My journey to the Toastmasters District 58 Table Topics Contest

I can’t believe I won third place at the Toastmasters District 58 Table Topics Contest! I wasn’t supposed to compete at this level, but, by a turn of events, I had the opportunity to represent my club and area in the competition in Greenville, South Carolina Friday, April 21.

Before I get to my winning moment, let’s take a look down memory lane on how I joined Toastmasters and began competing.

Toastmasters is an international public speaking organization with groups (or clubs as they are called) all over the world that teaches public speaking and leadership skills. Anyone can join these clubs in their community. I’m affiliated with Toastmasters Club 8627 at my job at SPAWAR and have been with the group for about two years.

Our club meets biweekly on the first and third Wednesdays of the month. Each meeting consists of giving a prepared speech on any given topic that range in length from five to seven minutes.

The second type of speech is called table topics. These speeches are to prepare someone to speak about an issue off the cuff or at any given moment. This speech only lasts about two minutes. All speeches are judged by your fellow Toastmasters who look for any grammar mistakes and if you stay within your allotted time.

Competing to Win

Members can take their skills to the next level by competing in the Area and Division speech contests.

At the Area level, I competed against two people from different clubs and won first place in table topics. I didn’t expect to win because I went up against some experienced Toastmasters. Here is a link to my speech from that contest.

As the winner at that level, I was able to advance to compete at the Division level. I was nervous when I gave my speech. I stumbled over my words and couldn’t get my thoughts together, so I came in last place. I was disappointed in my performance, but learned how to not give up under pressure.

The divisional level should have been the end of road for me since the first place winner moves on to the District level. However, the winner and runners up were not able to attend the contest held in Greenville Friday night. That left me to represent our Area!

I couldn’t believe I had the opportunity to redeem myself from the speech where I didn’t do so well. My fellow Toastmasters helped me practice techniques to do well and I watched several videos on YouTube to prepare for the big event.

I was one of seven competing at the divisional level and I’m really excited to have won third place! It all happened so quickly that I barely remember the question. I believe we had to describe a time where our perspective changed about a situation. I talked about my perspective of living with a disability and overcoming the obstacles. I encouraged the audience to not let any adversities they encounter hinder them from achieving their dreams.

Table Topics Winners: 1st place -Tyler Gear (right); 2nd place - William Ratliff (left); 3rd place - Alex Jackson (center)

Table Topics Winners: 1st place -Tyler Gear (right); 2nd place – William Ratliff (left); 3rd place – Alex Jackson (center)

My dad joined me on the trip to Greenville and I’m glad he was in the audience to support me. He reminded me to remain calm and do the best I could.

Alex and his dad.

Alex and his dad.

Even though I have spoken to many groups over the years, Toastmasters has given me even more confidence to speak and share my story!

To learn more about Toastmasters, visit


About Tuesday Talk With Alex

Born in Charleston, SC, I was injured in a motor vehicle accident when I was nine months old. I acquired a C5-C6 spinal cord injury. I'm now 30 years old and I do not let my disability deter me from acheiving my goals and enjoying life. I will be sharing my experience of living with a spinal cord injury.
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