Video Tips for Toastmasters Contests

I believe you are missing a huge opportunity if you neglect to video record the speeches at your contests, particularly at the area level and above. Contests are a chance our the most accomplished speakers to shine, and sharing videos of those speeches (with the speaker’s permission) is a potentially great tool for social media marketing of Toastmasters and its clubs. It’s also a great way to recognize contestants for their skill.

Here is an example of a club contest video that’s been uploaded to YouTube, shared to Facebook, and also posted to our club’s website.


In the comments beneath this post, I added a link to our club website inviting people to visit. I also added, “If you enjoyed the video, please share it with your friends.” If you can get people to share content that links back to your club or district website, that can be a great way of reaching a wider audience.

Here are a few tips on the etiquette for recording speakers and on how to get a reasonable quality video recording. (If you can recruit a video professional great, but I’m going on the assumption that this will be a do-it-yourself project).


  • Let the speakers know that you plan to video record their speeches.
  • If anyone asks not to be recorded, respect their wish.
  • For clarity, and to cover yourself legally, get a signed video release in advance. I use this version, which includes the language recommended by Toastmasters International but also explains a little about the ground rules recommended below: Contest Video Release (PDF).
  • Allow the speakers to review the recording before deciding whether they want it shared in any publicity or on social media (more on that below).
  • If you get a “yes” to sharing the video, encourage the speaker and the officers of his or her club to share that video widely on social media.
  • If a speaker will be moving up to the next level (Area, Division, District, International), refrain from promoting a speech video in any way that could be construed as “campaigning” for that contestant. Contestants may also be concerned about “tipping off” the competition to the content of their speech. Either way, there’s no rush: as a social media marketing tool, these videos will be just as valuable months after all those concerns fade away.

The technique that has worked well for me is to upload videos to YouTube, but tag them as “unlisted” rather than “public.” There is also a “private” status, but it’s more difficult to work with in the mode I’m describing. An unlisted video does not show up in searches and people browsing YouTube will not just stumble across it — you have to have the link.

Setting a YouTube video to "unlisted"
Setting a YouTube video to “unlisted”

I send a listing of the links to all the contest videos to all the contestants and ask if I have their permission to share the video publicly. The winners, at least, usually say yes.

Recording Good Video

The biggest pitfall of recording a speech video is audio, not video — if you have the camera too far away from the speaker, viewers of the video will not be able to hear what the speakers are saying. A speech video without the speech part is not very useful. Unless you are working with a professional camera equipped with a sensitive directional antenna, you will have to arrange to have your camera close to the stage or speaking area.

You do not need an expensive camera. In fact, the camera in your phone will do in a pinch if you can manage to hold the camera steady. Remember to hold the camera horizontally for a TV-like aspect ratio.

An actual video camera has the advantage of being easier to mount on a tripod, and a tripod makes it much easier to get a steady image.

Pan the camera back and forth just enough to keep the speaker in the frame. I usually leave the camera’s zoom control zoomed to the widest view to minimize the need to pan.

Editing and Uploading Videos

Even when recording video from my phone, I usually copy the video file to a PC and upload it to YouTube (or sometimes directly to Facebook) from there. Check the documentation for your phone or camera, or search the web, for tips on how to do that.

You may or may not need to edit the video before uploading it. You may wind up with a recording that includes content that’s not really part of the speech, such as moments a contestant spent shaking the contest master’s hand and getting in position. Trimming that material will give you a stronger video. There are free video editors available for both Macs and Windows that will let you select a few seconds of video to shave off the beginning and the end of your video clip.

Computer software may also help you upload the speeches more efficiently than if you just went through the web interface on YouTube. YouTube also allows you to specify a speech title and a description. Be sure to provide the context: that this speech is from a Toastmasters speech contest, at what level, and where. In the description, I suggest also including the name of the club the speaker belongs to along with the club’s website address.

Video is a great way to show people what Toastmasters is all about. Make the most of it.

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