Tag Archives: speech

Division D Contest: Mr. Roach’s Garden

Division D Contestants

Tonight was the Division D contests held at Toastmasters in Unity in Mount Laurel. It was a cold rainy evening. Richard and I drove up together.

This was my first time competing at a division contest. I was nervous.

Toastmasters is a good organization. I knew many of the folks in the room from previous clubs, events, and conferences. Toastmasters is definitely family. I was impressed that Rich, Phil, and Keith came to the event from Boardwalk. That was very nice.

When I got into barbecuing several years ago, I recall sitting myself down and setting up parameters for that hobby. Namely, I told myself I was not going to compete so I could concentrate on having fun. It has worked out well. Toastmasters has been a similar endeavor. I have not competed until this year. I have read enough about the experience to at least tell myself the correct approach. I am now doubling down on that.

Toastmasters is not like football. When one competes in football, you’ll scout out the other team and make a plan on how to attack their weaknesses and defend against their strengths. Toastmasters is not like that. The others in the competition mean nothing to the competitor. The competition is with myself, not the others. If I know you are going to use a triad, do I defend that? Ha! The point is to deliver my best speech. At that, it’s out of my hands.

The evaluation contest was up first. Hev Saing was the model speaker. He was a challenge for me as he has a heavy Cambodian accent. I struggle with Asian accents. Nevertheless, he delivered a funny speech. I put together a good evaluation. I placed third out of five.

I understand where this comes from. Bernard won. He and I had similar evaluations. I used notes; he has that pleasing Australian/South African accent. Kimo Thomas-Dennis placed second. She had a fine evaluation. I did not hear the other two as I was sequestered.

For the International Speech Contest, I delivered Mr. Roach’s Garden again. I had worked on the speech some since last week. It was improved. I was happy with my delivery. I stumbled on the third part of the joke at the beginning. I stammered and lost the word “indecisive” when speaking of Hamlet later. Both were minor. I am pleased with my delivery and really pleased with the speech as a whole.

Sitting there, I felt confident. Sure, I’m biased. πŸ™‚

Admittedly, I was a little disappointed with placing third in this competition as well. In the end, I delivered the speech I wanted to deliver and I think I delivered the best that I have to date.

This is me. It was not judged to be good enough to move on. If I want to move on, I will need to change my approach. While I think it was the best crafted speech of the evening, my takeaway from the contest is that there is not enough for the audience. Specifically, I think it’s too intense. After the initial joke, there are several minutes of intense storytelling and then the end. There is no outlet for the audience. No joke. No place to sigh. No steam value release.

These are skills I am aware I need to work on.

Going forward from here, the two areas I am going to work on are humor and audience response (as in having the audience repeat lines from the speech).

It’s been a fun ride. One of the recent books I read talked about hitting the stage 12-feet tall and bulletproof. That’s how I approached this evening. I felt good. I performed well. Now it’s time to take the next step.

I will say, I have taken some comfort in reading John Kinde’s So You Lost a Toastmasters Speech Contest? πŸ™‚

I don’t usually write out my speeches; I did for this one.

Have you ever grown a plant? Have you ever killed a plant?

When a plant is ready to emerge, it needs the right environmental conditions: nutrients in the soil, sun in the sky, and water available.

Absent those conditions, the plant will wither and die, fading into the background. If the conditions are met, the plant will emerge, grow, and ultimately blossom.

Mr. Contest Chair, fellow Toastmasters, and honored guests.

I struggled to emerge as a young man.

I was an average boy from an average family who did average things. Trust me, we were boring. How boring? I’ll tell you how boring. On Saturday nights we’d spend the evening looking up words in the dictionary.

Sundays we watched the laundry dry.

And other days we looked for rust on Dad’s Buick.

By the time I entered high school, I knew a lot of words, but I also knew my place: in the back of the room near the wall with my mouth closed.

From this vantage point, I observed that those who thrived within this ecosystem had one common trait: Each had Mr. Roach as his English teacher.

They treated him as their muse. Mr. Roach this, they proclaimed. Mr. Roach that, they exalted.

As for me, I didn’t have Mr. Roach until my senior year. It did not begin well at all. I remember exactly what he wrote on my first progress report: “It appears Bobby has extended summer well into the academic year.”

Mr. Roach was tall. He had shaggy hair. His books were worn and dog-eared. He loved Shakespeare. Specifically, he loved Hamlet. Hamlet was Shakespeare’s longest play. Every day, for the next four months, we examined every “forsooth” and “where art thou” the bard wrote.

All the while, Mr. Roach proclaimed Hamlet this, and Hamlet that.

We met in a small classroom with large windows that looked out onto a large lawn that sloped down to a pond. We sat at a large oval oak table. As for me, I sat in the back of the room, near the wall, and kept my mouth closed.

It was a mid-week Indian summer day near the end of our unit. Mr. Roach prattled on once again about Hamlet this or perhaps it was Hamlet that. Who knows after all these years?

