A Better Contestant Interview

At speech contests, are you – like me – tired of the same old – “What club are you from? Why did you first join Tastmasters?” interview questions of contestants (while the votes are tallied?)
Hate filling out “biodata” forms just to have them ignored anyway?

Here is my proposal:
Replace biodata from with “Contestant Interview Form”
1. Name – with phonetic pronunciation
2. Club name and location (with pronunciation)
3. How long have you been a Toastmaster?

The above will be used to introduce you after the contest when we
interview the contestants. In other words. The contest chair will tell everyone your name, club affiliation and how long you have been a Toastmasters – per your written answers. THEN they will interview you.

About you:

4. Is there something specific you would like me to ask you about?

5. Is there anything you DO NOT want me to ask about?

6. May I ask you about the content of your speech?

7. Please list some hobbies, interest or unique/interesting things
about you that I may ask about:

Gracefully Handling a contest protest (originality)

Although protests for originality in Toastmasters speech contests may be rare, it would be nice to have rules/guidelines on how they are best handled.

I could not find an official guide to handling a protest for originality in a Toastmasters speech contest, so here are my initial suggestions.
THESE ARE ABSOLUTELY NOT OFFICIAL! They are also a first draft. How would you improve them?

(I am not sure anyone if anyone could claim the individual did not “… alone prepared [their] speech …” so this addresses only protests of originality)

1. Anyone in attendance may believe that a contest speech is not “substantially original”. (From the 2104 speech contest rulebook: “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 presentation.”)
Although protests may only be lodged by contestants and judges, anyone may request to speak with the (identified to everyone) chief judge or contestant and present the information specifying the published source of what they think is the original and uncredited source of a substantial part of the speech.
Note: Only contestants and judges may file a protest! If they receive compelling information that a speech is not original, it is their duty to file a protest.

2. The chief judge (or contestant or judge who is protesting or received the protest information from an audience member) would write down the evidence presented to them by any person, whether a contestant, judge or audience member.

NOTE: a protest can ONLY be filed by a contestant or judge – but a contestant or judge they may decide to file a protest if they receive evidence from someone who is not a contestant or judge. This is allowed, despite the fact that judges identify is not openly publicized. Most likely someone would tell a contestant to file the protest, since they have a strong interest in the contest being judged fairly and the rules followed fairly.

3. The contestant or judge officially lodging the protest with the Chief judge presents the evidence to the chief judge verbally and be given some time (maximum 10 minutes) to prepare a written originality protest. The Chief Judge informs the Contest Chair that a protest is being lodged and that some time is required.

3a. If the contestant has been disqualified for time, the chief judge ends the protest process here.

4. If the evidence alleged is not available in writing at the contest (this is probably close to 99% likely) a web search via computer or mobile phone could be done. Bear in mind that not all information on the web is accurate. The chief judge could allow an additional 10 minutes for this online research.
The contest chair is to be advised if this time is required.

5. All evidence collected is to be duplicated/photocopied if possible, with enough copies of the written protest and any printed evidence/references for each judge and the challenged contestant.

6. The chief judge convenes the judges and the challenged contestant in a private area. The chief judge chairs the meeting and maintains control (including passing control of who is the speaker and time limits.) The Chief judge reads the written protest and distribute copies (if available) to all judges and the challenged contestant. All attendees are given “adequate” time to review any written material. Do NOT include or identify the tie-breaking judge – they are NOT of this process.

7. The contestant is given 3 minutes to orally make their case defending their speech as substantially original. If they chose to withdraw from the contest, that is done in front of the chief judge and the convened judges at the meeting in progress. If the challenged contestant has already left the contest meeting for the duration of the contest and is not available, the process should be completed without them present.

8. The judges are then given 3 minutes (total) to question the contestant if desired.

9. The Chief Judge asks all judges if any of them prefers a written ballot. If ANY judge requests a written ballot, then all voting done by having each judge take a piece of paper, print their name, sign their name and write “Contestant Disqualified” or “Contestant OK” on their paper. The Chief Judge collects the ballots, tallies them and announces the results to the judges. One judge is selected to audit the counting.The Chief Judge  does NOT get a vote.

If ALL judges agree to oral vote, the judge polls the judges for an oral Yes/No vote on the protest. Each judge gets one vote and may abstain. If a majority of the judges (more than half) vote for the disqualification, the contestant is disqualified. There is no requirement to inform anyone, audience or contestants about any originality protests filed, voted on or enforced.

10. If the Contestant is disqualified, the chief judge revises the final standings of the contestants.

From TI judges training pdf:
“If the Contestant is disqualified, the contest chair will notify the contestant of the disqualification prior to that announcement before the meeting at which the contest took place is adjourned.”

This process needs to be done in the event of a protest no matter what the results of the voting are.
This process is not to be skipped because someone believes that “it doesn’t matter in the results”. There are many cases where runners-up further down and the top three have been eligible to compete in the further rounds of contests.
Of course all protests on originality must be done before the results are announced.

Gag me with a Gag Order

Message from the Official Toastmasters Facebook Group –
From Gary Schmidt:

Effective immediately, I have asked Board members to refrain from responding to questions about policy and guidelines on social media sites and all social networks, including LinkedIn, Facebook and Ning. If you have specific questions regarding Toastmasters International policies and guidelines, please visit https://www.toastmasters.org/contactus to select the appropriate contact for your inquiry.

