Before Covid-19 led us to move our Toastmasters’ meetings online, I had the opportunity to attend my very first club contest. My Toastmasters Club, Intuitively Speaking Toastmasters of Mountain View, hosted an International and Tall Tales club contest. If you are unfamiliar, thousands of Toastmasters compete in the Humorous, Evaluation, Tall Tales, Table Topics and International speech contests annually. Competition begins with club contests, and winners continue competing through the Area, Division and District levels. Winners of the District-level International Speech Contest proceed to the region quarterfinal level. Following region quarterfinals, winners advance to the semifinals for a chance to take part in the World Championship of Public Speaking. The other speech contests conclude at the District level.

In an International contest, contestants present a five-to seven-minute speech on any subject they choose. Contestants in my club stretched the boundaries here with speeches encompassing key lessons learned from childhood, humorous reflections on life, and much more. For the Tall Tales contest, contestants present a speech on a topic that is highly exaggerated and improbable in theme or plot. Again, contestants from Intuitively Speaking Toastmasters compelled us to think outside of the box with this contest. Speech topics ranged from alternate realities to mythical creatures to time-traveling. I found these contests to be highly engaging, and I was able to pick up a few pointers from distinguished speakers along the way. I also learned that there are additional contest categories – see below:

    • Humorous: Contestants present a humorous speech that must be thematic in nature (opening, body, and close), not a monologue (series of one-liners)
    • Evaluation: Contestants observe a five-to seven-minute test speech and then present a two-to three-minute evaluation of the test speech
    • Table Topics: An impromptu speech in which all contestants are assigned the same topic, told to them when they are introduced by the contest chair

Although the club contest I attended was in person, I have recently discovered that several clubs have hosted virtual contests during this time. If you are interested in learning more about club contests, you can attend the upcoming District Conference from May 30-31. The Conference includes the District-Level competition, which you can register for and learn more information about at https://staging.d101tm.org/conference/. This year’s Conference is 100% free and completely online! You can hear tantalizing tall tales and exciting entries for the International Speech Contest!

In addition to virtual contests, many clubs are hosting their club meetings online. Intuitively Speaking Toastmasters recently switched to online meetings. While we were initially hesitant that the transition from in-person to virtual meetings would be challenging, we found that the switch was actually quite seamless! In fact, virtual meetings help you refine an entirely new skillset: being engaging over video. At Intuitively Speaking Toastmasters, we discuss several video-focused topics such as having engaging gestures on camera, having adequate lighting in your background, being in frame while speaking, increasing audience participation, and many more. For both contests and meetings, guests are always welcome to attend. Below are links to a list of online meetings in District 101 as well as helpful tips for your club to follow while meeting online:

    • https://staging.d101tm.org/online-meetings-for-clubs/
    • https://www.toastmasters.org/resources/online-meeting-tips

Meetings and contests are definitely worth attending to hear top-notch speakers! Additionally, if you are new to Toastmasters and/or curious about what it entails, now is a perfect opportunity to visit several clubs’ virtual meetings (from the comfort of your home!) to determine which is the best fit for you. Despite the uncertainty during this time, Toastmasters continues to serve as a place of consistency. Not only can you practice your public speaking skills, but you can also find a sense of community, positivity, and support.

Written by Ramya Ramachandran of Intuitively Speaking Toastmasters Club