Advance Blog

Contests are a key way to advance with exemplary techniques and content


Judy Groff, VP of ED, and Stan Coss, TM President, advanced to the Division Contest for Oct. 29, 2016 in Evaluations and Humorous Speaking, respectively.  A slide whistle and a “stomping” were instrumental.

Tucker Cox, a veteran FS Toastmaster who got started in a club in Tokyo, Japan, is pictured with Renee Brooks, the Division Director, at the conclusion of the Humorous Speaking and Evaluation Contest on Oct. 3, 2015.  Tucker won second place in the Evaluation category with an insightful, motivating evaluation of the test speaker. The top two finishers in the area contests earned the right to advance to the division contest.  Renee called contestants “the sparkle” of Toastmasters.  Tuck said this particular contest “took my breath away” because the quality was “out of this world.”

Jennifer Bauer won in both the area and the division by evaluating in just three areas:  what she saw, what she heard, and what she felt.  Grows were given by all evaluators, but the overall aim was to encourage the speaker with what to keep and what to improve for a future speech.  Each evaluator had five minutes to take notes and formulate a response.

tuck and renee ab

There are so many facets of this contest to learn from.  The top two speakers in the humorous speech contest in 2015 are what are focused on here.  Each centered on a collection of stories from the speaker’s experience.

In first place was Tres Magner speaking on “Speed.”  Tres spoke on a cross country race and a swim team heat from high school.  He used self-deprecating humor on refusing to wear a speedo and doing a flip turn to contrast himself with his grandfather that went to UNC-Ch and made a reputation as “Flash” on the football team and in the NFL.  Tres was known at UNC-Ch as “Turtle.”  His lesson was to get in the race and finish.  “Don’t worry about coming in last,” he said.  “I’ve got your back!”  Tres has probably been quick on his feet in using humor even before high school; by college he said (in the post interview) that one of his achievements was being a cheerleader before 20,000 fans.

Ryan Cox was last year’s Division winner that placed second this year to Prentice Singleton in the area contest.  Ryan (18 months) and Prentice (nine months) are both very talented but relatively new to Toastmasters.  In his “Paradox of Parenting” speech, Ryan made major revisions from the Area speech that stepped him up past Prentice and some new, equally tough competitors in the Division.  For one, he plugged in humorous references to the test speaker and two speakers in the area contest that had also advanced.  The impromptu nature and relevance was winsome.  He said in the post-interview that he’d also restored some of the heart from earlier drafts of his speech, tender aspects he’d cut in favor of laughs that arose from showing brattiness rather than lovable warmth from his daughter.

Ryan was the only speaker that gave a clear preview of three points and introduced each in the body.  This helped make his theme clear, but Tres was very clear on his theme at the opening and close, too.  Both were dynamic in using the whole stage with body movement and gestures.  It truly was educational and inspirational to see how these and the other speakers used humor so effectively.  Most TM speakers will not give a humorous speech in a contest, but all could learn from contestants on how to up their own game in using at least a sprinkle of humor.

Life Beyond the CC Manual

Area Director Dan Desjardins, 2015-16, spoke to area clubs on how it was desirable to not just be a “competent” communicator.  Many Toastmasters seem content just to get though the Competent Communicator manual.  While this is an admirable goal, there are 15 advanced manuals that give expertise in more specialized areas.  Also, Dan says, it pays to have a refresher course, to keep practicing with speeches, to retain the points that make for a polished speech.  Toastmasters can be a lifelong journey, as many Toastmasters can attest.

Beyond that CC level are the Bronze, Silver, and Gold.  Each of these steps requires ten new speeches.  The advanced manuals each have five speech projects, so two manuals would make the major portion of what is required for the advanced level.  The silver requires two special presentations in addition, and the gold requires conducting a special workshop and coaching a new member in three speeches.  (These details are given in the back of each manual.)

advanced dan