DRAW! Choosing Contest Speaking Order – Rules, Myths and Good Practices

In Toastmasters clubs and areas and on up, sometimes ‘customs’ get in the way of following the rules and being as fair as possible to the contestants.

As Joe Friday of Dragnet said, “Just the facts, ma’am.”**

1. There is NO Requirement to attend the contestant briefing
Contestants are NOT required to attend the contestant briefing to compete. Contestants are required to be “present when the person conducting the contest is introduced“.
When there are 2 different contests held in the same venue, one after the other, the second contest is not opened when the first contest is opened.

2. The rules call for “a draw for speaking order”.
The draw for speaking order should not put any no-show automatically first, last or in any other pre-specified position in the order.

My comments and recommendations.
Since the rules do not require that a contestant attend the briefing, there should be no penalty for skipping it.
An easy way to do a fair draw is to take playing cards Ace-2-3 … up to the number of contestants. Shuffle them and lay them all out on a table/floor.
Invite all contestants to “select a card and go get it”. If any contestant/representative is not present, the chair will then select a card for each missing contestant and assign that speaking position to them.

3. There is no rule that specifically restricts contestants from trading or exchanging their drawn speaking order before the chair records the final speaking order.

My comments: This could be done for a variety of valid reasons and should be allowed if any 2 contestants mutually agree to change drawn speaking positions.
One example is perceived competitive advantage where both speakers feel they get an advantage with the switch. Another valid example is if one speaker in a prepared speech contest would like to hear another but is too nervous to listen to the other speakers before they present.
A third example is an evaluation contestant who would like to hear more of the other contestants’ evaluations and prefers to go earlier than their draw.
If they want, let them switch!

Here are the relevant sections from the Toastmasters 2010 Contest Rulebook:
Before the contest, contestants and the contest sergeant at
arms are briefed on the rules by the contest chairman. Judges,
counters, and timers are briefed on their duties by the chief judge.
Contestants will then draw for their speaking position with the
contest chairman.
C. If a contestant is absent from the briefing, the alternate
speaker, if present, is permitted to attend the briefing in place
of the primary contestant. If the primary contestant is not
present when the person conducting the contest is introduced
to conduct the contest, the primary contestant is disqualified
and the alternate officially becomes the contestant. Should the
16 Speech Contest Rulebook
primary contestant arrive after the briefing but before the person
conducting the contest is introduced, the primary contestant
is permitted to compete, provided the primary contestant:
1) reports to the contest chairman upon his/her arrival, and
2) has all required paperwork in good order before the person
conducting the contest is introduced to begin the contest.
The primary contestant waives the opportunity of a briefing.

** Yes, I know he never actually said it! Wikis’ take: ttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragnet_(series)#.22Just_the_facts.2C_ma.27am.22

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