Speech Contests FAQ
In what format are 2023-2024 speech contests taking place?Back to Top
For the 2023-2024 speech contest cycle, the Board of Directors has decided that all speech contests at the Area, Division, and District levels may be conducted in person only, online only, or in a hybrid format. The District Executive Committee (DEC) must have recommended the selected format (in person, online, or hybrid) for each level of the contest (Area, Division, District) to the District Council for approval no later than September 30, 2023 to allow proper budgeting. Once a format is approved for each level, no changes can be made.
How are in-person, online, and hybrid contests defined?Back to Top
In-person contests are those in which all participants (contestants, judges, and/or audience members) are onsite in a specified, physical contest location provided by the contest organizers. Online contests are those in which all participants (contestants, judges, and/or audience members) are online. Hybrid contests are those in which some participants are onsite in a physical contest location provided by the contest organizers and others are online using equipment they obtained themselves. For hybrid contests, contestants must be provided with the option to select the format that works best for their circumstances.
If a contest is being held live and in a hybrid format, attendees must be given the opportunity to view the contest either onsite or online. Additionally, if the contest is held live and is all onsite, attendees should still be given the opportunity to view the contest online through streaming. If the contest is pre-recorded, this recording should be shown in adherence to the format that was already selected for the District conference.
Can my District conduct in-person contests?Back to Top
Districts can conduct in-person contests, with all participants (contestants, judges, and/or audience members) onsite.
In-person contests may also be conducted if the District selects a hybrid format and all contestants elect to participate in person. In this circumstance, all contestants must be provided with the opportunity to select the format that works best for their circumstances.
If the District has chosen a hybrid format and all contestants choose to participate onsite, judges and functionaries may still participate in an online format but are not required to do so.
What are the guidelines for Districts conducting online or hybrid speech contests?Back to Top
Online speech contests must be conducted with each contestant participating from physically-distant locations, using equipment that each contestant obtains themselves. All contestants and contest officials must be present in real time for a live, online contest.
Hybrid contests must allow each contestant to select the format for which they will participate (onsite or online). Contestants cannot be penalized for selecting one format versus another.
All briefings and rehearsals must be conducted in the same format as the contest. For hybrid contests, this means that participants must be able to join briefings and rehearsals in the same format they will use on contest day (either remotely or in-person).
Can my District change our selected contest format in the middle of a contest level?Back to Top
The format selected for a level of the contest (Area, Division, District) must apply to all contests that take place at that level.
Once the District Executive Committee (DEC) recommends the selected format (in-person, online, or hybrid) for each level of the contest (Area, Division, District) and this format is approved, no changes can be made. This includes hybrid or in-person contests. Once it is decided that a contest at a certain level will be either hybrid or in person, this cannot be changed to an online only contest.
Can reaction buttons or emojis be used during online contests?Back to Top
It is recommended that reaction buttons, emojis, or other similar interactions are not used during speech contests. Such reactions could be a distraction to contestants and judges. If your online platform allows for reactions to be inactivated, it is recommended that you take this approach. You may also want to consider turning off chat for similar reasons. If you are not able to turn off reactions or chat, ensure that contestants, judges, and audience members know not to use these features, as they could disrupt the contest. If chat is disabled across the platform, please ensure all officials and contestants have a way contact the chief judge and contest chair if needed.
See the Best Practices for Online and Hybrid Speech Contests document for further recommendations related to use of chat and other platform features.
What are the guidelines regarding video or audio recording of a District speech contest?Back to Top
If a recording is made for any purpose other than to be used in region quarterfinal judging, Districts determine the guidelines regarding video or audio recording. Any guidelines established must not contradict the Speech Contest Rulebook and must consider the safety of contestants and audience members. All participants and attendees that will be on camera must sign the Photo/Video Release Form.
All recordings to be submitted for region quarterfinals must follow the rules outlined in the Speech Contest Rulebook. To help your District adhere to these rules while recording in an online or hybrid setting, review the Video Recording Guidelines.
Region quarterfinal contestants must complete the Speaker's Certification of Eligibility and Originality form (Item 1183) and the International Speech Contest Region Quarterfinals Video Release form (Item 1193).
If you are conducting your speech contest online, you must also read the below Virtual Speech Contest Statement and have anyone who will be on camera sign the Video Release Form.
Virtual speech contest statement
Where can I find more information or resources on speech contests?Back to Top
The first place to look for further information is the Speech Contest Rulebook. This contains all the rules for speech contests, several checklists with common steps to run or participate in a contest, and a list of available resources. Additionally, you can find more resources included in the speech contest kits, available as free digital downloads. These kits include certificates, ballots, tally sheets, and other resources for conducting a speech contest. For general information about the different types and levels of Toastmasters Speech Contests, visit the speech contest webpage.
Where can I find the dates and times of the speech contest in my Area, Division, or District?Back to Top
Toastmasters International World Headquarters does not track the dates and times that contests will be held for club, Area-, Division-, or District-level contests. We recommend speaking with your club or District leadership for further information on speech contest dates.
Who is ineligible to compete in any speech contest?Back to Top
In general, any individual who is performing the role of a contest official, including judges, counters, Sergeant at Arms, and a contest Toastmaster, cannot compete in a contest in which they are serving or in a contest in which the outcome of the contest they are officiating will be affected.
Additionally, District, region, and international leaders are not eligible to compete in speech contests. This includes current leaders and candidates for future roles in elected positions. Candidates for elected positions cannot compete in speech contests, as this could be used as a platform for campaigning or viewed as unfair exposure. However, appointed candidates are eligible to compete in speech contests because their roles are based on appointment and there is no campaigning involved.
Lastly, education session presenters and event committee chairs for the event where the contest is being held may not compete.
For full details regarding eligibility to compete in Toastmasters Speech Contests, review the Speech Contest Rulebook, General rules for al Toastmasters speech contests, section 2.Eligibility.
What happens if I pay my dues on time but my club treasurer does not submit my dues to World Headquarters?Back to Top
Unfortunately, in this instance, you are ineligible to compete. To compete in a Toastmasters Speech Contest, you must be a paid member of a club in good standing in the Area, Division, and District in which you are competing at the time of the contest.
The only way to maintain your paid membership is to make sure your Club Treasurer submits your dues to World Headquarters by October 1 for the October renewal period and by April 1 for the April renewal period. For new, dual, transfer, or reinstated members, the membership application and applicable dues must be received by World Headquarters prior to competing in the first contest.
Are contestants required to have completed a minimum number of speeches, projects, or levels to participate in a speech contest?Back to Top
The only speech contest with an education requirement is the International Speech Contest. To participate in any level of the International Speech Contest, a member must have completed Levels 1 and 2 of any path in the Toastmasters Pathways learning experience or earned the DTM award.
For clubs that chartered less than one year before the club contest, the charter members are permitted to compete without having completed this requirement.
Can a member compete in two Area contests if the areas are in different Divisions or Districts?Back to Top
No. A member can only compete in one Area contest of a given type.
Can a member serve as a contest chair at one contest and compete in another?Back to Top
Yes, as long as the contest where the member is competing and the contest where the member is serving as a contest chair are not at the same event.
Jane Doe is competing at District G's annual conference in the Tall Tales Contest. She cannot serve as a contest chair for any contests at District G's annual conference.
Jane is not competing in District F's annual conference. Jane Doe can serve as a contest chair for any contest at District F's annual conference.
What is a contest official? Can they serve more than one role?Back to Top
The following are contest officials included in the Speech Contest Rulebook: contest chair, contest Toastmaster, event committee chairs, chief judge, voting judges, tiebreaking judge, timers, sergeant at arms, and counters. Contest organizers may establish additional roles to assist with their contest as needed.
Officials should not serve in more than one role at the same contest, and they may not compete in the contest at which they are serving as an official.
Who can be an alternate speaker?Back to Top
The alternate speaker is the next person who is eligible to be a contestant at the next level after the first-place winner, when applicable. The alternate speaker is not limited to the next person in line for the contestant spot. For example, if the first-place winner from Division A is not available for the District-level contest, then the second-place winner from Division A would be considered the alternate. If the second-place winner from Division A is unavailable, then the third-place winner would be the next alternate, and so on until the last place contestant would be the alternate. If no other contestants are available, there would be no alternate.
Do judges need to remain anonymous?Back to Top
Yes. The names of the voting judges and the tiebreaking judge must remain anonymous, as much as is practical. Judges are not known to contestants, and no judges' names or contact information is provided in any contest materials.
Judges' decisions and identities are confidential. Sharing the names of judges could lead to confrontations with contestants or audience members who do not agree with the contest results. Anonymity helps the judges be more effective and make more objective decisions because confrontations after the contest are less likely.
Does the chief judge’s role include judging contestants?Back to Top
No. While the chief judge is a judge, they do not judge contestants. The role of the chief judge is to appoint and advise the judges, counters, timers, and tiebreaking judge. The chief judge also conducts the judges’ briefing before the contest, collects the time record sheet from the timers, collects the ballot from the tiebreaking judge, handles protests, and provides the list of winners to the contest chair at the end of the contest. Because the chief judge does not judge contestants, their identity does not need to remain anonymous.
