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Contest Checklists


Determine contest budget. Will there be meals? Printing costs? Trophy costs to include engraving? Postage? Will more than one club be assuming responsibility for the cost of the program? Will some costs be passed on to attendees (such as a meal ticket)?

Determine the time and place for the contest. Make sure you plan well in advance and have an alternate site available. Make the venue accessible, convenient and large enough. You want as many people attending (both Toastmasters and guests) as possible.

Establish the program agenda. Put together an attractive written program.

Procure needed supplies.

Select a Contest Chair. This is the responsibility of the Vice-President of Education at the club level. The contest chair is responsible for the contest. Encourage he or she to solicit assistance from club members to ensure a well-run contest.

Select a Chief Judge and brief him or her on their responsibilities. Ensure he or she has a copy of the current contest rules as published by Toastmasters International (#1171).

Select a Toastmaster of the Day for the contest. The contest chair sometimes assumes this duty personally.

Ensure sufficient judges, timers, vote-counters, Sgt-At-Arms are identified. Consider conducting the Toastmasters training program for judges sometime prior to the contest. NOTE: It is important to try to ensure equal representation/distribution in the selection of judges. At area contests, try to ensure that there are at least two judges selected from each area club, or at least from each club submitting a contestant. This will help avoid the appearance of bias.

Notify other contest officials and participants of the time, date and location of the contests. Consider written notification, to include a reminder to review the rules thoroughly prior to the contest. Consider supplying contestants with the contest rules (#1171), and biographical sheet/Certificate of Eligibility and Originality (to be given to the Contest Chair prior to the contest).

Promote the contest within the local community or company. Pull out all the stops. This is an excellent opportunity to promote the club and to bring in potential new members.


* These are held right before the contest. Should be no later than 30 minutes prior to the contest.

Two briefings. One for contestants and one for all other participants/helpers. The Toastmaster of the Day or Contest Chair briefs the contestants. The chief judge briefs Judges, timers, vote counters and the Sgt-At-Arms.

Verify the presence of all contestants and the correct pronunciation of their names, and speech titles (if applicable). Collect all biographical sheets and certificates of eligibility.

Draw for speaking positions. No trading places between contestants.

Review rules with contestants. Make absolutely sure they understand the rules on eligibility and originality and timing. The official, current rulebook (#1171) should be on hand. Consider asking contestants if they intend to begin their speech in a "non-traditional" way (i.e. music being played, a staged action by an audience member, some distinct attempt to communicate with the audience in a non-verbal manner, etc…). Should a contestant express a wish to open their speech this way, ensure that the Chief judge so briefs the timers to be aware of it.

Acquaint contestants with the speaking area (lectern, podium, dais, room, etc…). Allow them to try amplification equipment if they so desire.

Offer assistance to contestants who may wish to use props or other equipment during the contest. Try to minimize any distractions or delays.

Review timing sheet and timing device operation with the timers.

Review judging criteria with judges. Ask them to spread out over the room prior to the contest, but be in a position to hear the speakers, should a problem with amplification equipment develop. Consider having the judge's sign their ballots at this time.

Review the counting procedure and ballot collecting protocols with the vote counters.

The chief judge will anonymously select a tie-breaking judge. The contestants, other judges, nor the audience should know the identity of the tiebreaker judge. The chief judge will collect the ballot cast by this judge, but will not place the ballot into consideration unless it is needed.

Have contestants remove badges or tags reflecting club affiliation or personal level of achievement (i.e. CTM, ATM, DTM…).

Resolve any questions from participants. In case of conflict or disagreement, the contest chair will make the final decision.


Open with a brief introduction and recognition of special guests or dignitaries. An invocation and pledge of allegiance are appropriate, but not required.

Introduce the Toastmaster of the Day.

Inform the audience for the reasons for the contest, and the fact that all contestants, judges, and other participants have been briefed. Tell them that the contestants have been briefed on the location of the timing lights, and request no photography during the contest itself.

Consider having the Chief Judge brief the audience on the fundamental rules of the contest. Inform the audience of the speaking order of the contestants.

Introduce each speaker in the designated order.

(Do not make any preliminary remarks concerning the speaker, club affiliation, place of residence or speech topic.)

Announce the contestant's name, speech title, and then speech title again, then the contestant's name. (Do not deviate from this format.)

Upon conclusion of the speech, request one minute of silence for judges to mark their ballots.

During TableTopics and Evaluation contests, the contest Sgt-at-Arms should leave the room as soon as the speech has ended, and bring the next contestant forward. The Sgt-at- Arms assists the contestant with any lavaliere microphone attachment.

Take steps to prevent any distractions to the contestants. No one should enter or leave the room while contestants are speaking.

Repeat the introduction for each succeeding speaker.

As soon as the final speaker has spoken, have the vote counters collect all ballots from the judges. The vote counters and chief judge should leave the room to tabulate the ballots.

Consider taking the time to interview the contestants during this time. The Toastmaster may wish to use the biographical sheets as a guide. Consider presenting certificates of participation at this time. Should be no longer than two minutes for each contestant.

The Chief judge will present the names of the first, second and third place winners to the Contest chair in a timely fashion. Make sure the first, second and third place winners are identified correctly. All judges' ballots, timing forms, and ballot tabulation forms must be discreetly disposed of promptly by the Chief Judge.

NOTE: In case of a question of originality, the Chief judge should convene all judges to discuss the issue. The majority of judges must agree to disqualify. The Contest chair should discreetly inform the contestant of the disqualification and resolve any disputes or disagreements to the best of his or her ability. The decisions of the judges are final.

Announce the winners. In contests with four or fewer contestants, announce the second place and first place winners. In contests with more than four contestants, announce the third place, second place, and first place winners. Consider asking the senior Toastmaster guest and or dignitary in the audience, to assist in awarding the trophies or prizes. NOTE: Winners should be announced in reverse order. Be 100% sure that the winners are announced correctly, as the announcement of contest winners is final.

Announce that the first place winner will proceed to the next level of competition. In some levels of competition, the first and second place winners will proceed to the next level.

Consider permitting appropriate announcements during breaks in the contest and after the contest winner(s) have been announced.

Thank all participants for their efforts. Encourage maximum attendance at the next level of competition.

Adjourn the contest.


Deliver biographical sheets and certificates of eligibility and originality to the contest chair at the next higher level. Ensure winners are briefed on the location, time and date of the next level of competition.

Publicize the contest in local media. Submit photographs accompanying the news release.

Ensure that all bills and obligations to the hosting organization are promptly taken care of.

This page updated on September 7, 2000