Updated Online Judging Tool for Toastmasters Contests

The contest scoring tool available at contest.toastmost.org (and as part of websites based on WordPress for Toastmasters) makes it possible for judges to judge, timers to submit their time reports, and contest leaders to tally the votes entirely online. Originally created for use by online clubs, it can also be used for traditional contests, allowing judges to record their votes via laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

I’m currently seeking a ruling from Toastmasters International HQ to address the concerns of Toastmasters leaders who aren’t sure whether TI rules allow for online voting.

Update: When I asked Toastmasters International to review these tools for compliance with their rules, I received a response saying they cannot endorse specific technology products but that “online resources are allowed during this time!” I interpret that as meaning my tools can be used at the discretion of contest organizers.

Personally, I see this as a sensible alternative to trying to print, scan, and email PDF documents or otherwise try to force fit offline methods into an online context — particularly in light of the current “social isolation” crisis related to the Coronavirus.

Here is how it works:

The version integrated into club websites created with WordPress for Toastmasters is slightly different, allowing synchronization with a club’s contest meeting agenda and use of existing member logins. The standalone contest.toastmost.org was created to meet the needs or areas, divisions, districts, and clubs that have not adopted the broader WordPress for Toastmasters solution.

The elements of the solution are:

  • A contest dashboard where you specify the contestants, judges, and tie breaking judge and watch the results roll in as they vote.
  • A judging page for each judge, recently updated to work on phones as well as PCs. As judges record their scores, the software tallies them and can also help rank them from highest to lowest. The judge then records their first, second, and third choices just as they would on paper.
  • A tiebreaking judge page, which works the same way, except that the judge ranks all contestants rather than the top three.
  • A timing page, which includes an interactive web-based timing tool. It’s possible to show the timing screen’s green/yellow/red indicators onscreen, or they can just be used as a signal for when the timer should signal to the speaker in some other way. Times for contestants and disqualifications can also be entered manually.

Although these tools have worked well for my clubs, anyone who uses them should also have a backup plan for what happens if Internet connections fail or the website where the software is hosted crashes. You might have 4 out of 5 judges report their votes online without a problem and the 5th person have to transmit their vote by email, text, WhatsApp, or carrier pigeon. Perhaps one of the best skills we learn in Toastmasters is how to adapt when things don’t go perfectly, so be on your toes.

For more detailed how-to instructions on setting up a stand-alone contest scoring dashboard (independent of a club website), see this tutorial.

A few notes about compliance with Toastmasters rules, as currently written:

  • Although there is a single timing dashboard, in contests where two timers have been recruited, they can still compare notes before submitting the official times.
  • The official documents from Toastmasters International can be completed after the fact (on paper or in an editable PDF) and submitted as contest records. Have judges and timers take a picture of the signed forms and email or text them to the contest organizers. The digital tools outlined here still simplify the process of gathering the vote in a scenario where judges, vote counters, the chief judge, and other functionaries are in different locations.

The contest scoring tool will be available free of charge until at least July 1, 2020.

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