I’m Sandy Allnock, and I’m a Speech Contest Junkie.
I admit it. I’ve competed, yes, but what I really love is helping to run a great contest that brings out the BEST in every participant!
Let’s face it, competing is new for lots of Toastmasters. Your club may even have trouble convincing members to step up and participate! If you have the right attitude as a Contest Chair, you can ease their worries and help them grow as communicators by setting your mind on preparing a high quality event.
The act of competing in a contest isn’t about “winning”; when the stakes are a little higher, a contest can challenge us to step up our preparation and sharpen our delivery skills. As a contestant, I’ve gone to other clubs to practice and hone my contest speeches – and the experience made me a better communicator!
As a Contest Chair, your role is vital for your club’s participation; the more organized you can be on the front end, the more comfortable it is for members to compete at their very best during the contest. If you’re relaxed and confident as you welcome contestants, that will help THEM also relax. A calm speaker is going to perform better than a nervous one!
I’ve been Contest Chair many times, and I offer my top tips as you take on this role:
- Build a contest team:
- Get a Chief Judge early and ask them to recruit functionaries. Connect with other local clubs and offer to trade help for both clubs’ contests.
- Seek a volunteer to organize snacks and do setup and cleanup so you can focus on organizing.
- Separate the Contest Chair and Toastmaster roles in the contest. It’s permitted for one person to do both roles, but it’s challenging to do them both well. (Chair manages paperwork and overall event; Toastmaster is the emcee the day of the contest, and cares for the needs and briefing of the contestants.)
- Communicate with both contestants and functionaries. Email them a week or so ahead, and again 2 days beforehand with reminders so they don’t have to dig to find documents or times/places.
- Organize docs ahead of time and label them with post-its so you can locate them easily. There are many forms required to have a fully legal contest, so prepare and have extra copies on hand.
- Create a calm atmosphere.
- Start on time, including briefings.
- Even if things go awry, maintain your poker face.
Download Contest Guide
I’ve written up a document based on my experience running club, area, and division contests. My guide is NOT meant to supersede the Contest Rulebook which is updated by TI every year. DO read that every year to be sure there’s nothing new you must implement!
Carolyn Curley has assembled a great summary of the Eligibility requirements.
The document includes a checklists for timelines, volunteers and more; scripts to use during a contest; briefing notes; sample emails; and much more.
Links within this document are to the contest documents available for the 2019-2020 year, so if those change, please search the Toastmasters International site for updated information.