Second place is the first loser. I saw that on a t-shirt once, and instantly disliked it. Seems like a good reason to see a therapist, but a crummy way to sell clothes. But after my fourth failure in two years to snag first place, I’m thinking of buying the shirt.
Maybe I set my hopes too high. Everyone thinks they have a winning speech or they wouldn’t even attempt competition. And one of those people is right. But what about the rest of us? The ‘also rans’? The ‘close, but no cigars’? Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, you know. It’s hard to argue with that logic, especially when I feel like I got nailed in the head by a horseshoe again.
What is a judge looking for? It’s so frustrating to try and then tweak and try some more in a speech contest, only to fall short again with no earthly idea why. While the phenomenal organization I belong to is brilliant at providing evaluations for speakers in clubs—and even offering evaluation competitions—the place it matters most goes unaddressed. No evaluations are ever given following a speech competition of any kind. Participants are thanked for rounding out the gallery of players, but never told where they need to improve. The result is that we all go home second guessing ourselves. “Maybe I didn’t move enough or speak loudly enough or have vocal variety or make eye contact. Was my energy down? Did I run over time? Was the speech defective or just my delivery? Maybe I should stick to Scrabble competitions.”
If we’re courageous, we’ll try again in six months or a year with a new battle plan and hope this one is a winner.
I know. This sounds like sour grapes. And I’m not even much of a wine drinker. Second place or third place or making it through more than one contest are all honorable achievements. I just don’t know how to do better when there’s no venue for constructive criticism. I feel like we’re shooting in the dark—one of us will come closest to the bull’s-eye, but we’re never allowed to view our own target.
Yeah, today I feel like I may always be a bridesmaid, but someday I think my prince will come. Maybe if I wear one of those t-shirts, he’ll recognize me. It couldn’t hurt.