Prepare to Win the Audience, Not the Trophy

  • October 8, 2019 by Jorge Villalona, ACS, ALB, Division C Director

At the 2017 humorous speech club contest, I delivered a speech about my family’s twenty-minute parking adventure at the Palisades Mall during the Christmas holidays. I won the club contest and then the area contest. On my way to the Division contest, I was thinking about where in my home I was going to display the first-place trophy. My confidence level was sky-high. I was certain that none of the contestants had a better speech than mine.

At the Division contest, I was to speak fifth out of six speakers. To my surprise, speaker number one delivered a sensational, entertaining, and fun speech. I thought my chances of winning first place in this contest were next to none. The third speaker was equally as good as the first and I saw myself mentally sliding into 3rd place. Even though I have not given my speech, I started to have doubts and my confidence as a first-place winner started to fade. I thought, “There is no way I will get out this place as a loser.”

I delivered a captivating speech that evening; the audience was laughing and enjoying my family’s misery as I search for a parking spot for thirty minutes. The results of the contest were now in the hands of the judges. I was fully satisfied with the delivery and the audience reaction. For me, it was the best performance ever on the stage. I will never forget the strong connection with the audience during those 7 minutes. The contest results came inI didn’t win. I was going home emptyhanded.

After the contest, people came to congratulate me and to express how much they enjoyed my speech. To this day, I still encounter Toastmaster’s members who recognize me from that speech. To me, the audience’s reaction, enthusiasm, and expression of gratitude for my ability to take them for a joyride has become more important than a first-place trophy. I realized then that I was a winner.

Although I did not receive a trophy, I received the audience’s admiration, respect and applause and more importantly, the confidence to continue being a contestant when the opportunity to compete knocks on my door. I learned that contestants are always winners; that contest participation is not about obtaining a trophy to display on your mantle, but having the opportunity to captivate an audience by displaying your progress in your Toastmaster journey.