When You’re the Contest Toastmaster

Click for the Contest Toastmaster’s Guide

  1. Pre-Contest Planning:
    If possible, obtain the Biographical Information forms before the contest date to prepare for the contestant interviews. (This is generally not possible, but is wonderful when it happens.) Read them to check for Club Name and Number, Offices Held, Occupation, Hobbies and Personal Accomplishments. These are good places to get information for the contestant interviews.
  2. Contestant Briefing:
    Before the contest begins, meet with contestants to draw lots for speaking position. For example, you can use playing cards, Scrabble tiles or folded pieces of paper with numbers or letters on them. Do not count on anyone else bringing the lots; supply them yourself. If any contestant is not present for the draw, s/he will speak in first position. A contestant may have a proxy draw for him/her or the alternate contestant may draw. If the regular contestant arrives before the contest begins, s/he shall speak in the order drawn by the alternate. Be sure to write down the speaking order where you can readily refer to it. (Most contest toastmasters prefer to write it on the same card(s) or paper(s) on which the contestants’ names and speech titles are located.) You should also explain the contest rules, either alone or in concert with the Chief Judge. Make sure the contestants have no unanswered questions regarding the rules. Define the speaking area and advise the contestants of the location of the timing device during this briefing. If practical, have the timing device operated so the contestants can see the lights in use.
  3. Names and Titles:
    Ask contestants for titles of speeches and correct pronunciation of their names. Verify with contestant that you are pronouncing their name and speech title correctly. Collect biographical summaries from any contestants who have not given them to you yet. (Evaluation and Table Topics contestants don’t need speech titles or originality forms.)
  4. Your Introduction:
    You will be introduced by the Contest Chairman or Governor. You should prepare a brief, pre-written (preferably typed and double spaced) introduction of yourself. Make sure the person introducing you gets it before the meeting begins and knows how to pronounce your name and your correct Toastmaster designation (e.g., CC, ACB). Otherwise, you will be at his/her mercy as to your introduction.
  5. Opening Remarks:
    After you are introduced, you will make appropriate opening remarks. These should be brief, light and to the point. Your role is to facilitate the proceedings, not to compete with or outshine the contestants. They are the stars. If there is a meal following the call to order, you may immediately adjourn for the meal — the contest chair or Area/Division Governor should provide you with a timed agenda with instructions. As the meal is winding down, reconvene and begin the first contest. If there is no meal or the meal has preceded the start of the proceedings, go right into the first Contest.
  6. The Contest Preliminaries:
    Explain which contest is being held at this time and the purpose for the contest. Usually, the contest with the shorter timing will be held first (Tall Tales, Evaluation, Table Topics). Call upon the Chief Judge to explain the rules, or advise that the rules have been explained to the contestants and judges. (If the Chief Judge forgets to mention the timing rules or to point out the location of the timing device, make sure you do.)
  7. Prepared Speech Contest (Spring; International and Tall Tales; Fall: Humorous):
    Explain which contest is being held at this time and the purpose for the contest. Call upon the Chief Judge to explain the rules. (If the Chief Judge forgets to deal with the timing rules or to point out the location of the timing device, make sure you do.)
  8. Contestant Introductions:
    Introduce each contestant, in the order s/he drew, like this:

    1. (Contestant approaches and reaches speaking area)
    2. Name of Contestant
    3. Title of speech
    4. (Repeat) Title of speech
    5. Name of Contestant

    No other introduction of any contestant is to be used!!! Particularly, do not make references to contestant’s club name or number, or any designation s/he now or in the past has held (e.g., ACB, CC, Past or Present Officeholder), and do not make any comment on the speech itself.

  9. Relinquishing control to contestant:
    Shake the contestant’s hand and vacate the speaking area. You should have a seat reserved as close to the speaking area as possible so you can sit down quickly and retake control quickly at the conclusion of the presentation. Shake hands with the speaker at the conclusion of the speech to retake control, but do not embarrass the speaker if s/he has forgotten to wait for you.
  10. Between each speech:
    Immediately after each speech, request a full minute of silence for the judges to mark their ballots. This is a minute, not amoment. The timekeeper should have been instructed to signal you when one minute has passed. There should be no patter or remarks during or after this silence.
  11. After last Contestant:
    At the conclusion of the contest, request two minutes of silence. Ask the judges to mark their voting portions and hold them up for the tellers to collect. At the conclusion of the two minutes, check with the Chief Judge to make sure all ballots have been collected before continuing. Do not proceed until all ballots have been collected, even if more than two minutes have passed.
  12. Intermission:
    At most speech contests, there is a scheduled intermission between the two contests. If you have a break scheduled, announce how long it will be according to what is scheduled in the timed agenda. If there is a raffle, call on the Raffle Chairman just before the break to remind those present that they can still buy raffle tickets during the break. Ask raffle ticket sellers to raise hands or stand so the audience can find them. At the conclusion of the break, call the meeting back to order and proceed. This is the time to recognize any late-arriving dignitaries not introduced by the Chairman or Governor at the beginning of the event. If it is to be done, it should be done at this time by the Toastmaster rather than the Chairman/Governor.
  13. Second Contest:
    Repeat items 6-11 above to conduct the second contest.
  14. Contestant Interviews:
    Call each contestant in turn to join you at the lectern or speaking area. Invite the contestants to identify who they are representing (club name and/or area or division) and their designation, if you wish. (Club names should certainly be announced at this time). Ask them one or two questions about themselves, either based on the biographical form or a question of your choice. Do not use this time to stump or embarrass the contestants. It is an option to ask each contestant the same question, but it is not necessary. You should have certificates of participation provided by the contest chairman to hand to each contestant at the end of the brief interview. If you are doing contestant interviews at the end of each contest, rather than waiting until both contests are over, and one or more contestants are competing in both contests, save their interviews until after the second contest. Mention to the audience that these contestants will be competing again later and will be introduced after the second contest. (Note: At some contests, all contestants are called up at once, then interviewed individually. Please check with the contest chair to determine the method preferred.)
  15. Raffle Drawing:
    If there is a final raffle drawing, it will usually be made at this time. Introduce the raffle chairman for the drawing.
  16. Closing Remarks:
    When the raffle in concluded, the Raffle Chairman should return control of the meeting to you. Make a few closing remarks — again, brief, light and to the point — and return control of the meeting to the Governor whose contest level this is (Area/Division/District).
  17. Concluding your Role:
    Return to your seat. All you have to do now is wait for the Governor’s thank you. Your work is done.

by Elise Dee Beraru, DTM

Briefing for Contestants