Thursday, 13 October 2011


Church basement and no sign of Bill or his friends anywhere.  (For the record, I did see a styrofoam coffee cup, but that was the closest I came.)

Toastmasters  District Area Humorous Speech Competition.

When I got the agenda, I was dead last, scheduled to appear - if the contest ran on time - at 11:18pm.

Turns out, those were just placeholders.  In fact, the contestants of each of the four competitions drew lots to determine speaking order.  Oh good I picked a 6.  There were only 5 contestants in my section.  Not a good sign.

A few months ago, I was teaching a workshop on How to Deliver Bad News to health care professionals.  They laughed so hard that during the question period, someone raised her hand and asked if I would do stand up at her Christmas party.

Next thing I know I'm in a Church basement knitting a hat and waiting for my turn to be humorous.

When I gave the speech at the first level of the competition - Club, the instant-evaluation-judge said "I would have liked to hear more laughter from the audience."

Ummm, me too, lady, me too.

Since no one else entered the contest at my club, I was a shoo-in to represent at the Area District  level.   But since the speech wasn't really that funny, I said to the judges, let's just forget the whole thing happened.   Apparently that was impossible.  According to Toastmasters Rule 3, Section 12a, Clauses 19-37, once you have presented at the Club level and won (even by default), you are obligated to show up at the next level.

Well, I thought to myself, I could probably come up with something funnier for next time.


According to Toastmasters Chapter 5, Sub-sections 9-14, Paragraph B, once you have given a speech, you have to give the exact same speech for the duration of the contest.  Fabulous.

It then turned out that the date of the contest coincided with a pre-planned road trip.  I told the Seargant at ArmsGrand Poobah, District Manager President of the Speech Competition that I couldn't make it.  He changed the date of the entire event to accommodate me, because, as a new member of Toastmasters, the whole Region (Area?) was thrilled that I wanted to participate.  Idiots.

I toyed with not showing up.  "Just tell them you have three kids," ten year old G said, trying to help me come up with a good excuse.

I didn't want to let down my very sweet club organizer and her two friends who thoughtfully came, and paid the $7 entrance fee just to cheer me on.  Plus, I knew I wouldn't win, but my best hope was that the other people would speak limited English, maybe someone would forget their speech, and with that kind of luck I could probably come in second.

Wishful thinking.

First guy gets up.  Speaks limited English.  There's hope.  After handing out free pens to the audience - and a few of the judges - he whips off his suit jacket to reveal a Batman cape and "flies" off the stage.

The next three contestants were really good.  Funny, well practiced, spoke clearly.  One was a guy who entered all the possible competitions and gave speeches equally strong in English and French.  One was a beautiful woman in super high red patent leather spiked heels who spoke about her new car, and the third just got up and told a good story.

I got up, I told my stories, I made eye contact.  I heard laughter. There were even a few thumbs up as I walked back to my gray folding chair.

Feeling like it could have been worse.

Spiked heels came in third.  Good story came in second.  Bilingual multi-enterer won.

This leaves me and Batman as fourth and fifth.  Or fifth and fourth.  Thankfully some vaults remain locked.

On his way to claim his third trophy, Bilingual knelt down beside me and whispered "You have the best stage presence of anyone here.  You should re-work your speech into an inspirational speech.  A motivational speech.   We are having another contest in a few months."

Nicest guy, by the way, and if he ever gets tired of polishing his trophies, he's going to e-mail me a few tips for successful public speaking.  Toastmasters style.

As for me - I'm going back to teaching front line health care workers how to tell family members their loved one will never walk again.  That's how I get the big laughs.

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