Monday, October 1, 2012

Trials in Toastmasters

So, last Thursday night, I competed in a speaking contest within my local Toastmasters Club.  I won first place and got a freaking trophy.  Let's take a step back for a moment and examine this more thoroughly.  Firstly, I HATE public speaking.  That's why I'm torturing myself with this club.  You know, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger sort of thing.  I'm so bad at public speaking that the very first appointment I ever had when I graduated from vet school, which was me talking ONE ON ONE with a client about how to synchronize estrus in his heifers for artificial insemination, I was SHAKING.  And had to look at NOTES.  Really?! It's that bad. Sort of like:
Secondly, I've never won anything in my entire life.  ANYTHING.  I usually come in dead last at any competition I partake in.  Here's an example: in high school I entered my first (and last) horse show.  Wimpy (my beloved 25 year old gray Connemara gelding) and I came in last in the Family Horse competition AND in every single race in the gymkhana.  DEAD LAST!
Wimpy and I, circa 1999.  This is BEFORE we were last in every class we entered.  Note I still have hope in my eyes.  Looks like Wimpy knows what's coming.
So let's just say it was a surprise, nay, a shock when the Contest Master (yes, that's what the role is called) announced my name as the winner of the Table Topics competition. 

A brief sidebar on the intricate workings of Toastmasters:  Table Topics is a part of every Toastmaster meeting where the Table Topics Master asks members a question and the individual called upon has 1 to 2 minutes to stand up in front of everyone and give an answer.  This exercise is supposed to strengthen your ability at impromptu speaking and thinking on your feet.  It really just gives me nervous bowels.  Every fall, our local Toastmasters area, division, and district hold a Table Topics contest.  At this contest, all contestants get the same question.  Participants are held in a side room until it is their turn to answer the question, so that way they can't hear what the other contestants gave as answers. 

Anywho, there were five contestants at the competition last Thursday night.  We randomly picked numbers to determine the speaking order.  Naturally, I picked number five.  We were then led to a back conference room to wait our turn.  One by one, the other contestants were led out until I was alone.  I paced along the meeting table and then when that grew boring, took the liberty of writing mystery messages on the white board in green marker.  Then it was show time.

The question was: "Your life is being turned into a play.  You will play the hero.  Who do you pick to play the villain, and why?"

Tuna: evil in fuzzy cat form.
My answer?  The villain of my life's play would most certainly be my cat Tuna.  He is the bane of my existence and would make the perfect, unsuspecting evil nemesis lurking in my own home no less, in my life's play.  Naturally, I can't remember exactly what I said, how I said it, or even if I remembered to breathe or blink.  I do remember getting a few laughs, which I always think is a good thing.  And the nervous bowels were held under control.  Another good thing.  And then I was done.  My two minutes of glory.  Being the last to go, I had no idea what the other contestants said.  But apparently what they said wasn't good enough.  Mwahahaha.

Now I've qualified to compete at the Division level.  This is starting to sound like a swim meet or something.  The next contest is Sunday, Oct 21.  The nice thing about Table Topics is there's nothing to prepare.  You have no clue what the question will be, so why worry?  Maybe that's the secret, the key to becoming The Glorious World Champion Table Topics Winner.  It's a sort of fly by the seat of your pants type of thing.  I'm normally not one who likes to fly around in such a way, but hey, when in Toastmasters.... I'll keep you posted as to how events unfold on Oct. 21.  Stay tuned!

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