatting images ingrained in our minds.

How Could James Improve?

While James made considerable effort to incorporate slides to add humour into his presentation, I don't believe this is as effective as using props and costume changes, if the speech allows. Slides take the attention away from the speaker, whereas props and costume changes add complexity and interest to the characters. I recommend James working on these aspects of his humorous speaking.

What Was The Highlight?

Quoting himself as a comical source of inspiration for others to develop their own "squat" was a brilliant way to conclude a highly original and very funny speech.

Are You Interested in Improving Your Humorous Speaking?

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Have you had an experience of a Toastmasters Humorous Contest?

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Martin J O'Connor

In 2015, Martin was the District 17 Toastmasters Table Topics Champion and came third in 2014. He was in the District 17 final of the Humorous competition in 2015 and is in the District 17 final of the Evaluation competition in 2017. He is very proud to be a founding member of Competitive Speakers Perth Toastmasters club.