Contest Officials fall in the following roles:

  • Chief Judge (also considered Chief Counter)
  • Timer
  • Counter
  • Contest Judge
  • Tie-Breaker Judge

Proper judging is essential to achieving the goal of leaving the participants satisfied that the contest was fair and that the winner deserved his or her award. At the very least, even if a participant does not share the judgment of the contestants’ placement, he or she should feel that the Contest Officials did the best job they could do.

Responsibilities and Positive Attributes of a Judge[edit | edit source]

When you work as a Judge in a Speech Contest, you have responsibilities, you must understand your role, and you must bring out your best attributes.

Responsibility[edit | edit source]

  • To the Contestants—As Judge, you must be fair, impartial, and must deliver a professional performance.
  • To the attendees—Your performance as Judge affects the satisfaction of the participants, who should leave the contest feeling positive about their further participation in Toastmasters
  • To ourselves—To fulfill your commitment to self-improvement you must do your very best to make competent and proper decisions when judging a contest.

Judging is not Evaluating[edit | edit source]

A Contest Judge is not an Evaluator, whose job it is to work with the speaker to improve his speaking skills. Instead, your function is to simply rank the contestants according to their performance.

Your Attributes as a Good Judge[edit | edit source]

  • Perceptive—You listen carefully and attentively. Lack of attention can lead to your misperceiving the content of the speech—leading to a poor decision.
  • Competent—You are familiar with the contest rules, reviewing them before each contest and applying them without exception.
  • Accurate—You are committed to making correct decisions, fill out the Judge’s Form correctly and sum up the point totals accurately.
  • Fair—You are an impartial judge and avoid allowing friendship, affiliation, age, sex, race, creed, national origin, profession, or disapproval of speech topics improperly to sway your decisions.
  • Trustworthy—You are mindful of the trust placed in you—by the contest officials, contestants, audience members, and Toastmasters everywhere—to select the best speaker as winner, and you live up to that trust.

Pitfalls[edit | edit source]

Top Billing and Bottom Billing Phenomenon[edit | edit source]

There is a tendency to remember the first speaker above the others. If each succeeding speaker is judged against the first, the later ones will fare worse than they deserve. In a like manner, the last speaker tends to leave a more vivid impression, because more recent.

Give each speaker the attention they deserve.

The Underdog Effect[edit | edit source]

A new Toastmaster or one who has to overcome a handicap may engage our feelings of sympathy.

Give each speaker the objective attention they deserve.

The Halo Effect[edit | edit source]

When a person has a strong favorable trait, we tend to judge them more positively on other aspects as well. We may think, “This person has a really engaging, dynamic delivery”—and decide that their content is better than it really is.

Consider each speaker’s speech attributes fairly and independently.

The Ragamuffin Effect[edit | edit source]

When a speaker dresses less well than we like, or has poor diction, we may find ourselves downgrading them in other areas of assessment.

Consider each speaker’s speech attributes fairly and independently.

It Is Not To My Taste[edit | edit source]

Your beliefs, preferences, tastes, and your prejudices constitute the most pernicious barrier to your objectivity in judging a speech. You may find that you distinctly favor a speech—or distinctly disfavor a speech—but ask yourself whether those likes or dislikes are relevant to judging the speech. For example, the choice of speech topic may be off putting to you—but try not to let this affect your judgment of the speaker's placement.

Judge by the given criteria

Common Misconceptions[edit | edit source]

  • “It is not correct to use humor in a Speech Competition” Wrong: do not downgrade a speech for using humor. Like any rhetorical technique, humor may be used in aid of supporting the speaker's message.
  • “A speech in a Speech Contest should be inspirational or motivational” Actually, any type of speech may be given.
  • “The speaker disqualified himself by going over time” As a Contest Judge, you are not to enforce any time limit on the speech; that is the job of the Timer. Judge the speech without reference to the clock


Parts of the Form[edit | edit source]

Top portion—your worksheet[edit | edit source]

The top portion is not given to the counter: it is to aid your decision-making process.

Bottom portion—your ballot[edit | edit source]

Matrix for points

Tie-Breaking Judges fill out a different ballot: you rank each contestant from top to bottom; every contestant must be ranked.

You must sign your ballot. You will give it to the Counter sealed.

How to assign values on the worksheet[edit | edit source]

There are several techniques for filling out the worksheet

Fold-a-ballot method[edit | edit source]

Employ the far right column for the first speaker. When you have entered all your notes, fold that portion under: now the far right column will be used for speaker number 2. Repeat.

This method allows you to consider each speaker independently, without reference to the other speakers. When awarding points, you must have your own point of reference for each category, independent of any speaker.

Assign point values to each category without reference to other contestants

Rank a contestant relative to the earlier contestants[edit | edit source]

Assign a relative value to a category; after all the contestants have spoken, assign the point values.

Worksheet categories[edit | edit source]

The major headings on the worksheet are Content, Delivery, and Language.

Content[edit | edit source]

The substanceof the speaker’s message, representing 50% of the points. Consider Speech Development, Speech Effectiveness, and Speech Value.