Members of the Board, myself included, may remain members of this forum to listen to and learn from your feedback and ideas, but will not be responding to discussions. We do value and listen to the voice of every member, not just on social networking sites, but in all forms of communication.

Well, how is that for effective oral communication?

7 Habits of Frequently Failing People

OK, I don’t know 7.

subtitle: I Fail therefore I am (likely to improve).

But what successful people do is … do small things consistently well over an extended time.
And they learn how to do that by failing. A Lot.
I mean failing many times.
Maybe it isn’t really failing but it is the ERROR part of Trial and Error.

Want to be SUCCESSFUL?
Maybe ask yourself, “What have I failed at today?”

Step out of your comfort zone…
Find a safe place to experiment (Toastmasters Clubs are a great place)

Try chairing a contest or running a PR campaign – ESPECIALLY IF YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO IT!

Go on, you have permission to Fail (which is really permission to Succeed.)

a DTM is a DTM …

Except when it isn’t.

Toastmasters International is clear and consistent.
Once you have earned a DTM (distinguished Toastmaster) award (by earning CC,ABC, ACS, ACG, CL,ALB, ALS)
you can get another one by doing an ACG and an ALS – WITHOUT REDOING THE PREREQUISITES FOR THOSE!

This means a subsequent DTM earned this way IS NOT EQUIVALENT to a DTM earned by doing all the requirements.

It should be a DTM*

* = ACG and ALS only.

Update 11 Sep 2009
Now it seems TI is saying a DTM IS a DTM and people must complete all requirements from the start for subsequent DTM…
… That is a GOOD changes … now what about all those DTMs they awarded for just doing an ACG and ALB over?

D-I-Y Evaluations

Many Toasty clubs take 1 minute and ask audience to “give some feedback” to the speaker. Some use a copy of the manual speech evaluation page, some use a “sandwich” form.

What I notice though, is that most speakers waste that minute of their lives 🙂
OK, I’ll cut them a break, they just stepped up and gave a speech… but, use that minute.

Do a D-I-Y Evaluation!
Write yourself notes about what went great, what you would do better if (when) you do the speech again.
You know as well as anyone!

Waste of my time?

I find it annoying when a club has a website which says, “we meet EVERY Wednesday at noon.”

Oh, except THIS Wednesday.

And you emailed all your members.

Just not potential guests and visitors.


methinks: bad information os worse than no information.

Don’t you have a nice … back of your head

The past 2 Toastmasters meeting I attended were chaired by very nice, gracious Toastmasters.
Both of them followed their clubs’ “way of doing things” and sat unobtrusively …. behind the speaker.

Oops. Now I am not against unobstrusion (how is that for obfuscation 🙂 ? However …

The speaker deserves to have all in the room as part of their audience – including the chair/Toastmaster of the Day.
It also helps the chair be in the moment – it is far harder to get distracted reviewing the agenda and thinking about what comes next while you are actively listening to a speaker.

C’mon Down! take a seat (near the front is OK – in fact good!) and join us regular old Toastmasters in the audience when you are the chair. You’ll enjoy the show!

Trifecta ?

trifecta I am a “virtual bachelor” for the next 9 days (OK, technically I am a “real” bachelor until I get married in October) but my fiancee has left the continent …
So I am going to see how many Toastmasters meeting I can attend. Today I hope to get to 3.

The first one was “breakfast” 7:30 a.m open/community club. Having it in the back of a large corporate cafeteria helped – there was coffee available in the cafeteria. (I usually get up after this meeting has ended)
3 great speeches – I know people often say this – and like them 😉 – I mean it. An ice breaker speaker talked about the inspiration she got from her mother’s early life – and when someone get’s up at 3:30 a.m. to study by lamplight in taiwan before going to do the farming so she can not be prevented form attending school, I quit complaining about the “early” hour of this meeting.
I also liked how the Grammarian stressed the listening challenge of the role.

Listening as a part of communication is – for me – not stressed enough in Toastmasters. When I see people at a meeting looking at the agenda while a speaker is introduced or speaking (I guess I think it is OK to watch the audience a bit while a speaker speaks 🙂
I think, ” I want to be sure to ‘be in the moment’ and focus ‘”
Next stop, I get to be guest grammarian at 13:00 meeting.

I ended up doing Grammarian at next 2 meetings.
Now I reaffirm that this is the most undervalued and underutilized role in Toastmasters.
I presented my role as Grammarian as the most divers and most challenging in the meeting:
1. Prepared speech
2. Visual aids
3. Listening skills
4. feedback and evaluation
5. impromptu speaking

The whole shebang in one role!

Go ahead, shake things up a bit, ask for 3 minutes at each end of the meeting when you are grammarian and knock their socks off!

Let the Games begin (sooner)

I love Toastmasters contests. Well not everything about them.
I love the contestants performing – and I love competing myself.
I love chairing contests and chief judging.

I hate the briefings usually given by contest chairs and chief judges.
And now, I present “My ideal contest preliminaries”:

Sgt At Arms (SAA)
– opens meeting
– directs all attenders to shut off all things electronic including cameras and communication devices
– explains that door will closed during contestants on stage

The Chief judge reports that all officials have been briefed
(I recommend that anyone who insists that everyone in the audience be informed of a summary of the rules: print them on a separate sheet or on the agenda. People CAN read.)

The Chair reports that all contestants have been briefed, then announces the order they will compete and opens the contest

The audience, there for entertainment and enjoyment rather than hearing all about the rules, checks their agendas one last time and sits UP and enjoys the show!