Thursday, September 14, 2006

Running A Toastmasters Speech Contest

Running a Toastmasters Contest for the first time can be a bit intimidating ...

There seem to be tons of rules; many, many roles (some of which you might not be familar doing and much less managing or leading others in those roles).

On top of all that there are excited (and probably tense)contestants and loads of audience members who you might not know ... especially if you are running an Area or Division contest.

What do you do??? Where do you start???

If it is Summertime and you are preparing for the Fall Contests, you can attend training at TLI. There is always at least one session on running a contest and you will pick up some great information as well as a good handle on the paperwork and protocols.

Of course, if you are like me, you've put it off and the contest is next week and you have to pull things together NOW !!!!!

So, let's dig in ...

Running a Toastmasters contest is really very simple. You only need 3 things for a successful contest.

  1. PEOPLE,
  2. FORMS, and the
  3. AGENDA !
Well, that doesn't sound too hard...
... except for the fact that I have no idea what any of those things mean !

:() <-- That's the symbol for "OH NO!!!"

District 53 to the rescue !
The linked text below gives you the handout developed by Dave Wheeler for training Area Governors in District 53. There are links to different formats depending on how you want to print it out.

Contest Survival Guide
(11 x 17 two sided format ... good for folding and holding all your forms).

Contest Survival Guide
(8.5 x 11 single sided format ... good if your printer does not do two sided.)

Contest Survival Guide ... tall version of "People" page
(if you have ALOT of people in your contest or your contest is a combination of multiple clubs or areas.

Now, from this point on, I will assume you have the Survival Guide in front of you ...

First, the "People" roles that are most critical...

Contest Master and Chief Judge.

These two people are the team that will make a successful contest meeting. It also allows the division of labor so that neither person has to do everything. If you are running a contest, most likely you are filling at least one of these two roles.

Next, recruit the key role players including Judges, Timers, Counters and Sergeant at Arms. You can use Judges for both contests and you should be sure to pick a mix of people from different clubs or areas so that there is no chance for biased voting. Shelly Hathaway, District 53 Chief Judge, has put together a table of "Requirements for Contest Roles" and you can download them by clicking here.

If you are having an Evaluation Contest, it is important to recruit your "Target Speaker". This speech should be a reasonable length (5-7 min. is good) and can be from a manual (although you won't tell the audience or the contestants that it is from a manual). This is a great opportunity for a speaker to get a number of evaluations of their speech and it can be a great experience for the Target Speaker.

Now, before we get to the Contestants... let's get our forms !

All of the forms listed in the Survival Guide can be ordered from Toastmasters. Most of the forms are not allowed to be posted on web sites due to copyright laws, but if you search long enough you will probably find them (or some old, out-of-date versions). The best bet is to purchase a set of the listed forms from TI's online store.

Now that you have all your forms... you need to start getting the room and contestants ready!

Contestants can start by filling out the Biographical Information (BI) and Eligibility and Originality (E/O) forms if they have not done it already. The Survival Guide has check boxes to make sure you get the forms from all the Contestants.

The Chief Judge should review the Technician and Judge Briefing Guide that was provided by District 53's Chief Judge, Shelly Hathaway. (Click here to download it in PDF format.) This covers the "Judges Briefing" portion of the agenda shown on the Survival Guide.

Next, the Contest Master should review the Contestant Briefings Guide ... also provided by District 53's Chief Judge, Shelly Hathaway. Click here to download it in PDF format. The Contest Master should also review the Fall 2006 Contest Script provided by Shelly Hathaway. Click here. There are also some additional "Good Ideas" on the back page of the Survival Guide that you should review before you get started with the pre-meeting activities in the AGENDA.

Now, all that is left is to run the meeting according to the agenda provided in the Survival Guide with the guidance provided by the Briefing Guides and the Contest Script.

If you have learned the material presented here, it should be very staightforward to use your Toastmaster skills to run the Contest as you would a Toastmasters meeting.

Good luck and enjoy the process !

Contributed by Dave Wheeler, Division A Governor, 2006-7 (Survival Guide) and Shelly Hathaway, District 53 Chief Judge, 2006-7

Most of the linked documents in this document are in PDF format and, if needed, free viewer / reader software can be downloaded at

No comments: