When I recently asked for feedback from people who had used my online tools for judges, ballot counters, and the chief judge, one message I got from the judges was they wanted clearer confirmation that their votes had been received.

Here is how the latest release of the software handles that, showing the judge a “Checking whether votes have been received…” message, followed by a “Votes received on ballot counting dashboard” confirmation.

Demo of the vote casting and vote counting tools

Several other features have been updated based on feedback from others, as well as my own experience using these tools for a few different contests:

  • Once a contest organizer has the list of judges and contestants set, the portion of the scoring dashboard for setting those parameters can be “locked” to prevent accidental changes to those values in the middle of a contest. (The setup form can be unlocked, but only by the person who locked it or by an administrator of the website).
  • The list of links for distribution to the judges and timers can be either shown or hidden by checking a box. Once those have been shared with the judges, hiding them declutters the vote counting dashboard.
  • If a judge is unable to record their votes properly using the digital ballot, the chief judge or ballot counters can do so on their behalf using a form on the dashboard page. That way, the votes are still tallied using a consistent mechanism.

In addition to the technical updates, one best practice I’ve come up with through my own participation in contests conducted online is to have the ballot counters still go through the process of collecting votes via private messaging (we’ve used Zoom private chat). That way, we have a backup mechanism for collecting votes if the online system fails us or an individual judge has trouble submitting their ballot online. If all goes well, a judge can simply copy and paste that information into a private message back to the ballot counter.

As soon as the ballot counters confirm they have all the votes, the chief judge and ballot counters can confirm that the votes they gather match what is shown on the vote counting dashboard and that we have our winners. When I was serving as chief judge for the webinar contest at Online Presenters, we had that conversation in a Zoom breakout room before returning with the results. Even with that little bit of redundancy built into the process, we got the vote counting done in a fraction of the time it would have taken otherwise.

The contest tools are available as part of the WordPress for Toastmasters solution for club websites and independently on contest.toastmost.org.

Thanks to the members of Online Presenters Toastmasters who encouraged me to continue refining these tools and provided feedback on how to make them better.

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