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Speech Contest Judge’s Training Program

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A two-hour seminar-style progrm teaching participants how to judge Speech Contests.

The Contest Officials carry out the task of determining the placement of the Contestants in a Speech Contest, decide (where applicable) whether a Contestant's speech is suitably original, and note whether the Contestant's speech is within the mandated time limits. Contest Officials fall in the following roles:

  • Chief Judge (also considered Chief Counter)
  • Timer
  • Counter
  • Contest Judge
  • Qualifying Judge
  • Tie-Breaker Judge

Proper judging is essential to achieving the goal of leaving the participants satisfied that the contest was fair and that the winner deserved his or her award. At the very least, even if a participant does not share the judgment of the contestants’ placement, he or she should feel that the Contest Officials did the best job they could do.

Responsibilities and Positive Attributes of a Judge

When you work as a Judge in a Speech Contest, you have responsibilities, you must understand your role, and you must bring out your best attributes.

Responsibility

  • To the Contestants—As Judge, you must be fair, impartial, and must deliver a professional performance.
  • To Toastmasters International—Your performance as Judge reflects on the entire Toastmasters organization and its public persona.
  • To the attendees—Your performance as Judge affects the satisfaction of the participants, who should leave the contest feeling positive about their further participation in Toastmasters
  • To ourselves—To fulfill your commitment to self-improvement you must do your very best to make competent and proper decisions when judging a contest.

Judging is not Evaluating

A Contest Judge is not an Evaluator, whose job it is to work with the speaker to improve his speaking skills. Instead, your function is to simply rank the contestants according to their performance. You must keep your observations and decisions confidential: do not explain your decision to the contestant; do not advise them how they may improve. All placement slips and score cards should be destroyed by the Chief Judge and the respective judges.

Your Attributes as a Good Judge

  • Perceptive—You listen carefully and attentively. Lack of attention can lead to your misperceiving the content of the speech—leading to a poor decision.
  • Competent—You are familiar with the contest rules, reviewing them before each contest and applying them without exception. You are familiar with the Judge’s Form, know how to employ it to its best advantage.
  • Accurate—You are committed to making correct decisions, fill out the Judge’s Form correctly and sum up the point totals accurately.
  • Fair—You are an impartial judge and avoid allowing friendship, affiliation, age, sex, race, creed, national origin, profession, or disapproval of speech topics improperly to sway your decisions.
  • Trustworthy—You are mindful of the trust placed in you—by the contest officials, contestants, audience members, and Toastmasters everywhere—to select the best speaker as winner, and you live up to that trust.

Pitfalls

Top Billing and Bottom Billing Phenomenon

There is an understandable tendency to remember the first speaker above the others. If each succeeding speaker is judged against the first, the later ones will fare worse than they deserve. In a like manner, the last speaker tends to leave a more vivid impression, because more recent.

Give each speaker the attention they deserve.

The Underdog Effect

A new Toastmaster or one who has to overcome a handicap may engage our feelings of sympathy.

Give each speaker the objective attention they deserve.

The Halo Effect

When a person has a strong favorable trait, we tend to judge them more positively on other aspects as well. We may think, “This person has a really engaging, dynamic delivery”—and decide that their content is better than it really is.

Consider each speaker’s speech attributes fairly and independently.

The Ragamuffin Effect

When a speaker dresses less well than we like, or has poor diction, we may find ourselves downgrading them in other areas of assessment.

Consider each speaker’s speech attributes fairly and independently.

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

“I heard this speaker when she competed at the Area contest—and she did a much better job then!”

Judge the speech on its own merits.

Do Not Hog the Trophy, Buddy

Yes, the speaker has won the District Humorous Speech Contest four times in past years, but it would be a disservice to discount their performance on that basis.

Judge the speech on its own merits.

Things Aren’t Done That Way, Where I Come From

Sometimes we have a dogmatic approach to judging speeches: “If a podium is provided, it is bad practice for the speaker to step in front of it”, or “The speaker should never turn his back on the audience”, or “The speaker deliberately used vernacular speech—it was ungrammatical!”

Avoid tripping over your dogma.

