As part of the planning for a mini-webinar contest at Online Presenters Toastmasters, I cooked up a tool for online voting intended to help both the judges and the Chief Judge / Ballot Counter team compile the results very quickly. This should be of particular interest to clubs that meet online or allow members to attend online. I can see potential for it to be used in a traditional club (or area/division/district) contest as well.
The software is bundled with the latest release of the WordPress for Toastmasters solution, but I’ve also made a version of it available independently (see below).
As the judges are voting, contest organizers can watch the votes roll in on a dashboard that updates every few seconds until everyone has voted:
Here’s a video demo of the voting process:
Having some sort of online voting tool strikes me as essential for an online club, where working with the printed ballot forms is awkward. A certain amount of scanning in and emailing forms for speaker and judge eligibility may still be necessary, particularly for an official contest, such as the Video Speech Contest that Toastmasters International makes available to online clubs and other undistricted clubs. But doing that with the actual ballots seems crazy, when all the judges are sitting in front of a computer and can easily enter their votes into an online system.
With online voting, we can let the computer do the math for tallying up the judge’s scores for each contestant and producing a final ranking when all judges have voted.
Online Presenters is piloted this with an unofficial webinar contest. This allowed our Chief Judge to focus on verifying that the computer-generated results are correct. He also provided the judges with alternate ways of contacting him to register their votes if the computerized system should fail.
If you’re using the dashboard in combination with a WordPress for Toastmasters event agenda, you will find a link to the Contest Scoring Dashboard under the agenda menu.
The setup process goes like this:
- Choose the contest you’re going to be running. Pick from the list of standard contests or define your own unofficial contest, as we did with our webinar event.
- Either enter a list of contestants or pick a role from the agenda to track as people sign up, so your contestants link will be in sync.
- Enter a list of judges and designate one as the Tiebreaking Judge.
- Optionally, add a list of members (other than the website editors and administrator) who should have access to the main contest dashboard. For example, your chief judge and ballot counter for the event.
- Set the speaking order, either manually or by allowing the software to automatically shuffle the list of contestants.
- Prior to the start of the contest, send each judge and his or her personalized link for the online ballot. Also send the link for the Timer, if you will be using the online timing setup.
Since not everyone uses WordPress for Toastmasters, I’ve provided an alternate way you can get access to this tool independently.
A few other notes:
- The requirement to sign your ballot: In an official contest where you want to eliminate any question about whether the online votes are legitimate, I suggest having the judges fill out and sign the paper ballot also, take a picture with their phone and email or otherwise send it to the ballot counter (who can then verify it matches what was submitted online). Or get a ruling from some authority that the online checkbox can be counted as a signature.
- Use outside of online clubs: In a club that does not meet exclusively online, you might still allow some judges to participate from a remote location via teleconference and vote this way. If only a minority of judges are participating this way, you might not use the software to tally the final result.
- In person voting on laptops or tablets: For the past few years, I’ve used a Google Sheets spreadsheet on my iPad to tally my scores when acting as a judge, even though I had to record my final vote on a piece of paper. Some contest organizers might choose to encourage use of this system even by judges voting in person. You’ll have to consider whether that makes the identity of the judges too obvious (they’re the ones with the tablets).