Organising a Speech Contest

As a rookie Vice President Education (VPE), one of the most challenging tasks facing me was organising my first speech contest. I had in fact attended a contest the previous year, and even entered the Evaluation contest, but I still had only the vaguest of ideas of how the event was actually organised. My liveliest recollection of taking part in the Evaluation contest was of having to wait my turn in the freezing cold of the dark church above our old premises in St Paul’s church hall. How the event was actually put together was not of the slightest interest to me at the time. Now, however, I found myself wishing I had been a little more observant of what had been going on around me!

Contest season was fast approaching.  Very quickly we had a full quota of contestants. All I had to do now was put the event together. No problem, I reasoned to myself, clubs run contests every year. Toastmasters is such a well-oiled machine of an institution there is bound to be a template somewhere that sets out how these things should be done. Well, I found this was true, up to a point; there was plenty of guidance out there, except, as it happened, when it came to the actual agenda for the evening.

As good regular attendees of Toastmaster meetings, you will all no doubt appreciate the value of the agenda in keeping us on the straight and narrow path of perfect timekeeping. I knew how much we would go astray during a contest evening without the right agenda to guide us. But could I find a Humorous Speech and Table Topics contest agenda among the many templates squirrelled away on the website? No! I would have to put one together myself. Eventually, after much consultation with our webmaster Moira Beaton, and many attempts later, we finally produced The Perfect Contest Agenda. We were back on track again.

Now I had to come up with names to fill all those empty boxes on the agenda. I had to find a chief judge, contest chairs, timers, counters and sergeants-at-arms. As for judges, this year the clubs in our area are experimenting with swopping judges among clubs so recruiting judges was one responsibility I could delegate to Neil Maclure, our Club President. Two weeks before the contest I sent out a call for volunteers and had a terrific response from our members. In fact, for me, this was one of the most positive aspects of organising the contest, the wonderful spirit of co-operation from our members. All of the roles were filled in no time.

Contest night came and all went smoothly. Our contest chairs, Ritchie Brown and Neil Maclure, were well prepared. Our chief judge, David Dick, took matters expertly in hand, and our visiting judges were slotted in seamlessly. Thanks to all our willing volunteers, we had a very enjoyable and successful contest night. And we have an excellent template to work from for next time!

Aideen O’Malley, Vice President Education

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