Playing to Win

Gold cup on white background

By Marcia Mannen

With the Toastmasters International Speech contest and Best Evaluator contest approaching on March 26, we decided to get the inside scoop on contest participation from two WUSTL Speakers who have already been through the speech-contest ringer.

Last fall, the club selected Mary Clemens and Martin Yoakum to go to the area speech contests. Mary competed in table topics, and Martin in the humorous speech contest.

“It’s really fun,” Mary says. “You feel really good being able to represent the group and get out there and show us off.”

The first round is an area competition against five other clubs. Martin remembers  most of the people in attendance were from WUSTL Speaks.

“It was really nice having [club members] come to support and enjoy the competition,” Martin says.

Martin delivered his talk “Why I Hate the Icebreaker Speech,” his first ever Toastmasters talk.

Mary spoke about her family for table topics. Everyone competing in the table topics competition answers the same prompt, so they all leave the room and come in, one at a time, to respond in front of everyone.

“I lucked out drawing numbers, because I got to go last,” Mary says. “Once you do yours, you stay in the room. If I had heard everyone else, I might have second guessed myself.”

Mary won the area contest, and went to the division competition. “I was able to really step up my game and have people stay after meetings and give me random topics,” Mary says. “The more I practiced, the more confidence I gained that I could do this.” She took second place, against 25 other clubs.

For those wanting to compete, Martin offers this advice: “If you are afraid of getting up in front of people, prepare yourself, because there will be people there that you don’t know. And don’t assume your speech is finished. Revise it, revise it, and revise it.”

Mary, who signed up to compete in the International speech contest this month, advises, “jump in and do it. Sign up and then practice, practice, practice. Practice is your best friend. Your next best friend is all the people who are kind enough to come out and support you.”