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Toastmasters International FAQ part 5 of 5: Speech Contests

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See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge Frequently Asked Questions part 5 of 5:
Toastmasters International Speech Contests

1.  What's all this about speech contests?

     In order to provide for people who enjoy competitive speaking,
     and in order to showcase the best, Toastmasters clubs hold
     speech contests as many as five times a year.  Each contest
     starts at the club level and works its way up through Area and
     Division to the District.  Three contests go on to Regional
     and one goes on to the World Convention each August.

     The contests are:

     * Tall Tales - 3 to 5 minutes in length.  A tall tale, which
     must be original (you can't use someone else's material). 
     Goes as far as the District level in most Districts.

     * Table Topics - 1 to 2 minutes in length.  Impromptu speak-
     ing.  All contestants are taken out of the room and brought
     back in one by one to speak on the *same* topic, which should
     be general in nature and not require specialized knowledge
     which some contestants might have while others might not. 
     Since no contestant hears the topic before his turn to speak
     on it, you can judge their impromptu speaking abilities by the
     way in which each person's effort stacks up against the
     others.  Goes as far as the District level in most Districts.

     * Evaluation - 2 to 3 minutes in length.  A target speaker
     gives a speech which all the evaluation contestants are to
     evaluate.  The contestants are taken from the room and given
     five minutes to prepare their speeches and make notes.  Then,
     their notes are taken away and they are brought back into the
     room one by one (at which time the contestant gets his notes
     back) to deliver their oral evaluation of the target speech. 
     Since no contestant hears what another said about the target
     speech, the judges can compare the analytical abilities of the
     contestants.  Goes as far as the Regional level in Regions 8;
     the other Regions do not have it.

     * Humorous speech - 5 to 7 minutes.  Humorous speaking, which
     must be original.  Year after year, people hear the rules read
     to them and then stand up and present Bill Cosby routines and
     then act puzzled when they're disqualified.  It's supposed to
     be a *speech*, not a monologue, and it MUST be original.  It
     should also be "clean."  So-called "blue humor" will get you
     zero points in the "appropriateness" column of the judges'
     forms.  In other words, it should be a five-to-seven minute
     speech with a lot of humor value, but ALSO displaying good
     speechmaking abilities.  Goes as far as the Regional level in
     most Regions.

     * International Speech - 5 to 7 minutes.  Any topic at all, so
     long as it's original.  Can be funny, serious, whatever.  It
     should be the best speech you can give, and it must be
     original.  Did I mention that it must be original?  Don't do
     what so many speakers do and crib at length from someone
     else's works and then expect that no one in the audience will
     smell a rat.  The reason this contest is called "International
     Speech" instead of "General Speech" or "Miscellaneous Speech"
     is because it's the only one of the five contests that goes as
     far as the World level.  Each August, winners from the eight
     Regions and the Overseas clubs (9 contestants in all) compete
     at the World Convention in the World Championship of Public

2.  How do you pick the winners?

     Each contest has a set of rules which mandate originality and
     lay down the procedures.  If you go over your time limit by
     thirty seconds, you're eliminated.  If you go UNDER your time
     limit by thirty seconds, you're eliminated -- except in Table
     Topics, where you must speak at least one minute, no less. 
     Out in the audience, there'll be a set of judges, scattered
     among the audience, each with a points form that they use to
     rate you against what a winning effort should be and how you
     stack up against the others.  There's a different form for
     each contest, since each contest involves different skills.

3. Who gets to compete?

     Any member in good standing (i.e. you've got your dues paid)
     can compete when the contests come around -- except for
     current District and International officers and candidates for
     same -- except for the International Speech Contest.  To
     compete in the International Speech Contest, you must have
     given at least six manual speeches towards your CTM.  This
     requirement is intended to prevent professional speakers from
     joining Toastmasters out of the blue solely to compete toward
     the World Championship of Public Speaking.  District and
     International officers are barred so the judges won't be
     swayed by their titles.

4. When do the contests take place?

     It varies from District to District.  Some Districts have two
     contests in the fall, one in the winter, and two in the
     spring.  Others have two in the fall, two in the winter, and
     one in the spring.  All that matters as far as Toastmasters
     International is concerned is that all Districts must have
     held their Evaluation, Humorous, and International Speech
     contests by the time the Regional conferences roll around in

5. What do I get if I win a contest?

     At the club level, sometimes all you get is a handshake and
     some applause.  By the time you've gotten up to Division and
     District levels, you're getting some fairly impressive

6. My District has different rules for the various speech contests.
   Is this permitted?

     This situation came up recently in District 37 (North Carolina).
     A club was told that the official District rules for the Humorous
     Speech Contest mandated similar eligibility requirements for the
     Humorous contest as for the International Speech contest, to wit,
     all contestants had to have been members on or before July 1 of the
     current year, and had to have given at least four (I.S. requires six)
     manual speeches.  According to the District officers involved, 
     these were the official rules for all Humorous Speech contests held
     in North Carolina, and even though the official rules mailed to
     all clubs by Toastmasters International mandated that the only 
     eligibility requirement be membership in good standing in a club
     in good standing, the District 37 rules applied nonetheless.

     The club President in question checked with TI WHQ and was told
     in no uncertain terms that any District which holds speech contests
     must use the official Toastmasters International rules and that 
     Districts are not permitted to change the rules as published by
     Toastmasters International in any way.

     This policy of course doesn't apply to contests the District has
     invented on its own, but for the Big 5 (International, Humorous,
     Table Topics, Tall Tales, and Evaluation), if your District has
     changed the time limits, eligibility requirements, or policy
     regarding originality (one District supposedly waived the origi-
     nality requirement for the Tall Tales contest), they're in the
     wrong.  If they don't believe this to be the case, ask them to
     contact Toastmasters International World Headquarters themselves.
     They'll be swiftly corrected.

     Why is this important, by the way?  Simple: the only official
     rules most clubs get for the contests are the ones TI themselves
     mail out.  It would be tremendously discouraging to be belatedly
     told that the rules your club had used for the contest you won
     were not the official rules as practiced in YOUR District, and
     thus, you can't compete at the next level.  In many cases, 'Offi-
     cial District Rules' are known only by those who have a dog-eared
     photocopy that's five years old (as was the case in District 37).
     That's wrong.  If your District has changed the rules, tell them 
     they can't, and if they say "Sure we can," let TI World HQ know.

     Contests are fun, but it's important to run them the same way
     everywhere around the world.  Fairness and a level playing field
     aren't just luxuries.  They're required.

7.  Hey, what about the Debate Contest or the Interpretive Reading 
Contest or some other contest you didn't mention?

     Districts can hold whatever contests they want in addition to
     the five sanctioned International contests listed above.  However,
     these vary from District to District and it would not be possible
     to list all the various speech contests held throughout the world
     of Toastmasters here in this FAQ.  

Find out when your next speech contest is, and ask about competing or
being a judge.  It's fun! 

User Contributions:

Matthew Kleinosky
Report this comment as inappropriate
Dec 20, 2011 @ 7:07 am
fees are way out of date - need updating.

e.g. $16.00 New Member fee
should be

$20.00 New Member fee

and $3 a month should be $6

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