It Is Not To My Taste

Your beliefs, preferences, tastes, and your prejudices constitute the most pernicious barrier to your objectivity in judging a speech. You may find that you distinctly favor a speech—or distinctly disfavor a speech—but ask yourself whether those likes or dislikes are relevant to judging the speech. For example, the choice of speech topic may be off putting to you—but try not to let this affect your judgment of the speaker's placement.

Judge by the given criteria

Unfamiliarity with the Judge's Form

If you are not familiar with the Judge's Form, you may distract yourself from judging the speech while you puzzle over it—don't let that happen.

Get competent at using the Judge’s Form before the contest starts.

Common Misconceptions

  • “It is not correct to use humor in the International Speech Competition” Wrong: do not downgrade a speech for using humor. Like any rhetorical technique, humor may be used in aid of supporting the speaker's message.
  • “A speech in the International Speech Contest should be inspirational or motivational” Actually, any type of speech may be given.
  • “The speaker disqualified himself by going over time” As a Contest Judge, you are not to enforce any time limit on the speech; that is the job of the Timer. Judge the speech without reference to the clock.
  • “The speaker has disqualified herself by violating a rule.” An individual judge must disregard any of the three bases under which a Contestant may be disqualified (see Protests and Disqualification below). However, other rule violations may be taken into account when a judge determines the placement of a speaker. For example, if a Contestant steps outside of the designated speaking area, this rule violation cannot disqualify him, but a judge may take this rule violation into account when filling out her ballot.

Using the Judge’s Form

Parts of the Form

Top portion—your worksheet

The top portion is not given to the counter: it is to aid your decision-making process.

Bottom portion—your ballot

The ballot must be complete and have names entered into each of the three placements, first, second, third, with no ties. Failing to enter a name in each placement disqualifies your ballot.

Tie-Breaking Judges fill out a different ballot: you rank each contestant from top to bottom; every contestant must be ranked.

You must sign your ballot. You will give it to the Counter sealed.

How to assign values on the worksheet

There are several techniques for filling out the worksheet

Fold-a-ballot method

Employ the far right column for the first speaker. When you have entered all your notes, fold that portion under: now the far right column will be used for speaker number 2. Repeat.

This method allows you to consider each speaker independently, without reference to the other speakers. When awarding points, you must have your own point of reference for each category, independent of any speaker.

Take notes

Instead of using your worksheet during the speeches, simply take notes on the speaker. This method allows you to avoid getting caught up in considering any one judging category at the expense of another. When you enter your points for the second speaker, you will use the first speaker as a point of comparison.

To use this method, you should be able to judge a speech's many aspects without reference to a guide.

Use points

Assign point values to each category without reference to other contestants

Rank a contestant relative to the earlier contestants

Assign a relative value to a category; after all the contestants have spoken, assign the point values.

Worksheet categories

The major headings on the worksheet are Content, Deliver, and Language.

Content

The substance of the speaker’s message, representing 50% of the points. Consider Speech Development, Speech Effectiveness, and Speech Value.

Speech Development
  • Structure—did the speech have a clearly defined opening, body, and conclusion?
  • Organization—Was the speech organized so that the speaker’s ideas were lucid and flowed well? Could the listeners perceive them, visualize them, and follow their logic?
  • Flow—Did the speaker move smoothly from idea to idea, using effective transitions?
  • Purposeful—Did the speaker show a clear and well-defined purpose in the speech?
  • Pace—Did the speech move along gracefully?
  • Support—Did the speaker marshal facts, examples, and illustrations to support their positions?
Speech Effectiveness
  • Connection—How did the audience react to the speech and to its subject matter?
  • Relevance—Did the audience find the content relevant and appropriate to the occasion? Did the speaker consider the audience and the occasion during speech preparation?
  • Clarity—How well did the audience understand the speaker's goal?
  • Purpose—categorize the speech intent as entertainment, informative, persuasive, or inspirational.
  • Success—Compare the speaker’s intent with the reality of the accomplishment. Was the speaker successful in achieving their purpose?
Speech Value
  • Message—Did the speaker have something to say, the speech a clear message?
  • Substance—Did the message have substance and logic?
  • Originality—Did the speaker have something fresh to say?
  • Taste—Was the speech in good taste?
  • Nourishment—To what extent did the speech contribute to the listener’s knowledge, stimulate their thoughts and their intellectual growth?

Delivery

If Speech Content is substance, then Speech Delivery is how that content is brought to the listener, representing 30% of total points.

