Northrise Toastmasters Club 1988/112

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A Guide to Chairing
Northrise Club Competitions


These are general notes for running all types of speech contests - International (Prepared), Humorous, Table Topics and Evaluation - at Northrise Club; adapt these notes to the specific rules of each type of contest. See also Introduction to Competitions, Contest Quick Checklist & Contest Downloads There are specific notes for Table Topics and Evaluation Contests below.


  • Prepare - know what you are going to say, and when. Prepare an Agenda and adhere to it on the day. Be sure to contact all participants before the meeting to ensure they have been appointed and are aware of what is needed.

  • Read the contest rules. this is important

  • Ensure that all necessary certificates and forms (download) will be taken to the meeting. A suitable Topic will be needed for the Table Topics contest.

  • Take along any thank you gifts for the Judge/s (and test speaker for the Evaluation Contest), appropriately wrapped.

Contest Format in (Very) Brief

Before the contest, the judges, other officials and contestants are briefed on the rules.

  • Chair briefs contestants and Contest Sergeant at Arms (if any). Draw the speaking order at this time

  • Chief Judge briefs Judges, Counters and Timers.

    Caution - the Chief judge may not be prepared to carry out this briefing - discuss it with him/her beforehand.
    Note - the Tiebreaker Judge should be appointed by the Chief Judge and is not overtly briefed, the position is not made public. However,the Chief Judge may need to be reminded and if the person carrying out this role is new, an informal briefing should be done before the contest.

Commence the meeting and advise the audience of the general procedure and the rules regarding timing and lights. Announce the speaking order.

Chair acts as Toastmaster introducing successive speakers. In the case of the Evaluation Contest, the first speaker is the Test Speaker, see below for specifics. Each contestant is introduced in turn and one minute is allowed after each speech for the judges. After the final presentation two minutes is allowed.

The Tally Counter gathers up the judging ballots and computes the result. TieBreaker Judge and Timekeeper completed forms are gathered by the Chief Judge who will retire briefly to check the Tally Counter's results and complete the necessary forms. The Chief Judge will then pass the results to you.

You need to have arranged for certificates to be completed previously. They can be completed by the Chief Judge or whoever you arrange to assist. Participation Certificates are regarded as unnecessary at Northrise.

Results are announced by you after indicating (without names) if there have been any disqualificiations.

Finally, thank yous and farewells, end of contest.

A more detailed set of notes is below.

The Chairman is responsible for the smooth running of the contest.


Ensure three judges and a Chief Judge (CJ) selected. The CJ is a non-voting (and non speaking) role. Check all other officials have been appointed. The club executive doing rostering will normally have arranged this, but make sure that you are up to speed with any late changes to the roster. Contact each official to ensure they will be at the contest and are fully aware of what they must do.

In addition to three voting judges and a Chief Judge you also require;

    1. Tiebreaker Judge (whose identity should be kept a secret)

    2. Time Keepers (2 supposedly, usually actually 1)

    3. Tally Counters (2 supposedly, usually actually 1)

    4. Contest Sergeant at Arms (not necessarily the club executive Sgt at Arms) for Evaluation and TT contests only.

    5. Test Speaker (Evaluation competition only).

The Chairman is responsible for the smooth running of the contest.


Check with CJ that all contestants and judges have received instructions and forms. (Rules, Code of Ethics and Judging Forms). VPE usually organises these. The eligibility certificate is not usually used at club level.

It is a good idea to equip the audience with a judging form to enable them to assess privately their opinion against those of the Judges.

Ensure Tally Sheet and Time Keeping forms are available.

Check the lights are obscured from the view of all but the contestants.

Warn the Table Topics Master that they should avoid calling on contestants if Table Topics are held before the contest.

The Chairman is responsible for the smooth running of the contest.


  1. Verify presence of contestants and check pronunciation of names and titles of speech/es.

  2. Draw for speaking order.

  3. Go over the rules with contestants, The Chief Judge is supposed to brief the other judges, Tally Counters and Timekeepers and appoint a tiebreaking judge. 

  4. Check with speakers for any special requirements (eg. position of props, lectern position, special needs).

  5. Ask the speakers to familiarise themselves with the positioning of the lights.


1.Check venue is prepared correctly; timing lights etc. Set up for the first speaker if necessary. You are the Toastmaster in effect and need to put up props for each speaker and remove them as each presenter has finished. Generally the lectern is not needed and should only be introduced if a speaker indicates they need it. Don't forget to remove any props or the lectern after the speaker is finished, during the judge's one minute time out.

