Laughter is the Best Medicine

Toastmasters Humorous Speech Contest. Writing a winning speech.

What does it take to win the Toastmasters
Humorous Speech Contest? The answer to that … well, part of the answer to that is coming
right up. Stay tuned. Hi, I’m Rick Olson, founder of For two years
I tried and failed to win the Toastmasters Humorous Speech Contest. I won at the club
level. I won’t at the area level. My first year at the division I got second. My second
year at the division I got third. I was going backwards. I was frustrated and I was actually
confused, and I was ready to quit. A member of my club actually told the club
that I was at a disadvantage for this type of contest because I told jokes. I was a stand-up
comedian. I knew I had one shot left. I was willing to give it one more try, but I knew
I needed to do something different. I did something that I actually should have done
the very first time I competed. I went and looked at the judges’ criteria. I was shocked
at what I found. I found out that humor was actually only 15 out of the possible 100 points,
15. I was like, “Wait a minute, this is a humorous speech contest. No wonder why everybody
said I was the funniest but I still didn’t win.” I was leaving those other points on
the table so to speak. I looked at the judges’ ballot. I read it
carefully. This is what I discovered. A major part of the judges’ criteria is content. Look
at this first category of content: speech development. Let me read to you what this
says. Speech development is the way the speaker puts ideas together so the audience can understand
them. A good speech immediately engages the audience’s
attention and then moves forward to a significant conclusion. I found out the first piece I
was missing: a significant conclusion. The development of the speech structure is supported
by relevant examples and illustrations, facts and figures, delivered with such smoothness
that they blend into the framework of the speech to present the audience with a unified
whole. That was my first hint that I needed to do something different: a significant conclusion.
The next category was effectiveness. It’s measured in part by the audience’s reception
of the speech, but a large part is the subjective judgment of how the speech comes across. You
should ask yourself as a judge such questions as: Was I able to determine the speaker’s
purpose? There was point two. I had to make sure that I didn’t leave the purpose up to
a random guess. I had to be very clear about the purpose.
The third category in the content grouping was speech value. It justified the act of
speaking. The speaker has a responsibility to say something meaningful and original.
The listener should feel the speaker has made a contribution to their thinking. The ideas
should be important ones, although that does not preclude a humorous presentation of them.
There’s the third idea that I was missing. I had to make sure that the listeners felt
I made a contribution to their thinking. Then finally is audience response, which includes
laughter, but it’s not just laughter. Audience response reflects the audience’s reaction
to the speech. Did the speech hold the audience’s interest? Did people understand and laugh
at the humor? 15 of the 100 points are for humor. The other ones that I’d been missing
out one, that I hadn’t paid attention to, what was the purpose? A significant conclusion
and did I impact the audience’s thinking? That’s when I began to change the way I approached.
The third year I was competing I actually started several months ahead of time and began
crafting that speech, making sure I included what I had found out looking at the criteria.
The next video in this series I’m going to take a look at topic selection. How do you
pick a topic that fits into this category but also lends itself to lots of laughs by
the audience? Because that is still important, lots of laughs, but it has to meet these other
things. That’s what we’re going to take a look at in the next video on topic selection.
My goal with A Funnier You is to help you develop a specific set of skills to be a funnier
you, to add humor to your speeches and presentations, to cut through the vague, general advice that
most experts give you that you see online, to cut through all that and to help you develop
that set of skills. If you jump over to, you can
take a look at my speech laugh generator process. It’s the process I developed in the process
of winning the third year at the district level. I also have the Public Speaker’s Guide
to Humor. You can take a look at that. I have some other articles. I look forward to helping
you become a funnier you. See you next time.

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