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In which the author — dragged down by an inconvenient bug and an equally inconvenient lack of sleep — rides into cosmopolitan Modesto for the final contest showdown.

Ordeal of the FishStart: Going the distance through all the levels of a speech contest must be a little like a marathon. Now, I’ve never run a marathon, so I don’t understand the experience personally, but I have friends who have, and clearly it’s grueling.

In its own way, a speech contest can be, too.

I estimate I probably put in about 60 hours writing, rewriting and rehearsing (or should I say “hearsing and rehearsing?”) “The Ordeal of the Fish” for that season. I understand it is not unusual for the serious International competitor to put in over 100 hours to get their speech to District, and probably a comparable amount (or more) for each of the next two levels.

I was not facing this level of competition with the Tall Tales contest. The Tall Tale is an strange animal, and I am told it is a hard one to judge and a harder one to execute. Just after my Division win, the then Immediate Past District Governor Bruce Louie called my speech a perfect example of what a Tall Tale speech should be.

Flattering, and bittersweet at the same time. It’s the nature of Toastmaster contests that you really can’t recycle material, certainly not verbatim, and a winning speech — if you can take it the distance — will wind up retired to a shelf somewhere, a pleasant memory collecting dust.


(Yes, Grasshopper … that which passes, passes like clouds.)

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In which the author finds the way to an audience’s heart is to deliver material without any socially redeeming value whatsoever.

Ordeal of the FishStart: The Spring 2004 Toastmaster contest season was truly a banner season for me. Though I had come in third in the Area level in the International Contest (the annual motivational/inspirational speech competition that attracts competitors from around the world), I was given an opportunity to compete for another club in the season’s sister competition, the Tall Tales contest.

With the feedback of both the members of my home club and the contest-focused members of my second club Jackpot Speakers, I crafted a solid draft of my tall tale speech, and then set about the task of memorizing it.
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