Ballot Counting – Who and How

Jun 14

For those clubs that choose to vote for Best Speaker, Best Table Topics, etc. there can be some differences from club to club in how this is carried out.

Should your club vote for these? Some choose not to, and that’s perfectly fine. However, it provides several advantages. It appeals to people’s competitive spirit and gives them something to shoot for. It’s another form of feedback that lets people know how they’re doing overall–it can be more telling than the actual comments people give. In a corporate environment, it’s handy to put the ribbons you’ve won on your desk and, when people inquire, tell them about Toastmasters. And of course, it helps give people more incentive to stay within time limits. However, some clubs feel the competitive aspect is not healthy.

Who Counts the Ballots?

According to the Toastmasters International officer manual When You Are the Sergeant At Arms, the Sergeant At Arms is supposed to count the ballots. However, this keeps the SAA very busy during a meeting and only works if they are very reliable in meeting attendance. Some clubs choose to have the Topicsmaster do it, or make it a separate meeting role people can sign up for.

What Speakers are Qualified?

  • Prepared speeches have up to a 30 second grace period before and after their speech. So a 5-7 minute speech must run from 4:30 to 7:30 to qualify.
  • Table Topics (1-2 minutes) have a 30 second grace period after the maximum time, but not before the minimum time (since the minimum time is so short). A speaker must talk for 1:00 to 2:30 to qualify.
  • Speech Evaluations (2-3 minutes) have a 30 second grace period before and after, just like prepared speeches. An evaluator must talk from 1:30 to 3:30 to qualify.

Note: if a prepared speech does not qualify, the speaker does get credit for the speech in their manual–but they are not eligible to be voted on for Best Speaker of the Day.

When Are the Ballots Collected?

This is purely a matter of choice. Some clubs take a minute after each section (speakers, table topics, speech evaluations) to fill and collect ballots. Some ask people to leave them or hand them in at the end of the meeting, and then results are emailed later or given at the next meeting. Some wait until after the evaluators finish and then collect all the votes at once, leaving very little time for them to be counted before the end of the meeting.

No matter when you collect the ballots, make sure the timer’s report is given first. It’s embarrassing to vote someone as Best Speaker of the Day and then find out they had a time disqualification. Give the timer’s report, stating the names of the eligible speakers.

There is no official recommendation, but I encourage clubs to collect votes during the meeting immediately after each section (prepared speeches, table topics, speech evaluators) finishes and the timer’s report is given. This gives the vote counter more time to count. Also, the longer voting is delayed, the harder the audience finds it to remember who was best, and the more confused they get, possibly voting for people in the incorrect categories–voting for an evaluator as Best Table Topics, for example. Yes, this really happens.

A tip for meetings that are short on time; encourage people to fill out feedback slips during the speeches, and to pass around the votes while the meeting continues, instead of setting aside a minute or two of meeting time to collect them. This does cause a distraction though, so only do it if you are tight on time (typically, in corporate clubs that have less than an hour for a full meeting.

How are Ballots Collected?

Although some clubs wait until the end and pass in the whole sheet, the official feedback/voting forms from Toastmasters International are perforated for a reason: so that they can be conveniently separated and passed in individually at appropriate times during the meeting.

Usually some sort of basket, box or other container is best; it can be passed around the table, gradually being filled, and then the comments can make their way to the appropriate speaker, or the votes can be returned to the ballot counter. More than one container is even better, as that may make it clearer where comments go versus votes, or just allow for greater speed of collection.

What if There’s a Tie?

This isn’t written anywhere, but if you call Toastmasters International, the guideline–just like in a contest–is that there are no ties. There is no need for the ballot counter to fill out a slip of paper and cast a vote themselves; they should just withhold their vote unless there is a tie. Then they can silently break the tie and pass the tie-free results to the Toastmaster of the Day.

Who Announces the Results?

Depending on the club, this may be the Sergeant at Arms, the Toastmaster of the Day, or the Presiding Officer. I recommend the TMOTD, as they are the one running and responsible for the meeting–and who knows, they may find a way to tie it in with the meeting theme.

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