The annual Toastmasters humorous speech contest. A contest where speakers compete for the most laughs through smart wit or just pure shock. And a contest where I would reach the divisional round and compete against the best speakers in west London. Yeah… I was as shocked as most of you are. Here is my journey.
I had my eye on the humorous contest for the past year. One of my first meetings at Kings Speakers had been the previous years' contest. I saw the confidence of the speakers. I heard the laughs they received. I wanted to be up there. When the date for the club contest was announced, I knew I had to give it a go.
The key to the contest (and ironically any other speaking contest) is the speech (who would have thought it!). And I just happened to have an ace up my sleeve. My second speech for the club back in February had been about my experience working as a cowboy in the Australian outback. It had got a few laughs, so I set to work rewriting it. If I was to give one tip on humorous speech writing, it would to be original. Make it memorable. Make it so horrifically embarrassing to you that the audience can’t even look you in the eye after.
For those who have not heard it, my speech can best be summarised as the experiences of a ginger cowboy where everything is trying to kill him in the Outback combined with a heavy dose of Brokeback Mountain. (Yeah, you all missed out). And I would unleash it upon many unsuspecting people.
Contest day arrived. I was up against the best that Kings Speakers had to offer. The room was packed, and the atmosphere was brilliant with laughs all round for five fantastic speeches. And to my amazement, it was announced that I had won. I even managed to muster a slight smile much to the annoyance of my facial muscles. But the sense of elation was quickly replaced by a grave realisation. I would have to do it all again at the next round...
This was a very unusual feeling for me. For most of my life, I have tried to avoid speaking in public. And now here I was, voluntarily going to speak to yet more people.
And two weeks later, I was up on stage once more. The standard was raised to a whole new level. (And everyone was bloody using props!) The speakers brought an element of acting to their speeches which I hadn’t seen before. But to my amazement, I came second. And guess what? Yep. You’ve got it. I was told I would have to do it all over again in the divisional contest.
The divisional contest pitches the best humorous speakers in West London against one another to battle it out to reach the grand final. And I would be one of them. I knew I would be up against some brilliant competition from people who live for public speaking. I made a decision. I didn’t want to put any pressure on myself. I didn’t want to be disappointed if I didn’t win. I just wanted to enjoy myself and celebrate how far I had come in the past year with my speech. And I wanted to show my friends and family what I can do.
My parents haven’t seen me speak in public since I was about five years old giving a far from Oscar-worthy performance as a shepherd in the school nativity play. It was time to put that right. Besides, I had to show them that I don’t actually make toast twice a month…
With a 9.30am start, I was up at 6 am for the divisional. I did seriously reconsider my life choices in those waking moments. Especially as I was slightly hungover. But I had my club to represent so off I went. To a packed crowd, the contest kicked off. The first three speeches were fantastic. Smart and sophisticated (everything my speech is not). And the fourth speaker was called. It was my turn. I strolled up to the stage, the corks on my cowboy hat smacking me in the face. I turned to face the audience. I began. “It is 48°C…” It was the best speech I have ever given.
I loved every moment. From start to finish, from every laughter to groan. I have never felt so in control speaking. But nothing was better than seeing my family and friends in hysterics. It was one of the proudest moments of my life.
The rest of the contest continued with more brilliant speeches including the eventual winner. I didn’t place in the top three but I didn’t care. When I first joined Kings Speakers I just wanted some practice speaking in front of people. And in just a year, I had held my own against some of the best speakers around. And more scarily? I enjoyed it.
Representing Kings Speakers at the divisional round was an honour.
Secretary of Kings Speakers