The sun glistened off the blonde hair of the girl sitting to my right.

I felt myself peel away from the wallpaper, skooch up in my chair, and lean forward. For the first time in my life I blurted out.

Hamlet was a twit!

All my classmates looked at me with their mouths agaped. As if to say, “You’re not one of us. You don’t get to say that.”

Then, in unison, their heads swiveled to their muse. Their steely eyes demanded, “You’re not going to let him get away with that, are you?”

There was no anger in Mr. Roach’s demeanor. And I remember exactly what he said. “All right, Bobby. Why do you think that?”

I was taken aback. There was no accusatory “What are you thinking?” question that would have nailed me to this wall still. But he didn’t ask “What?”, he asked “Why?” Any teacher will tell you that when you ask a student “Why?” you engage him. “Why?” invites you to the conversation.

“Why?” Hamlet was so indecisive in avenging his father’s death. You place him on a pedestal. I find him pathetic. Shakespeare finds him tragic. That’s “Why?”

Mr. Roach could have easily slapped me down for my insolence. Instead he fed me. He saw a student emerging in his classroom and he took care to feed me. When you feed, you lead. Hungry for a place in the conversation, Mr. Roach fed me by giving me the room to speak.

Whether it is in a formal classroom like Mr. Roach and I shared or a business with a colleague, at home with your children, or here at Toastmasters, leaders feed their plants. Leaders are gardeners who encourage growth within the environment. They provide nourishment so the plants grow.

Leaders don’t rip the plant from the wall, drag him across the floor, like the proverbial horse, and then force his head into the trough and make him drink.

Leaders seed their soil. They nurture their plants. They cultivate their garden.

Mr. Roach’s gardening tips remain with me. I have the question β€œWhy?” posted on the wall in the front of the classroom. It is directly in my view from the area I lead discussions. It is the reminder, daily, to cultivate my classroom.

Few can state Master Gardeners by name; but all recognize their flowers.

Tend to your gardens, fellow Toastmasters.

May your plants emerge, grow, and ultimately blossom!

When you feed, you lead.

15-04-08 Division D International Speech Contest

Mr. Roach’s Garden


I have moved onto to the Division D contest. By doing so, I re-thought my speech, The Izzy Effect. I don’t think it’s good enough to win at a higher level. I spent the last several days preparing this speech. I do think it’s a better speech, but it needs work . . . particularly in the delivery. I missed some moments in the speech. And I am really surprised at the time of this. I spoke much more quickly than I practiced.

Mr. Roach’s Garden, 1 April 2015

Area 41 International Speech & Evaluation Contests

15-03-26 Area 41 International Speech & Evaluation Contests
The Izzy Effect, 26 March 2015

Contest season continues.

Unfortunately, I did not prepare as well for this evening as I would have liked. It’s been a busy week. Coupled with the fact that I do not like my speech, I just wasn’t as motivated as I should have been.

As for the International Speech contest, I looked at the area contest as a rehash of the club contest. Our area has four clubs. One club does not participate, one club did not hold a contest, and I won at both the other clubs. I felt confident going in, but unprepared. I had reason to be concerned. Tony upped his game. He came in prepared. He worked on his speech. He had me engaged. I thought he won the contest.

I have a theory about area contests. I have noted at other contests, and it definitely happened tonight, that the audience is stoic. There is no response. None. No feedback means I just kept going. My time was way too fast.

Jerry Shockey was the model speaker for the Evaluation contest. He had a pretty good speech. As I prepared, I saw a connection to his timeline and his theme of family/love to The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. I used that. I had a pretty good evaluation. I became a little nervous at the end. That happens occasionally. I did not hear Peter Murphy’s evaluation. Ken Chotiner had a solid evaluation.

In the end, the judges enjoyed both my speech (The Izzy Effect) and my evaluation. It feels good to win. But there’s now the problem I saw before the club contest; the speech is not good enough to go on. I need to write a new speech for the Division D contest. I need to get moving.

As for evaluations, I take a different approach than those who I have seen win at the higher levels. I do not have anything prepared. I am very much a hit-or-miss evaluator. If I am on my game, I deliver a solid evaluation. If I’m not, well, I know I won’t win. I do not have any flowery openings or closings. I actually concentrate on identifying what worked in the speech for me and what I think would help the speech/speaker going further. But being in both contests is now a hindrance as it keeps full focus on either of the contests.

Time to man up . . . and write a speech.

These contests took place at the Millville Public Library in the Gant Room.

International Speech & Evaluation Contests

Things went well for me this evening. We had three participants for the Evaluation contest. Fran delivered the model speech, Hearing for Life. As always, it was a personal speech with touching moments.

Evaluation Contest, 12 March 2015

We had two contestants for the International Speech contest. Tony had a really good speech.

The Izzy Effect, 12 March 2015

In the end, I won both contests. πŸ™‚ Things are going well for me right now.

