I WOULD like to express my thoughts on a public speaking competition organised by the Girl Guides Association Malaysia, that was held recently.
I competed in the national competition with nine others, who like me, represented their respective states.
I presented my speech with the ease and confidence of a good speaker.
While there were some accomplished speakers, I noticed that many participants went on stage with cue cards and presented their speeches as if they were reading from the text.
I was sure that I had a good chance of being among the top speakers as the “impromptu speech” segment of my presentation was peppered with interesting bits and facts and sounded like a winning speech.
When the second runner-up and first runner-up in my category were announced, I was ecstatic by the thought that I was going to be the champion.
However, luck was not on my side, instead another participant’s name was announced. I was aghast and and thought that there had been a mistake!
Nonetheless, the judges’ decision was final and I had to accept the bitter reality that I had lost.
I am not writing this for sympathy; I have had enough of that.
I am also writing on behalf of the other excellent speakers in different categories who also suffered my fate. They had the style and substance but failed to make it.
Meanwhile, other participants who had just blabbered on stage, went home smiling broadly with trophies in hand.
I am not sure if the judges fully knew what public speaking was all about or if they knew how to gauge or assess a good speaker.
Those who were eloquent speakers at the event were eliminated, while those who were weak presenters were rewarded with trophies!
Public speaking is a competition where speakers are expected to express their ideas on an issue and to convey a message effectively to the audience.
In this case, speakers who spoke without facts or who gabbled incessantly on irrelevant points, were rewarded.
Speakers with oratory skills and substance were ignored at the competition — a clear case of prejudice and biased judgment.
I also noticed that the judges took a long time in announcing the winners. Is adding up marks of the prepared speech and impromptu speech segments that difficult?
It took a while for me to realise that the judges had pre-determined the winners.
They had already chosen the three who were unworthy of the success heaped upon them, based on the popularity of their respective states.
It was certainly not the right way of deciding winners for a public speaking competition and seemed more suitable for a popularity contest.
In addition, the judges during the prepared and impromptu speech segments were different individuals except for the head judge.
Would it not have been better if the same judges were present to gauge the speakers at every level of the competition as there would be no question of biased judgments.
Ironically, one of the topics for the impromptu speech segment was “honesty is the best policy”.
Where is the honesty and fairness in all this? Why are good speakers being prevented from getting what they deserve?
Competitions are conducted to upgrade and bring out the best in an individual, but if “low-quality” participants are constantly picked out as winners, then mediocrity will be the new name of the game.
Good speakers will refrain from participating in such events or look elsehere to show off their skills and calibre.
May I add that at the end of it all, a concerned teacher consoled me by saying that I could give it (the competition) another shot next year. “There won’t be a next time,” I said.
PUBLIC SPEAKER The STAR Online Education Sunday Apr 21, 2013