Toastmasters Speech Contests – The Fast Track!

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been analysing the top three humorous contest speakers and the top three table topics speakers at the Toastmasters 2017 District 17 convention.

This week, I am answering the question "Why should you enter Toastmasters speech contests to fast track your success this year?"  Read this week's blog to find out


1) Entering Toastmasters Speech Contests Mean You Say "YES" To Yourself And Your Willingness To Learn

It is so important to say YES to yourself and your vision for your life.

"If you don't design your life plan, chances are you'll fall into someone else's plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”

Jim Rohn

So how are you designing your life around improving your public speaking ability? If you want to improve your public speaking ability, look for opportunities to practice and when you find them, say "YES".

The Toastmasters Humorous and Table Topics contests are two great OPPORTUNITIES for you. However, only 10% of all Toastmasters members ever enter a contest. Why is this? I've heard all kind of reasons over the years. These include: "I don't like competition", "I'm not good enough", "Don't judge me", "I don't know what to say", "I'm not funny", "I'm no good at impromptu speaking".

While I suspect most of these are true, they are a sign that it's time to change your mindset to "I am willing to give it go, learn from the process and grow as a person, no matter what the outcome is."

Are you prepared to step outside of your comfort zone? Why should you? You grow when you step outside your comfort zone.

2) Toastmasters Speech Contests Increase The Pressure & Increase The Speed Of Your Learning!

When we first join a Toastmasters club, giving your first speech is a significant achievement. Everyone claps and tells you that you are amazing. All of this is true because we all know how much you've gone through to overcome your fear and give your first Toastmasters speech.

However, while the nerves never disappear, giving a speech at your home club starts to become more familiar and as a result the speed at which you learn decreases. If you stop looking for opportunities to increase the pressure on yourself you are effectively telling your body "I'm comfortable with where I am right now, and I no longer want to improve".

There is an alternative though - ENTER TOASTMASTERS SPEECH CONTESTS!

Every time you enter a speech contest, you are increasing the pressure on yourself. By doing this, you are forcing yourself to improve as a speaker, to be able to deal with this additional pressure.

While I agree, speech contests aren't for everyone, if you are serious about improving your public speaking skills quickly, entering speech contests work.

3) Toastmasters Speech Contests Help Others & You Lead By Example!

Why would you be interested in helping others? You want to improve your speaking skills right! True, but when your heart is in the right place, you learn to connect with your audience and they pick up on the fact that you care about them.  Your speech becomes focused on them rather than you.  As a result your audience listen and your speaking skills improve!

"I hear and forget

I see and remember

I do and I understand"


With this in mind, there is a huge benefit to be had when you adopt the mindset of "teacher" when you are giving a speech. The audience learns, but maybe surprisingly, you (as the teacher) learn the most.

Of course, not all speeches go well, but this doesn't mean you won't learn, regardless. When your speech goes well in a contest, you are demonstrating what's possible. When it goes badly, you are showing that it is ok to fail, that failure is an essential part of life, and that with the right mindset failure can be your biggest friend! Why? Because we learn most from our failures!

What is a failure though? It's just a label. What one person labels a failure, someone else would label a success. I see failure as the acceptance that I could have done better in a situation, and use it as the motivation to improve. With this attitude failure is motivational!

Whether your speech is successful or not, you are learning and helping others!

4) Toastmasters Speech Contests Enable You To Practice Speaking Under Pressure

Toastmasters is a very encouraging environment. It is a great place to learn and practice especially when you are starting out. However, real life isn't always as kind. Give an ordinary speech at Toastmasters, and the audience will treat you like a hero. Give the same speech outside of Toastmasters, and you might not be invited to give another speech.

At some point in your speaking journey, you want to increase the pressure on yourself, while maintaining the supportive environment. Toastmasters speech contests provide a great transition from the artificial world of continuous encouragement, to the harsher reality that lies outside of Toastmasters. Give yourself the opportunity to speak under increased pressure, where the impact of failing is minimal to help you transition from Toastmasters to speaking outside of Toastmasters.

5) Toastmasters Speech Contests Allow You To Get An Honest Comparison Of Your Speaking Ability

First and foremost, you should be entering Toastmasters speech contests to become a better speaker. However, by entering a contest you can also learn from other speakers that are better from you. When entering a contest, you are being judged using the same criteria by several judges to allow for objectivity.

So how can you learn if you don't win?

  • Ask "Why?" from someone who's opinion you trust, that wasn't a judge.
  • Ask yourself, "How could I improve to be as good a speaker as the winner?"
  • Reflect on the question, "What did the other speakers do better than me?"
  • Get a speech coach!

How can you learn if you win?

  • You now have the opportunity to increase the pressure on yourself once again, by competing against others from other clubs. Often you will be speaking at an unfamiliar venue, in front of different people. Your rate of learning is about to increase once again!
  • Discover abilities that you never knew you had within yourself for dealing with the additional pressure of competing outside of your club. For more information on how to do this, keep an eye out for future blog posts.

Want to know more about competing in Toastmasters speech contests?

  • Sign up below to receive my free e-book and make sure you don't miss any future blog posts!
  • Learn more through Toastmasters.  Check out the Toastmasters District 17 website for more details if you are in Western Australia.  Click Here

Have you ever wanted to enter Toastmasters speech contests?

Comment below and share your thoughts and experiences!

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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.