Nov 03 2009

Humour and audiences: learning from the Glasgow contest

Beginning of my winning humorous speech at Area 39 contest, Solihull, 20th September 2009, entitled Supporting the Masses

I didn’t win the Toastmasters’ Division E Humorous Speech contest in Glasgow. I wasn’t even placed. But I had a great time.

Several members of the audience approached me after my speech to tell me specifically how much they had enjoyed it.

I learnt that you have to be aware of the tastes and outlook of your audience. What’s funny in front of one group of people, doesn’t go down so well in front of another. Although my audience laughed at the jokes, they didn’t laugh very much at the linking story.

And the three ‘placed’ speakers all used movement across the speaking area, albeit not as frenetically as Michael McIntyre in his stand-up routines! Since I’m still in rehabilitation mode, I found it difficult to move freely.

I have to admit that I didn’t feel the connection with the audience that I’ve been used to. Perhaps I’d overdone the rehearsal, so that what came out seemed too well planned.

I think there is a difficulty with the concept of the contest. Toastmaster speeches are normally evaluated. In contests, they are merely judged. The speaker has no way of knowing exactly how the presentation could be improved.

Some Toastmaster clubs emphasize competition over evaluation, as I discovered on my visit to Toastmasters of Paris in June.

Success in competitions certainly raises the profile of the club, let alone the individual winning speaker. However, the chances are that the same speaker is always going to win every contest. I gather that anyone who wins the annual TI International Contest may not enter Toastmaster contests any more. He (it is usually a he) will not normally mind that when he finds himself in demand on the international speaking circuit.

Still, there has been no time to brood. I’ve spent the weekend singing the Mozart Requiem with Leicester’s Tudor Choir. The loveliest concert was in St Andrew’s Church, Whissendine, Rutland. A most atmospheric stone church with a long history. The concerts raised over £1,000 for HOPE, Leicester’s local cancer charity.

Oh,and I’ve now got my Competent Leader (CL) award from Toastmasters too.

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