What You Need To Know To Be a Good Speech Contest Judge

As a judge, your role is not to evaluate the speakers, it is to select a winner.

Good contest judges are:

  • Accurate – they need to be able to complete the ballot correctly
  • Fair – they do not let personal feelings influence their decision
  • Trustworthy – contestants trust them to select the best speaker as winner
  • Knowledgeable – they must know the contest rules; how to judge; and how to complete the judging form
  • Good listeners – they do not become distracted during the speech
  • Objective

Good contest judges:

  • Read the judging guide and become familiar with the criteria before the speech contest.
  • Sign the ballot as soon as they receive it.
  • Focus on the speech, and take brief notes if it helps.  After the speech, enter the scores on the ballot.
  • Don’t forget to write down a first, second and third place at the end or the ballot will be discarded.
  • Do not take the time into consideration when judging.


Q. What happens if I forget to sign my ballot?

A. It is discarded and, therefore, won’t count in the final scoring.

Q. What happens if I ‘tie’ 2 contestants on my ballot?

A. Decide which contestant you prefer. You cannot ‘tie’ 2 contestants on the tear off slip at the bottom of the ballot.

Q. On what grounds might a contestant be disqualified?

a. originality

b. eligibility

c. timing (over or under time)

Q. Is the speaking area important?

A. Yes. At the beginning of the contest, the Contest Chair will announce where the speaking area is. On the ballot, the speaking area comes under ‘Delivery’. A speaker cannot be disqualified if they go outside the speaking area but you can, if you want, mark them down.

Q.What do I do if I suspect a speech may not be entirely original?

A. You may protest to the Chief Judge and/or the Contest Chair before the announcement of the winners. After the announcement, the placements cannot be changed.

Q. When is a speech not original?

A. Here is what the rules say:

“Twenty-five percent or less of the speech may be devoted to quoting, paraphrasing, or referencing another person’s content. Any quoted, paraphrased, or referenced content must be so identified during the speech.”

Q. Can a member of the audience lodge a protest?

A. No, only judges and contestants can protest. And only about originality and eligibility.

Q. Does the Chief Judge complete a ballot?

A. No.

Q. Does the Tie-Break judge attend the judges’ briefing before the contest?

A. No. The TieBreak judge is appointed by the Chief Judge, and their identity is kept secret.

Q. Are the contestants allowed to see their scores after the contest?

A. No. Judges are not allowed to explain to contestants how they voted or give an evaluation of their speech. The judging ballots are confidential and should be disposed of after the contest.

Post written by Moira Beaton DTM

VPPR Waverley Communicators

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