Yesterday I participated in the Division B Toastmaster Table Topics (impromptu speaking) competition. Having won, I'll go to Charlotte in 2 weeks for the District (State) Championship, the final level for the Table Topics contest. (The International Speech contest continues on at the national level.)
I usually don't get rattled by speaking or competing. It just is what it is and I have enough confidence in my speaking abilities that I know I can manage an answer, if not the winning answer. But I must admit to feeling butterflies in my stomach when I saw the competition. I knew two of them to be excellent speakers. But we listened to the International Speech Contest first and by the time it was my turn, my nerves had worked themselves out.
The way the contest works is that each contestant is given the same question and then has 1 - 2 1/2 minutes to answer. The other contestants are in a holding room while the people before them speak, so they don't have the advantage of hearing the question ahead of time. By this logic, it really shouldn't matter when you speak, but I still prefer going near the end. There were 5 of us competing and I pulled the first slot--my least favorite.
The question was: "The mayor of your town has decided not to run for re-election. You decide to campaign for mayor. What will be your platform?"
Having gone first, I got to sit in the audience and listen to each contestants answer that followed me. Everyone nailed it--there wasn't one person there who couldn't have won. Being objective though--and I think I'm pretty good at that--I would have placed me in 3rd place--maybe second. I did not expect to win.
Here's a comment I found fascinating. A young man came up to congratulate me and said, "When I saw you sitting in the audience before you spoke, I thought, 'Oh, she looks fragile. She will probably have a quiet and meek voice and presence.'" He went on to say how surprised he was at my command of the stage.
There are many words people might use to describe me--loud... opinionated... clumsy. But fragile? Not by a long shot. I had to laugh. Interesting that my non-verbals conveyed that to someone though.
I'll try to toughen up for Charlotte. ;)