Filling the gaps in the Toastmasters Contest Rulebook

If anyone has been a certified referee in any sport, they know there are rules that cover nearly everything which can happen. Heres a recent update to the ASA softball rulebook:

If discovered using the wrong number of females or males in the
outfield or infield and brought to the umpire’s attention by the offended team:
a) After a pitch legal or illegal or play made,
EFFECT: All action stands.
b) Before the next pitch legal or illegal or play made,
c) Before the defense has left the field,
d) Before the umpires have left the field of play,
EFFECT: b, c and d
1) If the batter hits the ball and reaches first base safely, and all other
runners have advanced at least one base. All action of the batted ball
2) If all runners, including the batter runner, do not advance at least one base.
The manager has the option of taking the result of the play

Eeek! I am not suggesting that Toastmasters make the rulebook resemble the rulebook for major sports. But the 2011 speech contest rulebook and manual [ LINK to rulebook ], while a GREAT improvement over the previous version just has too many gaps that are causing pain to members when “stuff happens”.

What seems fair and proper to one person may not seem so to another person or contestant. The result? I have heard from several people who are disgusted with the Toastmasters contest process, having seen well meaning people make very poor choices in handling contest “situations”.

Recently, I saw a person, not associated with a contest in any way, walk into the contest room via an “extra” door and proceed to use an automated bank machine – beeps and all, while a speech contestant spoke. By my watch, that contestant went over time, without a time extension and in fact a time DQ was announced. There was no malfunction in the timing so no time extension was indicated. But *something* was indicated.

What is the best thing to do in cases “like this”? Various people have various opinions. I don;t have the answers to all but I do know that it would be better if the Contest Chair and/or Chief Judge were empowered – by the rulebook – to make a decision and take action. I have been sent many stories like this, where the details vary, but the gist being, something we did not expect or ever see before happened and at least one contestant feel a bit abused.

To start, I recommend that the rulebook people/committee consider adding a “Special Circumstances” section with something like:

If special circumstances occur which are not covered in this rulebook, which by their nature cause a conflict with the rules, the chief judge shall make the required decisions required to conduct the contest as fairly as possible to all contestants.

This section is not meant to describe all possible scenarios but as an example, medical or other safety emergencies which interrupt the proceedings, disruptive behavior, not enough judges present, etc. may be situations where the chief judge should make the decisions to support the ongoing conduct of the contest as fairly, congenially and orderly as possible.

After the completion of the contest, the chief judge should document the circumstances and the decisions made simply and clearly and forward these to the District Governor within 5 days.

The purpose of forwarding the info to the District Governor is not for them to have the power to overturn the decisions made but to allow things which happen to be considered in future rulebook revisions.

I do not think we need to specify everything which can happen, but we do need some guidance on what do we do now, who is in charge when, for example a table topics contestant gets early knowledge of a topic, a speech is severely interrupted, etc.

From my perspective, that would go a long way to giving a method/process for handling “everything else’ which puts the control into a few, experience, reliable hands.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *