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

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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.

To set up a contest associated with a WordPress for Toastmasters club website, you start from the agenda for that event. A few differences for the standalone version at contest.toastmost.org are documented below.

On a club website where members have signed up as contestants through the online agenda, a contest organizer starts by choosing Contest Dashboard from the agenda menu as shown below.

Navigating from the agenda to the Contest Dashboard

To configure the dashboard, you first specify which contest or contests you are conducting. In this example below, I’ve set up the International Speech Contest to pull the list of contestants from the Speaker role on the agenda, and Table Topics to pull in the list of people who sign up for a Table Topics Contestant role.

Contest Dashboard – initial setup

Once that initial step is complete, you will land on a dashboard specific to the contest you are setting up. If you are conducting a second contest, a link to that related contest will appear at the top of the page.

There is an option to let the computer automatically set the speaker order with a click of a button (this can also be done manually).

Options for setting up different aspects of your contest are shown within a series of tabs.

Contest Dashboard

Contestants

If you have set up the contest to pull the list of contestants from a role on the agenda, the contestants list will be filled in automatically based on who has signed up so far. If you are not using the agenda for that purpose, you can enter a list of names manually.

This tab also includes an option to manually set the speaking order.

Contestants tab

Judges and Timer

You can choose the judges and tiebreaking judge from among the members who have user accounts or type in the name of a judge you are inviting from outside the club.

The Timer can also be selected from among the club members if you want the timer function to be tied to a user account.

If you have created two contests associated with the same meeting event, and will be using the same judges and timer for both, you can copy settings from one contest dashboard to the other.

Judges and Timer tab

Security

The contest dashboard that shows the vote count is always password-protected, and the judging links of registered users optionally may be password-protected.

When you create a contest dashboard, initially you are the only authorized dashboard user. You can add vote counters and other contest officials as you deem appropriate.

The links you distribute to judges and the timer can only be password-protected if they are tied to a user account. Otherwise, those links are protected by a code that should only be shared with that individual.

Security tab

Lock/Unlock/Reset

At times, it may be appropriate to reset the scores (for example, after a demo session) and other contest setup parameters. You can do that from this screen.

You may decide to Lock Settings as a way of preventing unintended changes to the settings from being made, particularly while the contest is under way.

Lock/Unlock/Reset tab

Voting and Timer Links

Once you have assigned judges and a timer, the links to distribute to those individuals can be accessed through the dashboard. Displaying those links is optional, controlled by a checkbox.

Voting links

Emailing the Links

A tab within the dashboard (added after some of the screenshots above were taken) allows you to send out the links to the judges and timer.

Email Links tab within the Dashboard

Backup Voting Forms

The backup voting forms, which are in a tab on the dashboard, allow contest organizers to record the vote of a judge who provided their vote by some other means (perhaps because of technical difficulties) so it can still be tallied through the online system.

Backup Forms

With these tools, you should be able to conduct a well organized online contest.

See also Best Practices for Using the Online Contest Tools in WordPress for Toastmasters.

Version at contest.toastmost.org

A standalone version of these tools is available at contest.toastmost.org for use independent of a club website — for example, in the case of an area, division, or district contest.

In that case, the setup is independent of a club meeting agenda. After creating a toastmost.org account, you will enter some basic information about the contest and be forwarded immediately to the dashboard.

Setup at contest.toastmost.org

Rather than pulling contestant names from the agenda, this version relies on you entering them manually. You have the option of inviting judges and other contest participants to create toastmost.org accounts, particularly if you want to password protect the ballots.