Common contest mistakes

Graphic of SMART principles Common contest planning mistakes to avoid

Staging a contest is a long-held Toastmasters tradition. But it doesn’t mean you have to wear yourself out making sure everything goes well. What you do need is patience, a plan and a solid team. Here are some suggestions to make your contest planning more enjoyable and less frustrating.

Have a great contest with SMART goals:

  • Specific (simple, sensible, significant)
  • Measurable (meaningful, motivating)
  • Achievable (agreed, attainable)
  • Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based)
  • Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive)

Here are some more specific tips:

  • Plan until it becomes a work of art. Planning for contests can begin at the start of the Toastmasters year. Smart club leaders develop committees to take on various annual events. Even before you know the date of the next contest you can:
    • Build a list of places to stage your contest if your regular meeting place is not ideal.
    • Check club supplies to ensure you have needed items, such as forms and ribbons, that may have to be downloaded and printed or ordered from Toastmasters International.
    • Know the positions that need to be filled to host a contest, then create a list of long list of go-to people you can call on when the time comes.
    • Think of the inevitable and the impossible. Microphones break. USB sticks won’t work in most government facilities. A volunteer becomes ill. A hurricane promises to rain on your contest parade. While you might not be able to plan for everything, you can certainly develop a set of contingencies.
  • Don’t confuse contests with meetings. Contests and meetings are two very different events and usually don’t work well when combined.
  • Get and give credit. Be sure everyone uses their manual to earn credit for competing in or coordinating contests. Participants should earn credit in their Communications and Competent Leadership Manuals.
  • Know the season. Each year brings two distinct contests and each type of contest has its rules, including such things as contestants can only compete in one Area Contest even if they are in different Districts.
  • Remember protocol: You will need to acknowledge special guests and current and past officers attending your contest. Make sure and obtain the most updated list form the district.

Most of all, remember that staging a contest is a learning experience for us all. Don’t stress.