15-03-12 International Speech & Evaluation Contests

The Izzy Effect

Tonight was the International Speech and Evaluation contests at Boardwalk Toastmasters. I entered both contests.

I am in my fifth year of Toastmasters. I have not competed much. The first couple years I thought I would help out with the contests to learn. Then last year I was a district officer, which precluded participation. Entering this year, my goal was to compete.

In the fall, I entered only the Table Topics contest at Speak E-Z. I didn’t get a humorous speech ready over the summer. What I had in mind didn’t work and then I was too rushed to start anew.

Boardwalk held their contests later and by then, I was out of commission with knee surgery. Even though I won the Speak E-Z Table Topics contest, I was unable to attend the area contest due to my surgery.

I’ve been looking forward to this round of contests. Boardwalk came up first. I entered both contests.

I’ve been analyzing my participation. I know I am going to lose so I am preparing myself mentally. I don’t want to become bitter or estranged as I have seen others who do not view the contest results favorably. I am looking to add to my game, not my trophy case. Wins will be nice, but the experience is more valuable.

With that in mind, I got a late start constructing this speech. I had this idea around NYE, but I never developed it. When I did, well, it didn’t work as well as I had hoped. Originally, I began with detailing how I m an S.O.B. and that Izzy’s letter had me re-think my ways. I had no ending to that and I thought it was too dramatic. i re-worked it into what it is above. There’s not a whole lot I like about it. But I was fairly confident that it was good enough to win at a club contest and perhaps at an area contest. Whether it could be tweaked and improved to be good enough beyond that, I do not know; I’ll cross that bridge should I come across it.

Happily, I did win the International Speech Contest at Boardwalk with this speech. I felt good, but I rushed. I was about 20 seconds under what I had rehearsed. I received favorable praise. Jerry has offered to help me going forward with it.

The Izzy Effect, 4 March 2015

Phil did video the speech and the evaluation, but I haven’t received it yet. My evaluation I felt was not good, but upon listening to it, I thought sounded more cogent than I felt in the moment. Nevertheless, I did not win that contest. Interestingly, Mary Fran talked with me about my evaluation of her speech. She liked how I indicated she needed eye contact when introducing the speakers. I felt as though she felt that was valuable advice. This, of course, feeds what I have always said about the evaluation contest: critical evaluations are the most helpful, but do not win. So be it. πŸ™‚

Evaluation Contest, 4 March 2015
International Speech & Evaluation Contests Agenda

How to be a Distinguished Club . . . Again

Someone picked up my camera to take a photograph. I informed him I was rolling video. It looks as though I changed the video settings in the camera, I didn’t get the correct one to record longer than 10 minutes. Oh well . . .

Same speech as last evening. I tossed in a little Simon Says in the middle to break up sitting for so long. My evaluator last evening stated something was needed to break the length. The group loved it. You have to enjoy old teacher tricks. πŸ™‚

This presentation went over really well in the club. I won best speaker for this educational program, but I let someone else hold the glory.

This completed my second Advance Leader Bronze award. I won’t submit it until the next Toastmaster year.

15-02-19 Speak E-Z Meeting

How to be a Distinguished Club

I forgot to change the setting to permit for a longer video to be recorded.

Average; nothing great. Too level. I need to add some vocal variety.

I went long and I knew I would. I think teaching the DCP is important. I probably should be doing the other speech that specifically deals with that.

I am moving into a phase where I will doing many more educational speeches. It is what I do, after all. πŸ™‚

How to be a Distinguished Club, 18 February 2015

Free Toast Host Utilization & Functionality

15-02-12 Free Toast Host Utilization & Functionality

The name of this speech was not my doing. As a matter of fact, I tried to avoid this thing in its entirety. I happy I was not able to escape. πŸ™‚

I loathe doing technology presentations in foreign environments. Systems rarely work the way I expect. Tonight was no exception to that.

Last week at the Boardwalk meeting, I was assured that a hot spot would be set up for an Internet connection. I made certain I arrived early. It took the 45 minutes to connect the laptop to the projector. There was no hot spot (I am not surprised). Pleasantly surprised, the recycling center had an open data line at the lectern. That never happens! Connectivity was a bit laggy, but it worked.

I was not prepared like I wanted to be. We had a low turn-out; I knew everyone in the room. That made this much better. The trainees were gracious in their comments. I felt a little off on my presentation. I chose not to record it.

Overall, I think it was okay. Jerry evaluated it so I received credit for the effort.

I will say I am on another Toastmaster high.

Division D Officers Training Agenda

$400,000 Squandered

The Millville City Commission decided to re-vote on squandering money on a project it has no purview on. The vote hinged on Commissioner Ennis. I was under the impression that my opinion mattered. I was mistaken; the fix was already arranged.

I knew better than to speak. I always know better. For some reason, I didn’t heed caution this time out.

$400,000 Squandered, 23 December 2014

My training did not seem to show up today. That bothers me.

I need to remember not to hinge my thoughts on politics. Politics is a losing issue every time. Every time.