1. Find your message!
You learn at Toastmasters that every speech should have a purpose and a contest speech, (surprise, surprise!) is no different. A lot of your points will come from how relevant your speech was to the audience. Even a humorous speech should have a message
2. Once upon a time…
This is not a joke-telling contest and the rules say so. It has to be a speech, not a series of jokes. I hope you’ve all learned that storytelling is one of the crucial skills of a great speaker. Hardly anything works as brilliantly as stories. They are memorable to the audience, easy to learn for the speaker and they ensure that your speech remains cohesive from the opening to the conclusion.
If there is little time to find something new, derive ideas from speeches you did in the past and which worked well with the audience.
3. The devil is in the details
You may have a hilarious story, but you want your audience to laugh not only at the end of it. Ideally they should laugh at least 10 times during a 7 minute speech so make sure that you plant some laugh-inducing elements everywhere possible. Dialogues and descriptions are perfect for this task. The good joke consists usually of 2 elements: setup and the punch line.
You should also pay attention to the language you use. You get marked for the grammar, pronunciation, lexical versatility so, especially when you’re a non-English speaker, get someone to check your speech script
4. Play by the rules
Familiarise yourself with the ballot sheet for the judges because this is what you will ultimately be scored on. Audience reaction measure in how many times the burst out laughing is only of criteria. Make sure you pay attention to the other aspects as well:
– Speech development
– Body language
– Vocal variety
You can download everything from here: http://www.toastmasters.org/DigitalContent
When I was practicing my contest speech before the District Final I printed for my evaluator, Mike Silverman, the ballot sheet and asked him to use it in his evaluation.
5. Deliver it!
You may have a brilliantly written speech, but if you don’t deliver it properly you’ll get zero laughs. Reading your speech is a big NO! Make sure that you memorise at least: opening, conclusion and your crucial punch lines. Practice delivering a few times before the contest, test it on your friends, make adjustments so when the big day comes, you do it with aplomb.
And most importantly, have fun! You have nothing to lose and a lot to win! And even if you don’t win the contest, you’ll learn so much that your speaking skills will skyrocket!