My Journey to the Final by Chris Murphy

I remember 2 years ago in 2018 sitting in a hotel in Bracknell watching the District 91 UK National (South) Speech Evaluation contest final. All the evaluations had been a high standard. Then Chinkata Okpara came on last and knocked the competition out of the water. My jaw was on the floor. As he was awarded the winner’s trophy I thought, if I could ever give an evaluation like that…

Fast forward 2 years. As they announced the results of the 2020 District 91 National (South) Speech evaluation contest final – I was the winner. I was ecstatic. I danced, I hugged my wife. Then after a single question from my wife, I shed a tear because I realised one important thing which I had never experienced before……

Before I tell you what that is let me fill you in on the gap between those two events and how one led to the other…

When I joined Toastmasters in June 2017, I just wanted to give speech after speech. However, one thing that struck me was your improvement is only as good as the feedback you receive. Feedback and specifically speech evaluations are a key but in my opinion an underrated part of the Toastmasters journey. The skill of delivering feedback in a way that helps the person develop both in terms of what they do well and what they can improve on is invaluable, no, it is vital. 

I realised that giving effective evaluations was a skill, a skill you can hone. So, I worked on this. I evaluated every speech at our club. I read about evaluations. I went on workshops with notable figures in this world such as Freddie Daniells. Gradually I improved, I saw what I hadn’t seen before, the depth of my evaluations improved and as that grew so my passion and enthusiasm did too. It wasn’t an overnight transformation but steadily speech by speech my language changed, my evaluations changed and people’s reactions to my evaluations, yes they changed too, People wanted my input and so my foundations grew even stronger. 

This is easy to summarise in a sentence. It was hours and hours of work. So then fast forward to the Speech Evaluation contest 2020. I won the club level, then the Area and the Division. The only hurdle remaining to achieve what I had dreamed of was a 2-3 min speech evaluation at the District finals. Most Toastmasters members do 3-5 speech evaluations a year. In the week before the contest I did 30, on the morning of the contest, I did a further 12, a number of these with the President of our club. Each time was easier and easier, I saw more and more to comment on. 

The contest, that was a blur, I was so in the zone. A conversation with someone else that week had given me the sage advice of being in FLOW… Forget Losing or Winning. Just do the very best speech evaluation you can. So I did, and I won. 

On reflection, why do I think I won? It wasn’t only because of the practice, it was also because a speech evaluation is a speech, you need to live the material, as the speaker does. You need to connect with the speaker and have them in mind 100% of the time. Most of all, you have to want to genuinely want to help the speaker and just do your absolute best for them. 

As I celebrated the win, my wife asked me what a felt. That is when I sat down, thought and cried that tear. I said I felt relieved, happy and peaceful. Relieved it was over, happy that I’d won and peaceful because for the first time in my life, the very first time I realised I was good at something. I was really good at something and others thought so too and then it washed over me and I cried. 

As I think about the future, I believe am at the start of my evaluating journey, there is so much still to learn, I can be a lot better at this. If the words I have typed here only do one thing, I hope they will inspire you to get even better at speech evaluations. With them, you have the chance to help others improve but more so, much more so than that, you will improve your ability to both speak and write speeches.  

The art of humorous speaking

Dan Magill – 2019 District 91 Humorous Contest Winner

In August 2017 I signed the forms to become a member of Croydon Communicators and informed the Club President, Mike Majuru, that I wanted to give my first speech at the next meeting.

I’d never spoken in public before and was terrified beyond belief.

“Ah, that’s our Humorous Speech Contest night.” Mike said.

“Not to worry, I’ll wait until the meeting after that.” 

“Unless, you’d like to take part?”

Well, it didn’t really make much difference to me whether I gave my first speech in a contest or on a regular club night. Either way I was going to spend every waking (and sleeping) moment, dreading it.

So I agreed.

I wrote a speech and delivered it at the contest.

Looking back, it wasn’t all that funny, and my delivery wasn’t good at all, but somehow or other, I won.

In fairness, there were only three contestants that night. One went over time and was disqualified and the other was called Dan too, so I think there may have been some confusion with the judges’ voting.

I came back down to earth with a bump at the Area Contest though. We only had five contestants but I think I managed to finish around 8th. The other speakers seemed so funny and confident.