Speech Development[edit | edit source]
  • Structure—did the speech have a clearly defined opening, body, and conclusion?
  • Organization—Was the speech organized so that the speaker’s ideas were lucid and flowed well? Could the listeners perceive them, visualize them, and follow their logic?
  • Flow—Did the speaker move smoothly from idea to idea, using effective transitions?
  • Purposeful—Did the speaker show a clear and well-defined purpose in the speech?
  • Pace—Did the speech move along gracefully?
  • Support—Did the speaker marshal facts, examples, and illustrations to support their positions?
Speech Effectiveness[edit | edit source]
  • Connection—How did the audience react to the speech and to its subject matter?
  • Relevance—Did the audience find the content relevant and appropriate to the occasion? Did the speaker consider the audience and the occasion during speech preparation?
  • Clarity—How well did the audience understand the speaker's goal?
  • Purpose—categorize the speech intent as entertainment, informative, persuasive, or inspirational.
  • Success—Compare the speaker’s intent with the reality of the accomplishment. Was the speaker successful in achieving their purpose?
Speech Value[edit | edit source]
  • Message—Did the speaker have something to say, the speech a clear message?
  • Substance—Did the message have substance and logic?
  • Originality—Did the speaker have something fresh to say?
  • Taste—Was the speech in good taste?
  • Nourishment—To what extent did the speech contribute to the listener’s knowledge, stimulate their thoughts and their intellectual growth?

Delivery[edit | edit source]

If Speech Content is substance, then Speech Delivery is how that content is brought to the listener, representing 30% of total points.

Physical Presence[edit | edit source]
  • Curb appeal—Was the speaker appropriately attired and neatly turned out, manifesting care for their appearance?
  • Comportment—Did the speaker convey alertness and propriety through their stance?
  • Countenance—Did the speaker's facial expressions convey emotion, attract the audience?
  • Eye contact—Did the speaker connect with the audience visually, include the entire audience, and reflect their interest in the audience?
  • Body language—Did the speaker use large and small body movements to convey the message, engage the audience?
Vocal Technique[edit | edit source]
  • Quality—Was the speaker’s voice pleasing, warm, assured, firm?
  • Modulation—Did the speaker modulate their voice to convey feeling and emotion?
  • Rate—Was the tempo appropriate; did it vary to convey different feeling?
  • Volume—Did the speaker’s voice fill the room?
  • Diction—Did the speaker articulate clearly, speak distinctly?
  • Contact—Did the speaker build rapport with the audience, show concern for the audience?
  • Confidence—Did the speaker convey sincerity and elicit the audience's sympathy?
  • Enthusiasm—Did the speaker manifest their own inspiration and elicit same from the audience?

Language[edit | edit source]

This category, worth 20% of the points, concerns how the speech’s ideas were clothed in words and woven into thoughts.

Appropriateness[edit | edit source]
  • Compatibility—Does the speaker's language work well with the speech, with the audience, the occasion?
  • Understanding—Does the speaker’s language convey the message effectively and clearly, does the audience understand the speaker’s language?
  • Accuracy—Does the speaker's language accurately convey their message?
Correctness[edit | edit source]
  • Propriety—Is the speaker’s grammar and pronunciation correct?
  • Clarity—Is the speaker's enunciation good?
Effectiveness[edit | edit source]
  • Choice—Is the speaker’s choice of words and grammar effective in conveying the message, convincing in portraying the thought?
  • Mastery—Does the speaker demonstrate a mastery of the language they have chosen to convey the message?

Protests and Disqualification[edit | edit source]

Any judge or contestant may protest to the Chief Judge or Contest Chair before the announcement of the winner and alternates. Once the winner is properly announced, the judges’ decision is final.

Disqualification may rest on only three bases:

  • Violation of the eligibility requirements of the Speaking Contest Rules (Item 1171). Such violations are the responsibility of the Contest Chair, not the judges. However, a judge may report the possible violation to the Contest Chair.
  • Speaking over- or under time. The job of the Timers is to determine if a contestant fails to observe time limitations. Judges do not take such considerations into account when assigning placement to a Contestant.
  • Originality requirements. If a protest is lodged, the matter is decided by in a meeting involving all of the judges, presided over by the Chief Judge and Contest Chair. The contestant must be interviewed as part of this process.

Resources[edit | edit source]

  • Speech Contest Rules (Item 1171, PDF, $1.50)—Speech contest rules for the International, Evaluation, Humorous, Table Topics, Tall Tales, and Taped Speech Contests.
  • Speech Contest Manual (Item 1173, 16 pp, $2.00)—complete information on conducting the International Speech Contest (adaptable to any speech contest).
  • Time Record Sheet And Instructions For All Speech Contests (Item 1175, 1 pp, $0.15)—Explains the timing procedure and includes a chart for speech contest timers to complete. Suitable for use in any contest.
  • Counters' Tally Sheet (Item 1176, 1 pp, $0.15)—Chart for completion by ballot counters. Suitable for use in any contest.
  • Contestant's Previous Speech Outline ([ Item 1185], , $)—
  • Qualifying Judge's Sheet ([ Item 1186], , $)—
  • Speech Contest Judge’s Training Program (Item 1190, $20.00)—two-hour seminar-style program teaches participants how to judge speech contests. Contains:
    • Speech Contest Judges Training Program Presenter's Script (Item 1190A, 36 pp, $6.00)—script and instructions for presenting the Speech Contest Judge’s Training Program.
    • CD with PowerPoint presentation for Item 1190A.
    • Judge's Guide And Ballot For International Speech Contest (Item 1172, 2pp ea, Set of 10, $1.25)—Ballot to be used by a Contest Judges for the International Speech Contest, suggesting relative point values for speaking skills.
    • Set of 10 Judge's Training Program Completion Certificate (Item 1184, 1 pp, $0.40)—Certificate to be presented to participants of the Speech Contest Judge's Training Program upon completion.
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