map link

Resources | How To...

When You’re the Contest Chair

by Penny Post, DTM, PDG


The description of contest personnel and activities summarized in this document is a direct reflection of, first, my own training an Area Governor in 1992, and second, my experience as Contest Chair for two Division contests in 1993-94, presenting the District Contest training in 1996-97, and as Division B Governor myself in 1998 - 1999.

The two main stages of a contest described here cover the planning and the actual event. In addition to this short list, you will also need at a minimum a copy of the Contest Planning timeline and an excellent outline of the Contest Toastmaster’s duties. However, this should get you started!

The way to budget a contest to pay for itself (and make money too!) is to have good publicity, provide good value for the cost, and have attractive raffle prizes (also well publicized). Make sure everyone keeps receipts for the treasurer’s accounting. How much money are you starting with? If none, you can often get a small loan from a higher echelon (Division, District) to pay for initial outlay.

As you approach the two weeks before the contest, it’s extremely useful to prepare a detailed timed agenda. It will clarify everyone’s place in the scheme of things, and ensure that all contest participants are working to the same goal. Furthermore, the details you have to include will trigger reminders of jobs to assign.


When you plan a contest, what roles need to be filled first? Whom do you ask? Work the club presidents as assistants and as resources. The main goal is to involve as many people as possible. At Division D’s Spring ’94 contest we acknowledged 31. Although some jobs can be doubled up or eliminated, most tasks do have to be covered. Or so we have found in District One.

Main Contest Responsibilities

Additional Responsibilities

The Planning

Place, Date, Time and Format

Contest Chair and Area/Division Governor define these. Restaurant, corporate facility, community facility? (Convenience, parking availability, price?) Breakfast, lunch, dinner, potluck, dessert?


Coordinated by Contest Chair/Governor with Publicity (flyers, programs), Decorations, and Food


Flyers should include Date, Time, Place, Name of Contest, Whose Contest (i.e. Area D3, or Division B), Theme, Toastmasters logo, Food provided, and Cost. They also need a contact name, with phone number for information and reservations, and address to send preregistration checks. Same person usually creates contest programs.


In keeping with theme. They don’t have to be festive, but should relate.


Meal or snacks? What will please the most, offend the fewest, and be most appealing in quality, quantity, availability, price, and speed and efficiency of service for the place & time of day?

Raffle Prizes

Be sure to solicit contributions from clubs or areas. Ideas: movie theaters, book stores, restaurants, and Big Prizes (hot air balloon ride, tickets to sports event, stage or other performance, concert, etc.) Call or write well in advance to allow for follow up time, negative response.

Trophies & Gifts

Plaques, trophies, clock, penholders, etc.? What will inscription say: March 4, 1995 or Spring 1995? Name of Contest, 1st/2nd or First/Second Place? Allow time for mistakes in the inscriptions. Small gifts for Contest Chair, TM, Chief Judge (Timer, pointer, trophy).


Order from Toastmasters International, or have someone create a master on their computer. You may also want frames; those must also be ordered. Two groups are needed, one for Participation (for contestants) and a much larger batch for Appreciation (all the planners and hard workers on the contest). Certificates must include the date, name of the contest (Humorous and Evaluation, or International and Tall Tales, or whatever), name of recipient, and signatures by contest chair and appropriate governor.


Choose your Chief Judge early. This person is responsible for recruiting at least seven judges, two ballot counters, and two timers. S/he also needs forms: judging forms for each specific contest (the criteria are different), a tie-breaking judging form for each contest, balloting forms to record the tallies, and two timing forms. Other equipment: Clock, timing lights, and green, yellow and red cards. At the contest, the Chief Judge is responsible for briefing the judges about fairness, protests, disregarding timing, appropriateness of material, and signing ballots; briefing the timers on the operation of lights and cards and when to begin timing; and briefing the ballot counters about collecting and counting ballots. CJ briefs the contestants as to the defined speaking area (determined with Contest Chair and/or TM) and location of timing lights.


Contests can have one or two Toastmasters (one for each contest). TM is the contestant contact, and should be given contestant names by the Chair. TM supplies contestants with two forms each, for eligibility and biography info (for use during the interviews following the contests). Half an hour before call to order, TM assembles contestants and provides slips on which they draw for speaking order. When contest begins, TM announces contestant’s name, title of speech, repeats title of speech, and contestant’s name. At conclusion of each speech, TM asks for one minute of silence. At end of contest, two minutes of silence or until CJ signals that all ballots have been collected. Then TM interviews contestants, first asking what club or area they are representing.


Contest Chair should stay in regular touch with Committee chairs to ensure progress. Have trophies and certificates been ordered? Is food ordered/decisions made? Decorations purchased or created? Publicity, publicity, publicity.… Flyers are not enough, they must be distributed, and announcements made repeatedly at club meetings. Are Raffle Prizes coming in OK? Have clubs committed? Is CJ collecting judges? Who will the contestants be? Do they all know where and when the contest will be held?

In Addition

On the day of the contest, Contest Chair and presiding Governor are to stay calm. If not, pretend to be. Greet everyone, helpers and attendees, and thank them for coming. Circulate. Smile. Everyone will feel better, including you. The following positions need to be filled by helpers. Assigning them well ahead of time will help. Ask them early, then remind them later that they agreed to the jobs, and explain fully what they are expected to do:

Greeter/Traffic Coordinator (optional)

Positioned where attendees first appear. Is cheerful, welcoming, provides parking instructions and other directions and information as needed.

Registration (at least 2)

Be sure they have the list of prepaid registrants to check off.

Protocol Officer

is supplied with current list of District officers, listed in proper order for acknowledgment, and checks off those whose names are on list who show up. This should be a person familiar with all current Area & Division governors by sight.

Sergeant at Arms/Audio

Check with Contest Chair for how tables will be set up, whether there will be a head table, where the lectern will be placed, whether there is a mike & speakers, how they should be placed to avoid feedback, whether they work, how speakers will be miked if cordless (and who will do it). If the latter, assign an Audio person to mike each speaker before going on stage, and unmike them afterwards. Ensures physical order of things, and availability of all necessary equipment, including but not limited to gavel, flag, certificates, timing devices, club and area banners, trophy table, and extension cords.

Raffle Sales

Assign two people — you will double sales! Raffle Chair should supply tickets. Be clear about how tickets are priced but allow room for generosity — the idea is to encourage people to buy them. Supply $20 in one-dollar bills to make change.

Invocation/Pledge of Allegiance/Opening Thought

“God — Country — Man” is the appropriate order. If you have an invocation, it comes before the Pledge of Allegiance; if you have an opening thought, it comes afterwards. In either case, request that it be brief.

Set-up Committee

Clean-up Committee


Make acknowledgments; work with the Treasurer to balance the books; write thank you's to everyone involved. Repeat: If you have good publicity, provide good value for the cost, and have attractive raffle prizes, your contest will go well. But the best insurance for a great contest is to encourage competition at the club level. Make sure they know what the contest is about — appropriate material, length of speech, importance of rehearsal and feedback to polish their efforts, and high personal value of competing. Many a District (and above!) winner entered their first contest in response to peer pressure.

* * *