A few weeks later, I went to the Autumn Conference at Gatwick to watch the District Final of the Humorous Speaking Contest.

The standard was immense, but the eventual and fully-deserved winner, of the 2017 Humourous Speech contests really captured my attention. He was so funny and had put together such a clever speech.

I realised just how far away I was from the standard required to win one of these contests, but I resolved to spend the next year working as hard as I could on my speaking skills and then come back for another crack at the contest.

The following summer, a few weeks before contest season was due to start, I was at a loss for what I could speak about.

I had no material at all. Let alone funny material.

Then a message popped up in my Whatsapp feed…

…It was an invitation from the winner of the 2017 Humourous Speech contest winner – to join his humorous speaking workshop.

I didn’t think there was much point in me attending. I had no ideas. I wasn’t funny. And the guy was so funny. What chance did I ever have of beating him if he decided to compete again?

“Maybe if he has some sort of accident and can’t compete.” I thought.

“That’s my only chance.”

I laughed to myself at the thought of me trying to sabotage him so I could win.

And that’s when the idea came.

Two hours later I’d written a ridiculous speech which involved me undertaking a madcap caper across London, where I’d create an alibi by giving a general evaluation at another club, then sneak away and sabotage his workshop.

I wasn’t sure others would find it amusing – but every time I read it, it made me laugh.

So, I went with it.

8 months later, after winning at Club, Area, and Division levels, I found myself in the District Final with my speech … and I won. I couldn’t believe it.

Daniel Magill winning at District Conference

It’s a cliché, but ahead of this year’s Autumn contests, my advice to everybody would be to just go for it.

Personally, I’ve found contests to be the place I have learnt and grown the most.

And, as lovely as it is to win, we always learn far more when we don’t win.

The biggest factor in me winning the 2019 Humorous Speech Contest was me comfortably losing at the previous year’s Area contest.

If you don’t think you have something funny to speak about, or you’re not a funny person, or you’re not competitive enough, or contests aren’t for you, then great – you’re the same as almost everybody competing – definitely including myself.

So, as September rolls around and contest season gets underway again, I am getting ready to have another crack at the Humorous Speech Contest and it tickles me to think there might be somebody out there planning on sabotaging me so that they can win.

I should be so lucky!

Good luck to everyone competing and let’s remember to thank all the contest functionaries and judges who give so much to help run the contests at this time of year.

PR Awards

A call out to the VP PR to send nominations from your club for the annual District 91 PR Awards for the year July2018-June2019. If you think a member or your club has gone out of its way this year to increase its profile or engaged in a membership using PR vehicles, please do not hesitate to send nominations to

The last date to send nominations is 31March 2019. The winners will be announced during the Spring Conference in May 2019.

PR Awards

The categories are as under-

Best social media campaign

Best local press campaign

Best external PR initiative

Best membership campaign

Best Toastmasters blog

Best Division Newsletter

Most unusual campaign

Toastmasters International Convention, why did I attend? By Arnaud Sartre

After attending the World Championship of Public Speaking (WCPS) Finals in Las Vegas, in 2015, I discovered something new, something I did not quite understand at the time, but something that left me wanting more. To paraphrase Dananjaya Hettiarachchi (WCPS, 2014), I saw something, but I did not know what it was … So I decided to attend the Convention in Washington, DC in 2016. I wanted to experience the event from start to finish whilst visiting a city I had never been to before – this is always a bonus!

Read More

Contest Preparation Workshops

Contest Season Fast Approaching

For many, entering contests is a must, commenting it’s ‘fun‘, ‘challenging‘, ‘takes you further‘ and ‘what comfort zone?‘. For the many other members, they run a mile. However, there’s more to contests than being a contestant.

If your club is hosting the contest, at club, area or division level, they’ll be looking to you to assist, calling out for volunteers and there are plenty of roles to fill. Of course, let’s not forget there’s a need for the all important judges too.

The District Chief Judge, Andy O’Sullivan is holding two events: –

7 FebruaryOrganising a Contest

28 FebruaryJudging workshop

These workshops are open to all members. Find out more about running fantastic contests which showcase both speech and leadership skills.