What does it mean that "a member serving as a chief judge, voting judge or tiebreaking judge beyond the club level for a contest in which the member is still competing or intends to compete" is ineligible?Back to Top
Beyond the club level, a member cannot judge a contest where the contest result could lead to the member competing against the contest's winner.
John Smith wins Area B's Evaluation Contest. He is asked to judge Area C's Evaluation Contest. If he judges at Area C's Evaluation Contest, he is ineligible to continue competing in the District's Evaluation Contest.
Jane Smith is disqualified from Area B's Tall Tales Contest. Because she is no longer competing in the Tall Tales Contest, she can judge Area C's Tall Tales Contest. Similarly, if Jane Smith loses Area B's Tall Tales Contest, she can judge Area C's Tall Tales Contest because she is no longer competing.
An Area with five clubs has one club that is not in good standing. Can the clubs in good standing in that Area send two contestants to the Area contest?Back to Top
Yes. Areas with four assigned clubs or fewer in good standing may have clubs send two contestants to the Area contest.
Note: The decision whether or not to allow two contestants to advance from club to Area, from Area to Division, and/or from Division to District must be made and communicated throughout the District prior to any club contests being held as per Rule 3.B in the Speech Contest Rulebook. Once the decision is made, it must be implemented consistently throughout the District in all clubs, Areas, and Divisions affected.
What does the Speech Contest Rulebook mean when it says a speech must be “substantially original?”Back to Top
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. Each judge must determine if they believe that 25 percent or less of the speech was devoted to quotes, etc.
If there are only two contestants in a speech contest, and the first-place winner is unable to attend the next level of competition, and the second-placed contestant is disqualified, can we nominate someone else to attend the next level of competition?Back to Top
No. You cannot nominate a new contestant to compete at the next level of competition, nor can you allow the disqualified contestant to compete.
Can members be charged an entry fee in order to compete in a speech contest?Back to Top
No. Requiring members to pay an entry fee would be considered an addition to the eligibility rules outlined in the Speech Contest Rulebook. Rules can only be added through the administrative protocol with the approval of the Chief Executive Officer and International President. This provision is found under Speech Contest Policy in the Speech Contest Rulebook.
Example: Contestant A is competing in a speech contest at a District conference and intends to only compete in the contest. Contestant A is not attending any of the other conference sessions. Contestant A cannot be charged a registration fee. Contestant B is attending education sessions at the District conference in addition to competing in the speech contest. Contestant B can be charged a registration fee.
What are the rules regarding usage of music, media, or props in a speech contest speech?Back to Top
Props (including music, PowerPoint presentations, and virtual backgrounds) are allowed during speech contests in accordance with speech contest rules. Please review the Use of Props section of the Speech Contest Rulebook for complete details.
Can the current Division and Area Directors serve as the contest chair for their respective speech contests if they are a candidate?Back to Top
The Speech Contest Rulebook states “Candidates for elected District leader positions for the term beginning the subsequent July 1 are ineligible to serve as a contest official or as a test speaker at the Area, Division, or District level.”
Serving as a speech contest chair is part of the duties for some District leaders. The intention is not to limit the District leader’s responsibilities, but to avoid any perceived unfair advantage toward candidates that do not have the same opportunity.
Candidates cannot use their role as speech contest chair to campaign for an elected role. If possible, it is recommended that District leaders who are candidates appoint a Toastmaster to perform contest chair responsibilities that involve opening the contest, introducing contestants, etc. This could help to remove any possible perception of an unfair advantage due to additional time speaking in front of voting members.
Can a candidate for the upcoming election cycle who is also serving as a Division or Area Director be a contest official at a contest of a different District, Division, and/or Area in which they are not a leader.Back to Top
No, Division and Area Directors cannot serve as a speech contest official for a contest outside of their respective Division or Area.
Can the Program Quality Director(s) serve as the speech contest chair for the District level contest?Back to Top
Yes, the Program Quality Director(s) may serve as the speech contest chair for the District-level contest. However, they must take special care to ensure they do not receive an unfair amount of stage time during the speech contests.
As an alternative, the District-level speech contests may be held after the Annual Meeting of the District Council to avoid the need to monitor the stage time for the Program Quality Director(s).
The Program Quality Director(s) cannot use their service as contest chair to campaign for an elected role. If possible, it is recommended that District leaders who are candidates appoint a Toastmaster to perform contest chair responsibilities that involve opening the contest, introducing contestants, etc. This could help to remove any possible perception of an unfair advantage due to additional time speaking in front of voting members.