HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Hanscom Toastmasters members won the area-level competition of an annual International Speech Contest Feb. 25.
The Hanscom club is part of Area 25 of Toastmasters International, a U.S.-based nonprofit educational organization that operates groups worldwide for the purpose of promoting communication, public speaking and leadership.
The contest begins at the club level, where members compete to be the one to proceed to the area-level contest. For the Hanscom Toastmasters, one of the competitors turned out to be club president Ty Chum, whose sister works on the base.
“I wanted to compete and go for the title because my career as a health insurance broker is built on professional speaking,” said Chum. “I joined Toastmasters to get more experience in speaking and leadership and it just clicked. It has really worked for me.”
In addition to the main contest, there is a simultaneous contest where the category varies from year to year. This year it is a humorous speech contest. The Hanscom club winner for this category was Alecia Balduf, Hanscom Toastmasters Club sergeant-at-arms and a lead engineer within the Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks Directorate here.
After winning the area contests, the next step is the division-level event.
“Each area usually has four or five clubs, and in the division there are five areas, so there are approximately twenty-plus clubs to compete against,” said Greg Laing, Hanscom Toastmasters Club vice president of education and a deputy product support manager in the Digital Directorate. “Winning division would be a great accomplishment, and I think they both have a good chance at doing it.”
Hanscom falls under District 31, which encompasses eastern Massachusetts and all of Rhode Island.
“There are nine divisions in our district,” said Laing. “It’s a lot of competition.”
The humorous speech contest ends at the district level, but for the international competition, the next step is the regionals, which consists of the entire United States, then the world-wide semi-finals, and then the finals. The winner is the World Champion of Public Speaking for the year.
“You can see many of those previous winning speeches on YouTube,” said Laing. “Many of the winners turn public speaking into a full time career, with their own websites, books and programs.”
The competition speeches need to be between five and seven minutes, with a 30-second grace period before and after allowed. Speeches can be on any topic. Because of the COVID pandemic, all of this year’s contests are taking place online, via Zoom.
According to their website, Toastmasters has served millions of people, and today the organization has over 364,000 members in 145 countries, through its 16,200 member clubs. The Hanscom group meets regularly – right now virtually – and Laing encourages those interested to participate in an upcoming meeting.
“For our club there is no limitation to membership other than age,” said Laing. “We had a guest from Italy join us last month. Toastmasters International requires members be 18 years old, although they do also have youth programs.”
For more information about Hanscom Toastmasters, visit their website at: https://hanscom.toastmastersclubs.org/
The Division B contest will be held on March 17 at 6:30 p.m., and the District 31 contest will be sometime in May.