Physical Presence
  • Curb appeal—Was the speaker appropriately attired and neatly turned out, manifesting care for their appearance?
  • Comportment—Did the speaker convey alertness and propriety through their stance?
  • Countenance—Did the speaker's facial expressions convey emotion, attract the audience?
  • Eye contact—Did the speaker connect with the audience visually, include the entire audience, and reflect their interest in the audience?
  • Body language—Did the speaker use large and small body movements to convey the message, engage the audience?
Vocal Technique
  • Quality—Was the speaker’s voice pleasing, warm, assured, firm?
  • Modulation—Did the speaker modulate their voice to convey feeling and emotion?
  • Rate—Was the tempo appropriate; did it vary to convey different feeling?
  • Volume—Did the speaker’s voice fill the room?
  • Diction—Did the speaker articulate clearly, speak distinctly?
  • Contact—Did the speaker build rapport with the audience, show concern for the audience?
  • Confidence—Did the speaker convey sincerity and elicit the audience's sympathy?
  • Enthusiasm—Did the speaker manifest their own inspiration and elicit same from the audience?

Language

This category, worth 20% of the points, concerns how the speech’s ideas were clothed in words and woven into thoughts.

Appropriateness
  • Compatibility—Does the speaker's language work well with the speech, with the audience, the occasion?
  • Understanding—Does the speaker’s language convey the message effectively and clearly, does the audience understand the speaker’s language?
  • Accuracy—Does the speaker's language accurately convey their message?
Correctness
  • Propriety—Is the speaker’s grammar and pronunciation correct?
  • Clarity—Is the speaker's enunciation good?
Effectiveness
  • Choice—Is the speaker’s choice of words and grammar effective in conveying the message, convincing in portraying the thought?
  • Mastery—Does the speaker demonstrate a mastery of the language they have chosen to convey the message?

Protests and Disqualification

Any judge or contestant may protest to the Chief Judge or Contest Chair before the announcement of the winner and alternates. Once the winner is properly announced, the judges’ decision is final.

Disqualification may rest on only three bases:

  • Violation of the eligibility requirements of the Speaking Contest Rules (Item 1171). Such violations are the responsibility of the Contest Chair, not the judges. However, a judge may report the possible violation to the Contest Chair.
  • Speaking over- or under time. The job of the Timers is to determine if a contestant fails to observe time limitations. Judges do not take such considerations into account when assigning placement to a Contestant.
  • Originality requirements. If a protest is lodged, the matter is decided by in a meeting involving all of the judges, presided over by the Chief Judge and Contest Chair. The contestant must be interviewed as part of this process.


Resources

  • Speech Contest Rules (Item 1171, PDF, $1.50)—Speech contest rules for the International, Evaluation, Humorous, Table Topics, Tall Tales, and Taped Speech Contests.
  • Speech Contest Manual (Item 1173, 16 pp, $2.00)—complete information on conducting the International Speech Contest (adaptable to any speech contest).
  • Time Record Sheet And Instructions For All Speech Contests (Item 1175, 1 pp, $0.15)—Explains the timing procedure and includes a chart for speech contest timers to complete. Suitable for use in any contest.
  • Counters' Tally Sheet (Item 1176, 1 pp, $0.15)—Chart for completion by ballot counters. Suitable for use in any contest.
  • Contestant's Previous Speech Outline ([ Item 1185], , $)—
  • Qualifying Judge's Sheet ([ Item 1186], , $)—
  • Speech Contest Judge’s Training Program (Item 1190, $20.00)—two-hour seminar-style program teaches participants how to judge speech contests. Contains:
    • Speech Contest Judges Training Program Presenter's Script (Item 1190A, 36 pp, $6.00)—script and instructions for presenting the Speech Contest Judge’s Training Program.
    • CD with PowerPoint presentation for Item 1190A.
    • Judge's Guide And Ballot For International Speech Contest (Item 1172, 2pp ea, Set of 10, $1.25)—Ballot to be used by a Contest Judges for the International Speech Contest, suggesting relative point values for speaking skills.
    • Set of 10 Judge's Training Program Completion Certificate (Item 1184, 1 pp, $0.40)—Certificate to be presented to participants of the Speech Contest Judge's Training Program upon completion.
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