Toastmasters - Collected Wisdom

These are summaries of the collected wisdom of contributors to a Toastamsters newsgroup which operated between 1995 and 2008 and ToastmastersPrime, a Google group which commenced in 2008. This is not an official Toastmasters site, but is an edited collection of posts from the newsgroup and the Google group. These groups provide an unofficial means of communicating for an enthusiastic group of Toastmasters from throughout the world.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Things to avoid at a contest

Reflecting on the contest season, Mark started a thread with this list of things to avoid if you are running a contest event. I have sorted contributions by Mark, Rich, Joy, Colin, Jim, Phyrne and Robert into sub headings to make it easier to find suggestions for your role, but harder to appreciate the individual contributors frustrations.

Presentation time
Please take the blanking award out of the blanking bag before you present it to the first and second place winner.

In a contest with three or fewer contestants, announce only the first place winner - then give the second place person a call afterwards, and perhaps mail the trophy or present it at a club instead of 'sneaking' it to them in the back of the room.

On announcing only first place: That would be a violation of the rules. I understand what you're trying to do, but let's go by the rules. To be honest, I would rather that the rank of ALL the contestants be announced. If you're in a contest, then you already know that there will be a first place ... and everyone else. Let's put on our big boy/big girl shorts and realize that being ranked last in a contest does not mean you are a bad person. However, that's not what the rules say, and we have to follow the rules.

Don't ever say - "the first place winner is, no surprise, ___________________"

Don't ever say, before awarding the winners, "Well, that's all folks. Oh, am I forgetting something?" or any other similar riff. It was never funny in the first place.

As contest Toastmaster, I do my own little spin on things. When I was interviewing the contestants, my opening question would be a variation of, "If it's Wednesday at 6:30 PM, where can we find you?" The answer, of course, is the contestant's club. It's a slight variation of, "What club do you belong to?"

As contest master, don't turn the "meet the contestants" interview portion into a session of "stump the chump". I've seen too many contest masters launch into Table Topics from Hell, just - it seemed - to demonstrate how clever/witty/smart they were. They seemed to delight in leaving the contestants scrambling for a response.

Tell the contestants during the briefing that you are not going to try to stump them with any interview questions. Tell them the requisite things you plan to ask (name, club, how long a TM, TM educational level), and if you know what follow- up question you're going to ask, give it to them in advance.

Find a creative/fun/CONCISE way to handle briefing the audience. I've seen too many belabor so many parts of the briefing, the thought crossed my mind to stand up and say "ENOUGH ALREADY!!! GET ON WITH THE CONTEST!!!" In some cases, it was the briefer (either the TM or the CJ) wanting to thoroughly explain all the rules. In others, it was about the briefer wanting to enjoy as much time in the spotlight as possible.

You may think this is unnecessary, but one contributor suggested: "Make sure that the person you are announcing in the winner's list actually competed."

It seems that third place in a nine person evaluation contest was awarded to a member who had dropped out at the last moment, but prior to the contest.

Please do not wait until the end of the month to schedule your area contests. We run short of judges when you have six contests on a Friday night.... and three of the contests are in different rooms in the same building.

If you get all of the clubs/areas participating, plan for the contest to run two-and-a-half hours. Don't try to say that it will run two hours. IT WON'T HAPPEN.

If the division A contest is in Lodi, CA and the division C contest is in Orland, CA they are 140 miles apart. If you want the district officers to attend both contests, please allow plenty of time for travel. Scheduling the Division C contest at 9 AM with six contestant per contest AND having a raffle to pay for the room does not provide enough time for officers and judges to make it down to the 1:30 Division A contest.

Please, if there is more than one entrance, post a Sgt at Arms committee member at EACH ONE, and train them properly.

Sound System

If there is a sound system, work out all the details of who will operate what and how the system works BEFORE the contest, not during the contest.

If there is a PA system in the building, see if the contest site can be omitted from announcements unless it is an emergency situation so as not to interrupt contest presentations


The book says that you need two stopwatches. Four work better.... * Two for the timing table * One to act as backup and to time the one minute * One for the five minutes during the evaluation contests

Contest Chairman

The Contest Chairman should NEVER NEVER NEVER try to be the focus of attention. Your job is to facilitate the contest and keep the focus on the contestants. I absolutely detest the "warm up the audience" routines that I'm subjected to prior to humorous speech contests.

Save your best jokes for the spring contests and the bad jokes for the humorous speech contests. You don't want to upstage the humorous speech contestants.

If you're the contest toastmaster, save your jokes for your club when you give your manual speech.

Please discuss with Eval and TTopic contestants where they should stand when you will be asking them the question, or introducing them. I'm tired of guessing.

Please, please don't say "A drum roll please" before announcing each award recipient!

Develop an appropriate timing serum that will alert late night speakers (keynote, awards presenters, etc.) that it is late and perhaps they should curtail their prepared remarks.

Double check all equipment from the clocks and lights to sound system and the stage...t'aint nothing more detrimental to an effective presentation than a portion of the stage buckling.

Read the results correctly.

Table Topics contest
Make sure your table topic is vetted by the Chief Judge and contest chair. They should not hear the topic for the first time when you introduce the first contestant.

Let the district officer responsible for the contest (AG, Div Gov, etc.) vet the Table Topics question. It is their contest.

Evaluation Contests
When running an evaluation contest don't use a brand new never- been-to-a-contest rookie for your SAA.

Do not, repeat, DO NOT publish the judge's names in the contest program.

If you want to intentionally lose a contest, come to the contest in casual clothing, have your checkbook in your shirt pocket, bring up your water bottle, and keep holding up that water bottle while answering the table topics question while never using it as a prop. It says to me as a judge, "I want to lose this contest intentionally." (And, yes, this happened at a division level contest)

Your contest photographer is your friend. Please allow him to take the pictures of the contest.

Don't talk during the minute of silence, Mr./Madame TM - not "good job", "wow", "Does someone have a tissue", NOTHING - its called a minute of silence for a reason.

The contest should focus on the contestants, not the staff, contest master, chief judge, etc

This post appeared on the Google List Toastmasters Prime

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