“Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself at all.”
— William Temple
If you will humor me for a moment, I’d like to boast.
Last night I won the 2012 Toastmasters District 7 Humorous Speaking championship with a speech titled “Double Duty.” A story about the day in the life of one know-it-all dad and the daily reality of life with twin girls.
For those of you unfamiliar with Toastmasters, every fall there is district-wide humorous speaking contest. District 7 comprises all of Oregon, northern California, and southern Washington. The contest is open to all 2500 (approximately) Toastmasters in the district, and competitions are held at the club, area, division, and district levels. The district is the highest level this competition goes.
Writing an effective speech, as I learned through much trial and error, can be an arduous undertaking. And for me, it was certainly not something I undertook alone. Without effective feedback, a speech never improves. Without an audience, a speaker is nothing.
There are many people I’d like to thank for listening, being supportive, letting me practice, experiment, and giving me honest feedback. Please again, “humor me” as the list is long.
- Silicon Forest Toastmasters – To the members of my weekly Toastmasters club, who listened to several versions of this speech. Even the versions that weren’t particularly funny. Special thanks to Ellen for being at so many of the contests and for always smiling, even when I didn’t want to.
- Feedbackers Toastmasters – My other Toastmasters club, specializing in evaluations. Learning how to listen is critical to so much of what we do in life. Many thanks to Cleon for showing me how to motivate positively and that “Evaluation is the crux of Toastmasters.”
- Syrena and Lorri – Thank you to my Division Governor friends for helping me line up clubs at which to practice. I always appreciate your support and smiles.
- Robert – Long distance support via email is always difficult, but thanks to modern technology it is at least possible. Robert has won several district competitions in years past, and Robert *always* makes me think. Whether it’s speaking, his writing, his book, or his candor. Thanks Robert, for the not-so-sophomoric help.
- Rory – I had purchased an hour of Rory’s consulting time almost a year ago at District 7’s 2011 Leadership conference. I finally used it. Rory was engaged and didn’t just put in an hour, he coached. In that short time, Rory was able to help me come up with an ending that every humorous speech audience wants – a twist and a tie up.
- James – When I wrote about James back in the spring, I wrote about his daily effort to rewrite his life story. Today, I am extraordinarily happy to say that my fellow winner (there were two contests at the conference yesterday), the winner of the 2012 District 7 Table Topics, was James! When I lost to James at the division level in the Table Topics contest a few weeks ago, I knew I had lost to talent. James, thanks for the support yesterday, and I look forward to being there when you walk on stage at the humorous contest next year.
- Ryan and Chelsea – It’s funny to thank people who didn’t actually help directly with my speech, but what Ryan showed me as he won the 2012 World Championship of Public Speaking last spring is that if you want to get better at speaking – speak everywhere and anywhere. And as I watched Ryan, I saw Chelsea there supporting him – reminding me that no one does it alone. Our support system makes us. And her support for her husband inspires me to continue to support all the people around me. Every day.
- My fellow contestants – It’s nerve wracking to walk up on stage for a contest. I know. But just to be there, just to deliver your speech, and to see all the handshakes and high-fives after every speech yesterday was fantastic!
- To the many clubs I practiced at over the last few months,
- Red Cross Toastmasters – The first truly small space I spoke at, which helped teach me that size matters (the size of the room) when speaking. A call out to Dick, who not only works with many clubs, but does so much for District 7, year after year.
- Breakfast Talkos – Speaking at 6:30am is a challenge, and any group of folks who can get up every Friday morning to do so are amazing. When we speak in front of a group, there is always a fear of forgetting. Thank you to Chris and the other Breakfast Talkos for patiently listening while I lost my place for a good 20 seconds one early Friday morning in October.
- Cedar Hills Toastmasters – Again, 6:30am. A call out to Gordon for noting the resonance of the phrase “pint-sized purveyors of peril.” Hearing that kind of specific helps so much. Also thanks to William for always giving me a big bear hug whenever I see him and reminding me to “breathe and let breathe.”
- Bridge Toastmasters – Even if you’ve given a speech 50 times, a speaker needs that final tune up before the big show. Chris, and the other folks at Seterus willingly obliged with some last minute feedback and another “small-space” tune up. Many thanks especially to Alan who has been ever-so-kind whenever I’ve come to the Bridge.
- Toast Of The Region – An out of the blue email from Stephanie gave me yet another venue to practice way back in September. And one comment after the meeting from a member, whose name I now forget, showed me how one word in a speech can jolt a listener. Also a shout out to Ken for being a gracious and welcoming Toastmaster.
- Future Stars – The future is in good hands with the kids at Future Stars! These are bright and energetic kids, who are learning the power of communications. And special gratitude to Tahseen for really putting his heart and soul into this group for so long (And Cathey before him). Also, thanks to Tahseen for being so supportive. I very much value our friendship across cultures!
Most importantly, I want to thank the special people who I get the privilege of waking up with every day.
- Zachary – My very tall, very smart, very teenage, son whom I love very much. Thanks so very much for coming to the district conference and cheering on the old man. Your future is as bright as I’ve ever seen!
- Tessa and Hayle – Over the last 12 years, it is an understatement to say that you have made my life very, very interesting. And thanks to you lovely young ladies, I probably have enough material to give speeches well into my 90’s. Thank you for every – single – day. Daddy loves you!
- Melissa – To my wife of many years. To my fellow twin-parent. Thanks for listening to the countless versions of this speech, the help remembering the chaotic days of having two-year-old twins, and just for putting up with me. Love you! Thanks for being you.
I don’t know the best way to thank everyone else in D7 Toastmasters who runs the show so people like me can be better leaders and communicators. People like Rose, Scott, Phyllis, Sharon, Deveny, Mark, Dave, Bob, James, Leanna, Lisa, PJ, and on and on.
Let me just write two simple words to all of you, and everyone, as a gesture of my appreciation of your value to me as Toastmasters and as friends –
Yesterday’s gift of time … At her request, gave our conference keynote speaker Anne-Louise Sterry, as thorough and specific an evaluation as I could give. If you haven’t heard Anne-Louise speak, please consider booking her for your next conference. Her audacious joy will bring life to any show.