By John Cox – Program Quality Director
As we move into the contest season many of our members, some who will be new to roles such as chief judge or contest chair, will be meeting the challenge of running an entertaining, well organised, quality contest.
I believe that our contests are a real test of our leadership and how well we do in delivering quality and excellence.
I have already received several questions regarding eligibility, speech originality, test speakers, clubs not in good standing, whether one or two finalists go through to the next round, and a myriad of other questions.
In all circumstances your first port of call should be the Speech Contest Rulebook which can be downloaded from the Toastmasters International website at: https://www.toastmasters.org/resources/speech-contest-rulebook.
There is generally an answer to every question in there. Take note of any changes that are highlighted with a diamond in the left margin.
Some of the major changes include:
- The video recording of the District International Speech contest, where the winner’s video will used for the Regional Quarterfinals.
- The announcement of the first, second and third place winner in contests with three or more participants.
- The announcement of the first and second place winner (if applicable) in contests with less than three participants.
If there is an issue of interpretation of any of the rules then raising the question with your District Program Quality Director can provide the District’s guidance, or in some situations it will be referred to the Speech Contests Team at Toastmasters International for a judgement.
We recently had one such eligibility question regarding the “minimum of two levels in the Toastmasters Pathways learning experience.” Did this mean Level 1 and Level 2 of one Path, or maybe two Level 1’s of two different Paths? TI confirmed that they would be looking at this rule again next year but for this year both options were allowable.
As well as becoming familiar with the Contest Rulebook. I would always recommend that both the chief judge and the contest chair are familiar with all the documentation, the Judge’s Certification of Eligibility and Code of Ethics (Item 1170) and the Certification of Eligibility and Originality (Item 1183).
Talking of documentation, I have experienced the two extremes of speech contest organisation. On the one hand all the up to date documentation was at hand, divided up nicely into two envelopes one for the chief judge and one for the contest chair. There were then separate envelopes for each contestant and judge. There were the correct numbers of each document, including a few spares, and certificates had been pre-printed, where possible. Very professional.
On the other hand, I’ve seen out of date materials in insufficient quantities, with a scramble to get more copies at the last minute. And a lack of clarity on who is judging, and a mad panic prior to the contest to fill roles.
Be aware if using a previous contests’ materials – that some of the documents have been updated – particularly to add references to Pathways.
Please also be familiar with the eligibility rules regarding International Speech contestants, chief judges, voting judges or tiebreaking judges.
Toastmasters International’s Eligibility Assistant is there to help. https://www.toastmasters.org/leadership-central/eligibility-assistant
As in many things in life preparation, preparation, preparation is paramount.
And remember the Toastmasters Promise – To prepare for and fulfil meeting assignments – and our Values – Integrity, Respect, Service and Excellence.
Quality briefings of the judges, counters and timers, and the contestants are critical – even if they have done the role before, things may have changed. Make sure you allow plenty of time for the briefing, covering all the key points and allowing questions, particularly from people new to the role. Remember we are an educational and learning organisation.
I know there has been some recent discussion regarding the training of contest officials and maybe this is something for the incoming Program Quality Director to consider
I wish you a very successful contest season and the very best of luck to all our contestants.