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How to Prepare for and Conduct a Club Contest

by Lois Smith, ATM-B, AL, 2001 – 2002 District One Contest Training Chair

As Soon as Possible

  1. Find out which contests are being held (e.g., Humorous, Table Topics, Evaluation, International, Tall Tales). If your club President doesn’t know, he or she can find out from the Area Governor.
  2. With the President and Vice President of Education, set a date for your club contest. Club contests are generally held a few months prior to the District contest.
  3. Recruit contestants. This is best done by personal contact, if calls for volunteers don’t get you very far. Keep in mind that some contests require that to be a contestant, the club member should have given at least six manual speeches.
  4. Appoint a person who can coordinate the whole event (the VP-E is usually pretty busy with other duties). This person can be a contest chair, or you can have the Toastmaster share the responsibilities with the Chief Judge. (See items 5 and 6.)
  5. Appoint a Toastmaster. You can also appoint two Toastmasters, one for each contest.
  6. Assign a Chief Judge, who will oversee all judging. The Chief Judge finds judges, though in some clubs, all members in attendance (but not guests) act as judges. Also, the Chief Judge finds a timer to time the speeches and one or two ballot counters to tally the votes. There should be a tie-breaking judge, whose ballot is read only if the tally from the other judges' ballots results in a tie for first place.
  7. Order supplies from Toastmasters International (e.g., rule and procedures booklets, judging forms, certificates, awards).
  8. Ask each contestant in a Humorous, International, or Tall Tales contest to fill out an eligibility form, in which he/she states that the material in the speech is original.
  9. Ask all contestants to fill out a speaker biographical information form, to be used for the after-contest interviews (see below).

The Day or Night of the Contest

  1. Toastmaster calls all contestants for both contests together before the contest and asks them to draw for speaking order. Also explains the physical boundaries of the speaking area and shows contestants where the timer(s) will be positioned.
  2. Chief Judge explains to contestants that a contestant may lodge a protest (for example, if he or she doesn’t believe the speech given by another contestant is original material) and the time during which this may be done (before the results are read at the conclusion of the contest).
  3. Toastmaster collects completed speaker biographies and (if applicable) eligibility/originality forms from each contestant.

Conducting Humorous, Tall Tales, and International contests

  1. President or Contest Chair introduces the Toastmaster.
  2. Toastmaster explains the purpose of the first contest (see rule booklet) and timing rules for that contest.
  3. Toastmaster introduces the Chief Judge.
  4. Chief Judge explains about judging (if all club members are doing judging, this should include a description of judging criteria, maybe 5-8 minutes). When finished, the Chief Judge announces "Let the contest begin!"
  5. Toastmaster explains that each contestant will be introduced only by name, then title, title repeated, name repeated. Toastmaster then introduces first contestant.
  6. After the first contestant finishes, Toastmaster calls for one minute of silence for judging. Timer times one full minute and notifies the Toastmaster when it’s over.
  7. After last contestant finishes, Toastmaster calls for two minutes of silence. After ballots have been collected (sometimes takes more than two minutes), Chief Judge exits with ballot counters.
  8. While ballots are being counted, Toastmaster conducts interviews with each contestant, unless a contestant is also competing in the second contest, in which case that contestant’s interview is held after the second contest. Each contestant should be given a certificate of participation.
  9. Chief Judge gives Toastmaster the envelope with the names of first- and second-place winners.
  10. Break
  11. If the second contest is being conducted by a different Toastmaster, the President or Contest Chair introduces the new Toastmaster.
  12. Toastmaster explains purpose of the second contest and timing rules.
  13. Toastmaster introduces Chief Judge.
  14. Chief Judge explains about judging and announces "let the contest begin!"
  15. Toastmaster explains that each contestant will be introduced only by name, title, title, name, then introduces first contestant.
  16. Toastmaster introduces first contestant (again, name, title, title, name).
  17. After first contestant finishes, Toastmaster calls for one minute of silence for judging.
  18. After the last contestant finishes, Toastmaster calls for two minutes of silence. Chief Judge collects ballots and exits with ballot counters.
  19. Toastmaster conducts interviews with each contestant and gives each a certificate of participation.
  20. Chief Judge gives Toastmaster envelope with names of first and second place winners. Note that if there are only two contestants in each contest, only the winner is announced. If there are three or more contestants, announce first- and second-place winners.
  21. Toastmaster calls for announcement from Area Governor (if present) about the upcoming Area Contest.
  22. Toastmaster may call on Area Governor to assist with handing out prizes to winners. (If a second-place prize is given, first mention that this person will substitute for first-place winner in the event that first-place winner can’t compete in the Area Contest.)

Conducting the Evaluation contest

All procedures are the same as other types of contests, with the following exceptions. It’s best to have two Sergeants-at-Arms.

  1. Toastmaster introduces the model speaker, who gives a five-to-seven minute speech.
  2. Toastmaster asks one Sergeant-at-Arms to escort the Evaluation contestants to a separate area where they will not be distracted or disturbed and where they can’t hear contestants who precede them in the speaking order.
  3. The other Sergeant-at-Arms remains with the contestants, who have five minutes to write notes. At the end of five minutes, Sergeant-at-Arms collects the notes from all contestants. (During this time, Toastmaster is interviewing the model speaker.)
  4. The inside Sergeant-at-Arms asks the first contestant to return to the contest room. The outside Sergeant-at-Arms gives the contestant back his/her notes.
  5. Toastmaster introduces the Evaluation contestant, who speaks for no longer than three and a half minutes.
  6. When the contestant is finished, Toastmaster calls for one minute of silence for judges to mark their ballots. The procedure continues until the final contestant completes his/her evaluation. After two minutes of silence (or however long it takes), ballots are collected and tallied.

Conducting the Table Topics contest

All procedures are the same as other types of contests (except Evaluation), with the following exceptions. It’s best to have two Sergeants-at-Arms.

  1. Toastmaster has prepared a question prior to the contest.
  2. All Table Topics contestants are escorted out of the room so they can’t hear the responses given by contestants who precede them.
  3. Each contestant is escorted back into the room, gives his/her Table Topics answer for no longer than two and a half minutes, and sits down.
  4. Toastmaster calls for one minute of silence, then asks for the next contestant to be escorted into the room.
  5. The procedure continues until the final contestant finishes his/her Table Topics response. After two minutes of silence (or however long it takes), ballots are collected and tallied.

After the Contest

  1. Give the Area Governor the eligibility and biographical information forms for the winners of the club’s Humorous, Tall Tales, and International contests.
  2. Arrange with the club Treasurer to pay the Area contest registration fee for the winners of the club contest.

If you have any questions, please contact your Area or Division Governor.

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