Reducing Overwhelm

Contest Season Is Upon Us

District 84 has a lot of contests to plan.

36 Clubs, 40 Areas, 8 Divisions, 1 District

Before you start planning, make sure your purpose for planning the contest isn’t “Because free food!” While tempting, it might not impress the contestants much. 

Choosing a date can be a bit like scheduling a family reunion. Avoid the holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries of everyone you’ve ever met to maximize attendance.

Venue hunting can be like online dating. You think you’ve found ‘THE ONE,’ but it turns out to be nothing like the pictures and doesn’t have hybrid capability.

Ensure you have a backup plan for your backup plan. When your test speaker can’t make it because of traffic, you can’t blame it on the ghost of Ralph Smedley.

To ensure smooth logistics, hire a team of ninja event planners. Silent, efficient, and they can fix anything with a ninja kick.

Respond to all emails with GIFs. It’s hard to be stressed when your inbox is a collection of laughing cats and dancing penguins.

But seriously…we have some Toastmasters protocols and we have to have fun doing it. It takes a lot of work to have a successful contest.  To understand the reasons behind contests, let’s examine why we have contests.

A Toastmasters speech contest has three purposes:

1. To provide an opportunity for proficient speakers and those Toastmasters who are interested in competitive speaking to gain contest experience.

2. To provide an interesting educational program for Toastmasters and the general public. This program can create a community awareness of the opportunities in the Toastmasters program.

3. To provide an opportunity to those Toastmasters who are not participating in the contest to learn by observing proficient speakers.

Who’s the grand po-ba of this contest, you ask? Well, it’s like finding the grand master of a chaotic circus, but with more budgeting skills than a squirrel hiding nuts for winter! Our Contest Chair does it all. Besides juggling the budget, they’re like a detective, searching high and low for the perfect venue, because nothing says “speech contest” like a cozy llama farm, right?

They’re also experts at establishing a hybrid setup. They can make a virtual audience feel like they’re right there in the room, enjoying the speeches.

But that’s not all! They’re the hype machine, making sure everyone knows about it. What would a speech contest be like without an audience?

They ensure that only the most eloquent of speakers are eligible to compete.

And don’t even get me started on the technology. Did I mention the contests will be hybrid? The contest masters are the IT wizards who can magically fix everything with a wave of their… PowerPoint Clicker.

Oh, and briefings! They hold those like a boss, making sure everyone’s on the same page. It’s like they’re training a troop of acrobatic penguins for the main event. I’ve also heard the contest master called a cat herder.  Right, Sue?

But wait, there’s more! The contest chair chooses the chief judge who is like the head penguin, with a team of judges, timers, and ballot counters who decide the fate of those nervous speakers.

And finally, when it’s all said and done, the contest master presents awards like it’s the Oscars, but with fewer designer gowns.  So, reducing overwhelm? Maybe the Contest Chair is secretly a Zen master who finds peace in the chaos. Or they just have a secret stash of microphone-shaped stress balls. 

Have you been recruited to be a Contest Chair? 

Have you started herding all the cats yet? 

What can we do to reduce OVERWHELM?

WHAT IF the contest chair recruits a team of talented Toastmasters who collaborate to make all the moving pieces come together?

Collaboration among a team of talented Toastmasters can significantly enhance the success of a Toastmasters contest. When the contest chair recruits a dedicated and skilled team, various aspects of the event can be effectively coordinated to create a seamless and memorable experience. Here are some key benefits and considerations for collaboration.

A team of talented Toastmasters can bring a diverse range of skills and expertise to the table.  Do you know a spreadsheet wiz? Who’s your tech guru? Does a club in your area have a perfect venue?  This diversity allows for a more well-rounded approach to managing the event.  For example, individuals with strong organizational skills, public speaking expertise, and event planning experience can not only contribute their unique strengths, but they can also pass on this knowledge to less experienced team members.

A list from the volumes of DON’T MAKE MY MISTAKES!

1. If you value your sleep, find a location and date early. You know contestants are impatient! They’ll start calling you at 3 AM if they don’t know when the contest is. “Hey, it’s your 3 AM wake-up call. When’s the contest?” So, to avoid sleepless nights, choose a date and location pronto!

2. Size matters, folks! Make sure the room is big enough. We’re not hosting a contest for ants. We don’t want contestants squished together like sardines. It’s a contest, not a sardine-can challenge.

3. Hybrid capability is a must. We’re in the 21st century, people! Your contest venue should be as flexible as a contortionist in a circus. Zoom in, zoom out – we’re ready for anything!

4. Equipment, you ask? Have at least two tech-savvy wizards on standby. If one disappears mysteriously on the event day, you’ll still have your magical backup. Houdini would be proud!

5.  Have a stage area that’s as well-defined as the blueprint for the space shuttle.  We can’t have contestants wandering off into the wild yonder of the camera’s blind spot, especially if judges can be Zooming in.

6. Food rules, right? If you plan on bringing your own food, make sure the venue allows it. Nobody wants hangry contestants while the food is spoiling in the trunk of your now smelly car.

7.  Expect the unexpected. Always have a backup location, just in case. Think of it as a Plan B, like a spare tire for your contest.

8. Recruit experienced helpers. It’s like assembling a superhero team but for contests. They should come with their own capes. And don’t forget to find them a trusty sidekick. Robin had Batman; your tech expert should have a gadget-loving assistant.

9. Learn from the master. Your assistants need to be the understudies, like the karate kid, but for contest organizing. Wax on, wax off!

10. Judges are critical. If you need 5, find 7. It’s like trying to wrangle cats. A couple of them will always be late because they lost the directions/Zoom link.

11. Be crystal clear about expectations. If you don’t tell your chief judge it’s their job to find the other judges, you might end up with half the functionaries you actually need on the day of the event.

12. Be prepared for last-minute no-shows. Life happens; cars break down, babysitters cancel, and bosses demand a surprise interpretive dance at work. Have a couple of extra folks on standby, just in case.

13. Clean-up duty! Don’t leave the place looking like a post-apocalyptic contest wasteland. Designate a clean-up crew, or you’ll be the lone ranger cleaning confetti and glitter till the end of time. Yee-haw!

In the grand scheme of event planning and collaboration, we’re all just adventurers in the wild world of plotting, planning, and having fun doing it District 84 style. So, spill the beans on your epic victories and facepalm-worthy blunders – we promise not to judge (okay, maybe just a little). Share your tales of triumph and disaster, and together, we’ll create a symphony of event wisdom that’s more entertaining than a three-ring circus. So, hit us up with your top-notch tips and “please, never do this again” moments. After all, in the world of events, laughter really is the best party favor!

Francine Juhlin

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