Video Tutorial: Contest Tools Setup (Updated for 2021)

Updates: Since this video was recorded, two elements of the contest organizer’s dashboard have moved to tabs at the bottom of the screen:

  • Email Links – this tab will help you send coded links to the judges and the timer. You can now send links to one person at a time or everyone at once.
  • Backup Forms – if any of the judges are unable to use the online ballot but get you their votes some other way (such as texting them to you), you can enter them on their behalf. They will then be added to the final tally.

Setting Up a Toastmasters Contest for Digital Ballots and Online Vote Counting

Contest organizers may create an online vote counting dashboard that works with digital ballots completed by the judges. Once voting begins, the chief judge and ballot counters will be able to watch the votes roll in as shown below.

Watch contest votes roll in

The digital ballot replicates the experience of filling in a traditional paper ballot for judging a Toastmasters contest but streamlines the process for contests conducted online.

Taking advantage of the fact that computers are good at doing math, the digital ballot helps judges tally the scores for each speaker and speeds the process of tallying the votes once judges have submitted them.

This article explains how to set up the digital ballots, speaking order, and other prerequisites.

Continue reading “Setting Up a Toastmasters Contest for Digital Ballots and Online Vote Counting”

Digital Ballot for Toastmasters Contests

The digital ballot replicates the experience of filling in a traditional paper ballot for judging a Toastmasters contest but streamlines the process for contests conducted online. As a test, you can try the digital ballot demo for a fictitious contest.

Taking advantage of the fact that computers are good at doing math, the digital ballot helps judges tally the scores for each speaker and speeds the process of tallying the votes once judges have submitted them.

As a judge, you will receive an individualized link for each contest you are judging. The link may be password protected for judges who have user accounts on the club website. Also, the order in which the contestants are presented on the form mirrors the speaking order set by the contest organizers.

Here’s a sample ballot.

The process for filling in the sample ballot goes like this:

  1. Enter the scores for each measure of speech quality. You can either type in a number or use the up/down arrows.
  2. Click Show Ranking to make the app do the math and show the best speakers, according to how you scored them.
  3. Enter your first, second, and third choices on the voting form (tie breaker should rank all contestants) and submit.

This process is illustrated below.

Note that the automated ranking is only a guideline. As with the paper form, the scoring system is designed to guide judges toward applying consistent criteria to their evaluation of each speaker. The judge must ultimately decide which contestants to rank first, second, and third, breaking any ties and making any other judgement calls.

To complete the ballot, you must type your name in the Signature blank (similar to the way many online businesses ask you to execute a paperless contract). You will get an error if you try to submit your vote without filling in the Signature field.

If everything worked properly, you will get a confirmation like this. Within a few seconds, that message should update with the message “Votes received on the ballot counting dashboard.”

Confirmation message

If for some reason your vote was not recorded correctly, the chief judge or ballot counters may ask you to click that Resubmit button. It doesn’t allow you to change your votes, but it will post them to the server a second time.

As a judge, you do not have access to the vote counting dashboard, but as each judge votes, the Chief Judge (and others he or she provides access), will see the votes come rolling in on a screen like the one shown below. Once all votes, including the tie breaking vote, have been received, this screen will show the final results.

Chief judge’s dashboard

Additional Procedures

The Chief Judge and other contest organizers may impose additional requirements, for example having the ballot counters verify the votes with each judge. This document is not meant to override their recommendations.

Online Timer Tool

Timer showing red

A web-based timer is available from the Agenda menu of a Toastmasters meeting agenda and pulls in data from the agenda such as the names and speech timings of speakers or contestants. For online meetings, you can use this tool to show a timing lights effect as a background image. However, that does require the use of additional software such as OBS Studio to select a web page or portion of a web page as a source image, as explained below.

(For an alternative that does not require additional software, see the Blue Sky Apps timer.)

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To use the timer, you choose the name of the speaker from the Speaker/Speech Type list or choose one of the other options, such as Table Topics, or Speech (8-10) for an 8 to 10-minute speech by a speaker who was not added to the agenda on the website.

Click Start to start the timer or Stop to stop it (or to reset everything). You can also click the Green, Yellow, and Red buttons to manually trigger a color change. The Correction drop-down list allows you to make an adjustment, for example if you started the timer a few seconds late (try not to do that).

Support for background images, in addition to colors, was added in Feb. 2021 update.

Timer controls

The green, yellow, and red background colors change automatically as the minimum, midpoint, and maximum times are reached. Instructions for sharing the timing colors in Zoom are included below.

Contest Timer

This video tutorial covers the use of the Timer in the context of a contest (where the controls also include a form for submitting the timer’s report). The contestants are listed, according to the official speaking order, with the timing requirements for the type of contest pre-programmed into the tool.

Even if you don’t use this tool for the actual timing display, you can use the Timer’s report form on the page to submit the times (and any disqualifications) so they will be accounted for on the vote counting dashboard.

Streaming the Timer Video to Zoom

If you want to share screen colors in a Zoom meeting, you will need some sort of webcam or streaming software. I use OBS Studio, which is free, open source software that allows you to mix your webcam video with other video sources. The virtual camera function, which used to require a separate plugin but is built into the latest release of OBS, must be turned on. In Zoom, you will then select OBS Virtual Camera as your video source.

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Click Start Virtual Camera to begin sending output to the virtual camera. In OBS, you will select the timer window or the popup timer as the video source to use as your background.
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Selecting the Virtual Camera in Zoom

Here’s a good tutorial on green screen setup for OBS Studio.

Background Images

Timer Background Image

The branded background images from Toastmasters International are available by default, and it’s also possible to add custom background images (like the Kermit example above, image courtesy of Pixabay).

Choosing a Background Image

Uploading Custom Background Images

A member who is allowed to upload images can upload additional colored images to be used with the timer. The list of images available for this purpose in the Timer tool is limited to those that have the color names (green, yellow, and red) in the file name or the title assigned in the media library.

Uploading Images

If the color name is not in the file name of the image uploaded, you can edit the associated properties through the Media screen of the Toastmasters dashboard (assuming you have editing rights). Add the color name to the title, which by default is based on the filename.

Editing the Image Title

Assigning File Upload Rights

By default, WordPress restricts the right to upload images to Administrators, Editors, and Authors (WordPress for Toastmasters adds the custom role Manager). As the site administrator, you can upgrade a trusted user to Author to allow them file upload rights.

It’s also possible to assign the file upload right to individual members (users) without granting other privileges. You can do that through the Security tab of the Toastmasters screen under Settings on the WordPress dashboard.