Round 4 (of 6 or 7, depending on how you count it) of the Toastmasters International World Championship of Public Speaking fast approaches … at least for me. Most places around the world have either already crowned their District champs or will do so this weekend.

Those of us who are still left are frantically practicing our speeches, trying to find that extra edge, that extra je ne sais pas that will put us over the edge to win not only the Round 4 District contests in front of us, but also the Regional Qualifier. They send a video of each of the winners of Round 4 to the Video qualifier, and the winners of THAT qualifier get to compete in the semifinals … which is either Round 6 or Round 5.

Like I said: depending on how you count it.

To put things in perspective: Anywhere from 30K – 40K accomplished speakers from 130-ish different countries started this contest back in January. At the Round 4 District level, there are maybe 800-900 left. You win that, you’re top 100-150. You make it to the Semifinals now, you’re top 25-ish.

These next few weeks, a lot of dreams will come true, and a lot more will get crushed with the always disheartening “Congrats on an amazing speech! Better luck next year…”

You’d think this would be where things get more cutthroat. Where those who have made it this far SNIP and SNARL at each other, protecting their speeches from any potential intruders, always wary of someone looking to cross a moral line in search of victory.

That’s how most of the rest of the world works, right?

Not here, though. At least: not most of us.

Just this week, I got together with some friends who are still in the contest to run through our speeches, work out some of the kinks, and help each other get better. We’re not competing against each other – not yet, anyway. No, we have our own districts to worry about at present, and we took turns running through our speeches over Zoom, then discussing some of the different way we might approach things.

For me, this was an invaluable practice session. It’s easy to get caught up in your own head, to get TOO CLOSE to the material. When you have the gift of feedback from accomplished professionals (and also: me), it can help you achieve breakthroughs you might not otherwise have seen.

It was like we had our own, little Nash Equilibrium, right there in the Zoom space.

My contest in May 14. District 4 if you’re interested. I’m proud of the speech I’m doing this year. I’m excited to give it, and I hope it means something to those of you who have heard it or will hear it.

I don’t know what will happen that day. I might get to keep going. I might get handed my “better luck next year” condolences trophy. Either way, working this hard on something and being a part of others working equally as hard on THEIR something has been a big joy this time around.

I hope you can find similar communities for the stuff you’re doing. Life really is better lived with other people.

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