Competed last night in Toastmasters District 37 humorous speech contest. Six contests from all over the state of NC were there. Definitely the most polished and able folks I’ve seen to date.I’ve been fighting some bug all week. Yesterday was rough, with my voice going the way cheap fuel, stuffiness and a constant echoe throughout the head. My greatest strength in presenting — a voice than can rattle the chandeliers — was reduced to a whimper with little reserve, and I wasn’t sure I could speak the 7 minutes without a coughing fit. To add to the problems, the microphones system they were using was positively horrible. It cut in and out and had a constant hum/whistle. Had I been up to snuff, I would have completely dumped it and gone “unplugged” for the ballroom that sat about 200.Don’t know if it was lightheadedness or not, but I forgot three of my punchlines, including the one that tied the speech title (“How to Impress Women for Dummies”) to the entire story.But if you’ve been reading, you’ll know that the audience doesn’t care about all this, and likely won’t know if you don’t tell them. I resisted the urge to mention my afflictions. I did a much better job on my pacing however, and my pauses for effect and subtle facial expressions and movement had the desired effect (I had a 50-foot wide dance floor to roam, and was able to “reach” everybody in the room). All in all, I thought it was my best delivery but probably my second-worst content (gave the speech four times publicly).Still, I was thrilled to receive the trophy for third place (out of 129 clubs of 20+ members each in NC). Here I am with Toastmasters’ International President Dilip with Dilip Abayasekara(interestingly enough, Dilip asked my mentor if I was feeling OK, as he thought I didn’t sound full strength). Dilip was a very personable chap, completely unassuming, and had words of encouragement for me that far outpaced his obligation (or maybe even reality). Would that we all could be so gracious.The speech contest has been a lot of fun, and it’s been a great forum to practice what I preach. While I enjoy good humor, I would not consider that my greatest presetation strength, and it’s been a great experience that has helped stretch me. For those that don’t have such a forum, Toastmasters is a GREAT place to get good practice, encouragement, and structure to your speaking craft.

You don’t get better without practicing.

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