winning

Are Speech Contests Really Worth Your Time?

Speech contests are a huge part of Toastmasters and can be interesting to watch. While I’ve never competed, I’ve had the pleasure of acting as contest master and chief judge (on separate occasions, of course) and have really enjoyed being a part of them. But the big question about speech contests is whether or not it’s worth all the time and effort.

Like anything, it really depends on your goals. I know people that make thousands of dollars for each speaking engagement they do, yet have never participated in a speaking contest. I also know of people who have won the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking that haven’t been able to leverage their win to create a successful speaking career. But on the flip side, I know people that haven’t participated in contests that have struggled to make a career out of speaking and people that have won contests and have done well for themselves. And of course, there are thousands of us in between.

It’s Okay to Be a Sore Loser

What? Did I just say it’s okay to act like a bad sport after you lose? Well, not necessarily. We live in a culture that unfortunately discourages success. Kids now play sports where there are no scores and some schools are doing away with grades so that the kids that don’t perform well don’t feel bad. Now as adults, we run into situations all the time where we have the potential to be the loser: competing for an account or a promotion, putting an offer on a house or an item on ebay, dating, looking for work or any other situation where there is more than one person vying for the same limited resource.

Society tells us we should lose gracefully, and some personal development “gurus” tell us to change our meaning of “losing” be something ridiculous like “not competing” so that the act of just going for something automatically makes us a winner. But deep down, it hurts to lose. I’ve seen grown men weep after their team has lost a big game – and it’s not just the players, it’s the fans too. While that may seem silly to many of us, we all have competitive areas of our lives that we take seriously.