Road to the 2019 Conference: A Speech Contestant’s Journey

By Camille Miller

Being a toastmaster is a lot of hard work but it is also a lot of fun. Last year I didn’t make it past the Division contest. In fact, I didn’t even place. I was cast down but not defeated. This year, I wanted to try again and set my sights on getting to the District contest. It was a lofty goal but one worth trying for.

Rain clouds hovered over the area contest. I wore heels and was dismayed when I saw the gym floor. Would the audience be distracted by the clack, clack, clack of my heels on the wooden floor? I would have to tread lightly. I was extremely nervous and went to the bathroom several times before the actual contest. I needed the quiet. When the contest ended, I was named the winner.

The Division contest brought more nerves as the competition deepened. I was the second speaker so, after speaking, I was able to relax and listen to the other speakers. The last speaker got the attention of every one. Just a few minutes into his speech, he stumbled forward and then hit the ground. He was having a heart attack!! The heroes in the audience ran to the front to perform CPR. Ultimately, the contestant was taken to the hospital where he lived to see another day. The mood of that night was darker than the rain clouds at the area contest. My win was bittersweet. After a few days, I was fully able to realize that I had accomplished my goal. I was going to set my feet on the stage at the District contest!

Finally, May 11th came and I was a mix of joy and nervousness. I picked through several outfits before settling on one. I shoved it in the trunk of the car and rode off to the conference. In the late afternoon, we chose our speaking order after being briefed. I was speaker number 8. Some say it’s good to go last. For the nervous ones, it’s probably better to go earlier. All of the speakers were seated in the front row. I was wiggling and rubbing my hands. I wanted to stay focused but nerves were sucking the moisture from my throat and taking roller coaster rides in my stomach.

I was relieved when it was my turn to go to the sound booth for a mic. With false bravado, I sauntered up the aisle. I was able to catch glimpses of some of my friends and current and former club members; and that gave me strength. I went to the back to wait my turn and prayed that I wouldn’t forget a line, stumble over my own feet or step outside the boundaries of the speaking area. Once on stage, everything shifted and I was eager to share my message. Seeing tears and hearing the roar of the laughter made me feel that in some small way, I was making a difference in the world.  

I was elated to win the contest, but the contest is less about winning than it is about using one’s voice to make this world a better place. If just one person is helped, changed, or feels understood, then I have done my job.

Thank you, Toastmasters, for giving me an opportunity to use my voice.