The Penny Drops by Wim Woittiez

I participate in speech contests for the sake of the challenge. It gives me more perspective on where I stand.

In addition, the process of intensive preparation with the help of my friends is a wonderful experience. I love working together with constructive, intelligent and creative people. My structure got better, more coherent. Some confusing jokes went out. I was confident that we brought it to the best state we could, given my current level of experience. I practiced well but not so much that it would become boring to me and I’d therefore ruin my delivery.

Delivery then… the big moment: the second round, in Antwerp. I was the 2nd speaker. Didn’t listen to anything that came before me: I stayed outside. I’m a person who quickly absorbs too many impressions. Then my memory and my performance suffer. I started very strong, then at about 30% into my speech, I jumped to the next thing too quickly, which confused the audience. That threw me off and I lost the good vibe. I continued OK but it felt different. I finished strong again.

Of the 4 speakers, I was either 3d or 4th. I saw the winning speech, Simon Timmermans from Hasselt. Very strong message and very well brought. Well-deserved first place. I didn’t see the second place performance by Karl Indigne from Ghent. I know him as a great speaker so I’m not surprised.

I felt bad about messing up my performance with that jump. I thought it had had an impact on the result. But then Thomas Vervaet told me that the pain points that I touch upon, are not engaging enough. One of them is global warming. Nobody feels that pain directly, nobody recognises it on an emotional level. If I want to use that, then it requires a more profound and emotionally engaging approach. I felt the penny drop. Various earlier comments had pointed in that direction but I could never put my finger on it.

So for me, as if all of the usual reasons were not enough to participate in speaking contests, it is this: making the penny drop. Sometimes that requires the extra intensity of a contest.

Like any coin, that penny has another side. One person came up to me and said she appreciated how different my speech was. Less emotional and more intellectual perhaps, but different enough to be particularly interesting. Every disadvantage has an advantage. I appreciated the comment very much.

In the end, are we not into public speaking in order to better understand ourselves and express ourselves?

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