For those of you who know me, I am a member of Toastmaster’s international and it plays a huge part in my life. This is where I practice what I teach entrepreneurs, communication, leadership, and much more.
Every year Toastmasters holds an International Speech competition that starts at the club level. There are some 16,600 toastmasters clubs worldwide and each club has about 20 to 50 members. For this event, all members having satisfied some very basic requirements stand the chance to enter and compete.
I had plans to enter this competition and for the previous 12 months prior to the competition, I had been working on numerous ideas and speeches. I had one particular speech that I was keen on and that it was close to my heart. All about entrepreneurship and my numerous failures that would have made it witty and interesting, however at the last minute with the suggestion of another member I changed to another speech theme that was also interesting and I had been playing with. Unfortunately, the speech was slightly more emotional and I had not practiced it sufficiently enough to give it that umph that it required. To say the least, I came third at the club level. That meant I was out of the competition completely.
I celebrated having achieved third place and thought no more. Until I realized I could re-enter the Area competition through another club. A near-death experience four days prior to the Area contest gave me the opportunity to come up with a new speech. Yet because of a lack of practice and content in the speech, I achieved third place again.
That was it, I was out, but for those who know Toastmasters, at Club and Area the first two contestants carry on to the next level of competition but for some specific reason the second contestant could not go forward so that meant the third place goes forth in place of second.
I had two weeks to prepare my speech for the competition when someone contacted me via LinkedIn. They told me about what they were doing and after a bit of investigation, I saw the most shocking video I could have watched. I thought I knew about the subject. I had given talks on it before but this was an eye-opener. I immediately started reading the books I had on the subject, followed by article after article. I spent at least two to three hours researching the subject every day. It amassed to about 20 pages of information. This is a lot of information for a 7 minute speech. So I had to start the most difficult task of deciding what was important in all this information and eliminate everything that was unnecessary.
Two days before departure, I spoke to a friend and she told me that she preferred my first speech, and another friend said that he enjoyed the second speech the most, while my wife was of the opinion that regardless of winning or not, I should make it my mission to convey this important message and that’s all that mattered.
I flew two days prior to the event to Rabat where the competition was due to be held, more or less with three semi-prepared speeches. All of them needed work and I had two and half days left to choose and perfect one speech.
“Sleep on it” that’s what they say when you are not sure and that’s what I did. On Thursday night, I read all three speeches, I thought about them and then let my subconscious do the rest of the work. I woke up Friday morning around 3 am and the exercise had paid off. I knew how I was going to structure the speech, for it to make sense and have an impact.
This story is really about perseverance. In 2017 I had won the Division contest, but in the following years, each time I lost at Club or Area level and in 2020 I also lost either at Area or Division level. This year I had decided I want to push through and I hit several obstacles, however, instead of allowing the obstacles to stop me, I used them to my advantage and sought solutions. I used the learning from the previous round and applied it to the next round and the result was nothing less than winning the Division Contest for the second time.
I did not concentrate on winning, I concentrated on the importance of my message, the importance of communication, and how to make sure that my message leaves you with an impact so that you would remember and do something about it, if not now at least at some point later in life.
No matter what you are aiming for, if you don’t succeed at first then try again, try again and try again. If you love what you do, each try will just be another joyful experience which you should celebrate and move on. PS. If you are struggling with your speech or message, give me a call would be more than happy to help.