Mastering the art of humor, confidence and quick thinking

| 15 Feb 2012 | 08:51

    Toastmasters hold public speaking contest SPARTA — The First of Sussex Toastmasters held the first round of their semi-annual Humorous Speech contest earlier this month and the winners are ready for the next step in the competition. The goal of a Toastmaster is to master the art of public speaking. There were two contests presented — one requiring a humorous, prepared speech and the other is impromptu speaking on a proposed topic. There were 10 participants between the two categories at the event Aug. 9. Dori Zarr won the Humorous Speech segment with her original story “A Squirrely Tale,” and Debra Hollinrake won for her off-the-cuff speech for the Table Topics section. Both advance to the next round set for Aug. 31 in Denville. “A Squirrely Tale” was about a woman who loved watching the birds come down to her bird feeder everyday but despised the little squirrel who stole all the bird seed. The story was about her attempt to keep the squirrel at bay. Butter, cages and spray paint all failed. There were four participants in the Humorous Speech segment of the contest. Some decided to write stories that were drawn from family memories such as “Dolores Stories” by Janet Drury and “The Business that went to the Dogs,” by Jane Adler. Drury based her story on the antics of her Aunt Dolores’s hair-brained way of doing things. Adler talked about her grandparents and their attempt at a catering business that never seemed to go off smoothly. Humorous Speech second-place finisher Phil Sweet based his story “Shaky Propositions” on his personal experience of living with Parkinson’s disease. Making others comfortable with such a physical condition actually worked in his favor — especially while describing what occupations he was no longer able to do. “I guess being an airline pilot is out of the question,” Sweet said as he put the microphone up to his lips. “Ladies and gentlemen we are now cruising at 35,000 feet - no - 36,000 feet - no - 34,000 feet.” The gentle tremor he had helped illustrate his humor visually as well as audibly. Table Topics is a round where contestants are given a question and must answer and discuss it the moment the question is read. All speeches are timed and kept under two and a half minutes. The question was “If failure was not an option and money not an obstacle what would you do with your life?” Hollinrake’s winning speech was about creating a sustainable garden and cooperative community where everyone brought their creativity to the table to help create a food pantry. In her utopia, the excess food and monetary profits were funneled into charitable organizations. “The objective of Table Topics is to think on your feet,” said Contest Chairperson Carolyn Moore. “There needs to be a beginning, middle and a closing. It’s good to keep that (brain) muscle exercised.” There were six participants in this segment and the ideas included a girl who made paper shoes, and a superhero mother who can read minds and has x-ray vision. First of Sussex Toastmasters was chartered around four years ago and has 30-35 members. They meet the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Sparta United Methodist Church, 71 Sparta Ave. Guests are always welcome. For more information, call 201-650-7127.