Interview with a Champion

In the lead-up to the Spring Contest season, we present an interview with our club member and big star of the Fall Contest Season, District 95 Champion of German Language Table Topics, Martin Sturm. Martin has been a long-time member of our club, club president and area governor.

Martin Sturm
2015 District 95 Champion of German Language Table Topics Martin Sturm

Thanks for agreeing to this interview. First of all, congratulations again for your victory. I guess the first question should be – though I am not sure if that can be definitively answered for Table Topics, being impromptu – “How did you do it?”


I know this sounds contradictory, and what I actually did to make the most of my time was to clear my mind while listening to the question. By doing so, I achieved a state of relaxed meditation that made it easier for me to come up with a quick structure for my speech, seemingly out of the blue. It was also helpful to pay attention to what came to before in the days just before the contest. I had some quotes in my mind, complete with author, that I thought could be useful to include in any table topic. Funnily enough, I could use those, and this was a considerable advantage. It made me feel more secure and added strength to my delivery.

You went all the way from the club level through the area and division level to the district level. Did each level have its own challenges, did it get progressively more difficult or are there other differences
between the different levels?

We all know that you have to win each time to make it to the district level. I wanted to win the first three contests so I could be onstage in Prague. Still I would say that it is probably in the hands of the Gods where you are going to land. You naturally want to give your all when you speak in front of an audience. In regards to relaxation: I was more relaxed in Prague because I knew I didn’t have to win to advance, ha ha. So when finally they called meup for 1st place I was totally exhilarated, especially as the runner-ups had given strong speeches as well, and I guess I won with a rather slight advantage.

You won in the German language table topics contest. Do you think it is an advantage to compete in your native language, especially with table topics, where you have to find something to say rather quickly?

Absolutely. Nothing could be added here in my opinion. It might be an advantage if you live in the country when your first language isn’t their language. I think it would have been considerably harder to win in the English Contest.

In your opinion, does luck play a factor in Table Topics inasmuch as you might be able to connect with some questions better than with others?

Very much so. I always try to go in the direction of what I personally find interesting, for example I am not so much into technical stuff, so when I heard that the question was about “everything that can be invented, has been invented,” I knew at once that I wouldn’t talk about the inventions in particular, or about time lines concerning important inventions in the course of history. It must be hard to steer away from a technical theme if the question is rather narrow, as in “what is your favourite invention and why.”
Why did you decide to compete? What do you like about competing?
Everything fell into place. I normally compete because it is fun, and this time I didn’t advance on a wing and a prayer, but pretty self-confidently. Everything fell into place again and again. I don’t think I could repeat this experience easily. It sounds cheesy but in hindsight it feels as if it was meant to be.
What would you advise new members who are maybe hesitant to enter a Toastmaster Contest? What benefits do you think they can gain from competing?
Don’t miss out on the fun and don’t take yourself or the contest too seriously. Let your doubtful thoughts subside and just go with the flow. Don’t plan anything, just be. And sign up for the club contest now,ha ha.
Upcoming are the International Speech and Evaluation Contests. Do you have any advice for members wanting to compete in them?
Relax as much as you can. You know what is good for you.
Is there anything else you want to tell our members and guests?
I would like to say thank you for all the support from you guys, and I’m happy to speak to you in person if you have any questions. Toastmaster is best if you are there. Stay present and be part of this wonderful experience and organisation.

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