Sunday, October 12, 2008

TOASTMASTERS: Division C & D Fall Contests

Going into the weekend, I knew that I had Saturday in Orlando to fill. Coincidentally, Saturday was when the TM District 84 Division C & D Fall Contests were being held at the same place -- Rollins College in Winter Park -- one after another. So I went.


First up was Division C, which is composed of the clubs in the Orlando and Greater Orlando areas. This was a fun contest. There were multiple video cameras out and even an external light set up. The test speaker for the Evaluation contest told an inspiring story about "Miracle Hands". All of the evaluators were very capable and each gave praise and good recommendations as expected. (Dare I say that I found one particularly fabulous?!)

Anyways, in the humorous speech contest, the caliber of all of the speakers was high, though there were three that really stood out -- one person stated his case of why, in Toastmasters, "Ah"s have been given a bad wrap; another person told us about her fear of Barnes & Noble and how her counselor-friends tried to help her conquer this fear; and another speaker talked about the evolution of the alpha male as prompted by a viewing of the Sex And The City movie.

Asides from running a few minutes late, the contest ran very smoothly with great contest functionaries. The contest master was prepared with some good bad jokes. The winners were announced, and they were all deserving.

As for Division D, I've been having a difficult time figuring out how I was going to present my thoughts about this contest. I would have to fore-go the "sandwich" evaluation and say that the contest was not energetic and that I was disturbed by the inappropriate of many of the contestmaster's comments throughout the contest.

About the inappropriate comments... First of all, the contestmaster was adding his own adding color commentary -- (after the second contestant in the evaluation contest) "one minute of silence for the [test] speaker to wipe away his tears" -- like a TMoD at a regular meeting, instead of the neutral facilitator that a contestmaster should be.

And in addition to these types of comments, the contestmaster also made a number of culturally insensitive remarks -- for example, (right before breaking for intermission) ""Here, let me get your attention like a Mexican... Psst!"

(*my jaw drops*)


I look around to see if anyone was finding that funny, but all I saw were still and silent bodies. And I could see our district's lieutenant of education's trying to remain stoic. I was hoping that he would go talk with the contest master about what was said, but apparently this wasn't so because back from intermission (already running many minutes late) the contest master took a couple verbal jabs at fat/ugly women before enlightening us with a couple lengthy anecdotes from club involving alcohol or alcoholics or something. Was he trying to compete in the humorous speech contest? He was a filthy-mouthed Garrison Keillor. Inappropriate (and in the bad way).

Well, by the way the results turned out, he probably could've won. My head-and-shoulders-above-the-rest picks for each of the contests not only didn't win first, neither one even placed. I knew that the judges decision was final and my opinion had absolutely no weigh, so I just went to the two people I thought should've won and congratulated them on their wonderful performance, then quickly headed out of the building.

So the Toastmasters experience I had on Saturday was a mixed bag of enlightenment and disillusion. I hate to have sounded so harsh on Division D, but the first and second impressions were very strong, and there is no excuse for some of those comments by the contest master, especially when I just saw Division C run an excellent, well-organized contest. Anyways, I look forward to seeing some of those TMs from Orlando at the District 84 Fall Conference; it should be a great time.

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