Going Off Script Can Have Devastating Results

In a Toastmasters speech contest, you can disqualify yourself by going under-or-over-time! Toastmasters’ International (inspirational/motivational) speech contest allows you to speak for 5-7 minutes – with 30 seconds of leeway. IE: you’re technically good from 4-minutes-and-30-seconds to 7-minutes-and-30-seconds. But if you end your speech at 4:29 or 7:31, you’re disqualified. I’ve seen it happen to my competitors. And it’s devastating!

During last year’s 2016 District 39 Spring Conference in Stockton, CA, Donny Crandell won first place in the International Speech contest (I came in 2nd). He went on to compete and win at the Semifinals round, and was 1 of 10 people, worldwide, that competed on the big 100-foot-wide stage in the Finals round – the World Champion of Public Speaking contest.

This year, Donny and I chatted during the District 39 Spring Conference in Anderson, CA, where we were competitors again. He shared his story of going overtime by 6 seconds when he was competing on the big stage last year. “I blew it,” he said. “I went overtime by 6 seconds.” “Did you ad-lib anything,” I asked. “Yep.” he said. “I went off script and added the Serenity Prayer at the very end of my speech.”

The international speech contest season is from February to August. Seven months. It’s a lot of work, sacrifice, time away from family, extra time before and/or after work. And it’s not a paid gig. You volunteer. So going overtime by 6 seconds can be devastating – especially at the Final round in front of an International audience of 2,500 people. All that hard work, luck, time, and travel…

Going off script CAN work, but it’s such a coin-toss. You have no idea if you’re gonna land on heads or tails.

Leave a Comment