Recently I have encountered a talented, brand new Toastmaster. He was very frustrated with the judging in his club speech contest. As per him, he deserved to be the winner or at the very least, the first runner up. He is planning to stop contesting and is even thinking of quitting Toastmasters itself. His case definitely is not isolated. He perhaps represents the majority of all the contestants. It is this incident that prompted me to write this post.
Since my entry into Toastmasters in 2008, I’ve been contesting from multiple clubs. If failure is a reason to stop contesting, I would’ve stopped long back. Despite multiple disappointing results, I still contest and I will continue to do so. It’s because, I’m here to improve my speaking skills and for that I need to be ON STAGE.
I can state, at the very least, a dozen reasons for my contest failures. I’m giving the top five here. I think they’re applicable to most contestants who couldn’t make it. I’ll start with the least common reason:
Reason 5: Bad Judges:
Once I gave my best ever International Speech performance in one of the Area Contests. I was certain that I will win the contest but I received nothing more than a participation certificate. I really felt that I deserved the winner’s trophy. Later, one of the judges approached me and told ‘Your speech was great. It was well crafted and had excellent humor too. I could’ve given you more marks if it was more inspirational. Better luck next time’.
Toastmasters International has never stated anywhere that an International Speech should be ‘Inspirational’. However, it’s a very common misconception and you can hardly see any ‘non-inspirational’ speech winning the Contest. Other things being equal, the contest results often are in favor of Inspirational speeches, speeches by previous champions, underdogs, physically disabled candidates, female candidates etc.
It’s sad that you get biased and ignorant judges when you’re contesting. However, as you go up in the contest levels, you can see a remarkable improvement in the quality of judging.
WHAT I PLAN TO DO: PRAY!
Reason 4: Subjective Nature of Judging
I’ve acted as a judge on several occasions. At least on one out of three occasions, the winner picked by me ended up as runner up or even went empty handed. That neither meant I was wrong or nor that other judges were wrong. We just had different opinions. Judging is about somebody’s personal opinion and judges will have their personal biases which would definitely have an impact on their decision.
Also, judging is never RIGHT! Whether you win or another person wins, there’ll be people who think somebody else deserved the trophy. Just try to recollect how many times you felt that the runner up really deserved the trophy!
Once, after a division contest I happened to meet the Area Governors (not together). One of them was very excited because his contestant ‘deservingly’ won the trophy. The other three were very disappointed because their ‘deserving’ candidates couldn’t win it! Unfortunately, there can be only winner and it always won’t be you.
WHAT I PLAN TO DO: PRAY MORE! Also, I’ll try to give a performance several notches above all other contestants so that there is little doubt who is the winner.
Reason 3: I Don’t Have Mentors / Coaches
You’re not always your own best judge. I was mentored properly for a speech, only once in my Toastmasters life. That was in 2009, the year I participated in contests for the first time. That year, I won the Humorous Contest at the Division Level and that’s my best performance so far.
Although no mentor in the world guarantee a trophy, they could take your speech to much higher levels and substantially increase your chances of winning. Even if you fail in the contest, you’ll be a better speaker than before, if you are coached.
WHAT I PLAN TO DO: Get a great mentor. If I can’t, I’ll get at least a good one.
Reason 2: I Ignore the Judges Ballot
Very often despite great performance, judges can’t give you marks because you didn’t meet the criteria specified in the ballot. For example, 50% of the marks are for the content. If you don’t concentrate there, even with the best platform skills, you can’t win. Similarly, great content is of no use if your delivery and language is poor.
(Personally, for me, my performance on the platform was poor in most situations when I failed rather than the quality of content)
WHAT I PLAN TO DO: Study the ballot well and craft my speech accordingly
Reason 1: My Speech Sucks!
My speech sucks! This is the primary reason in most circumstances. My speech sucked! At least compared to the other speeches, it did. Lack of proper preparation was always the main reason.
WHAT I PLAN TO DO: Prepare my speeches well in advance, get a mentor, record my speeches and practice well.
What To Do When You Fail
As a first step, allow yourself to feel bad for some time. We are all human beings and will definitely feel bad when things don’t happen as we expect. However, realize that winning is not everything about Toastmasters contests. It’s more about improving yourself. Get a mentor and try to give better speeches next time. At some point of time you’ll get the trophy if you deserve it. While that’s not a guaranteed result, self improvement is a 100% guaranteed result if you put in the right effort.
For further reading: I think you’ll find the articles given below interesting:
Finally, don’t hesitate to share your thoughts on the topic!