2. Welcome audience. Announce the rules, procedures and times in brief for the benefit of the general audience

3. State that contestants and judges have been briefed and all contestants are eligible.

4. Announce the order of contestants.

5. State that there will be one minute's silence at the end of each contest speech for the Judges to mark their ballots and two minutes after the last presentation for the judges to complete their ballots.

6. Ask the CJ if the Judges are ready. (He or she possibly won’t have a clue but ask anyway).

7. Ask the Contestants if they are ready and ask the timekeepers to check the lights. You should briefly outline the contest timing - eg; 7 mins +/- 30 secs.

8. NOTE: here you might choose to mention that cell phones, pagers etc be turned off, no music is permitted, no interjections are allowed and that photographs are not permitted.  Also mention that the contestants are aware of the location of the timekeeper's lights (theoretically the audience aren't supposed to know where this is).

9. Formally commence the contest.


10. Call up the speakers in turn - announce the name of each contestant, title of speech, title of speech and name except in Evaluation Contests when just the name is needed.

11. Welcome each speaker with a handshake and smile only ‑do not speak in addition to your announcement.

12. After each presentation, refrain from commenting on the speech, ask audience to be silent and patient for one minute for the Judges to write up their ballots and introduce the next speaker after the minute silence. 

The minute should also be used to bring forward the next competitor. The minute can be shortened if you have experienced Judges if you have prearranged with the individual judges for them to signal they have finished before the minute is up.


13. At the end of the final contestant's presentation, ask for 2 minute's silence for the judges, and when 2 minutes have elapsed, ask the Judges to hold up their ballots for the Tally Counter/s (if any) to collect the ballots.The tie-breakers ballot should also be collected.

14. Ask the Timekeeper/s to pass the time record to the Chief Judge.

15. The Chief Judge should then retire from the room with the Tally Counter/s for the results to be computed and the Tally Sheet and judges ballots to be passed to the CJ. The chief judge personally collects the tiebreaking judge's ballot, which must contain all contestants ranked in order by the tiebreaking judge.  Note that the contest result is decided on the strength of the ballot results only and the result of the ballot is final (give or take the need for a tie-breaker's ballot). The use of a Tally Counter protects the CJ against tampering charges. 

Should you have overlooked the appointment of a Tiebreaker Judge (perish the thought) and a tie arises, things can be stressful for the CJ. If when asked for a Tiebreaker Judge's ballot you have to admit to this, suggest the CJ add the actual scores from the judges individual ballots and endeavour to break the tie from the result. The individual scores are not important in themselves but their relativity when aggregated should produce a more 'refined' outcome, making the best of a less than ideal situation.

Don't let the meeting lapse while the contest moves from the contest end to the CJ's return. The interim should be occupied with Table Topics or other meeting business per the agenda. Momentum is important. Have spare Table Topics available to cover any gaps and prevent lapses or be prepared to invent topics in line with an earlier theme.

16. Adjourn or hand over to President, Meeting Chairman or Toastmaster, whatever the programme decrees.

17. When appropriate, reopen the contest if the meeting agenda calls for this or if the Meeting Chair does not do this, proceed with the announcement of winners and placegetters and presentation of any award. See the rules as to how many places are awarded if there only a few contestants.

18. Declare the contest closed if the program calls for this. If there is a gift/s for a visiting judge, this might be a good time to present it. This should be arranged with the President.

19. In the most unlikely event of a protest, it must be dealt with before the meeting is adjourned (even if members need to be excused while a protest is sorted out).

20. Hand meeting control to Meeting Chair or President as appropriate. 

The Chairman is responsible for the smooth running of the contest.


Most of the above is appropriate to all four contests, however the Table Topics and Evaluation Contests have particular format differences; briefly:


At the contest commencement, all but the first contestant leaves the room. Each speaker is given the same topic and allowed to rejoin the audience after they have spoken. The second and subsequent speakers are brought into the room by the Contest Sergeant at Arms during the one minute judging time allowed after each presentation. Two minutes judging time should be allowed after the final delivery per note 13 above. .


First the Test Speaker is introduced in the normal way (Speaker Name, Title, Tile, Speaker Name) At the test speech conclusion, all contestants leave the room under the control of the Contest Sergeant at Arms. The contestants are then given a timed five minutre interval in which to prepare their evaluations.

The first contestant is then each brought into the room by the Contest Sergeant at Arms to deliver their evaluation. The second and subsequent speakers are brought in during the one minute judging time allowed after each presentation. Contestants are allowed to rejoin the audience after they have spoken.

Two minutes judging time should be allowed after the final delivery per note 13 above.

See also Introduction to Competitions, Contest Quick Checklist & Contest Downloads