Does the Audience Need to Wait for the Ballot Counters?

Mar 25

The final contestant for a speech event finishes speaking. Everyone waits in silence, allowing as much time as necessary for the quasi-anonymous judges to finish filling out their ballots and energetic ballot counters to run around and collect them. The ballot counters and chief judge leave the room.

Then the Contest Toastmaster says “once the ballot counters return, we will have a break. In the meantime… um… anyone have a joke?”

Since I first joined Toastmasters in 2008, a particular belief has held sway in District 55. This belief is that everyone must remain in the room and wait until ballot counting is completed, and that the next contest cannot take place during this time. Often, this leaves a large gap of time to be filled with no content—and a room of people anxious to go on break or at least feel like their time isn’t being wasted.

Granted, an efficiently run contest makes sure to schedule announcements, recognition of dignitaries, and other possible items to this dead space. Granted, well-trained ballot counters should finish typical contest results in a matter of minutes. Still, there are many contests where the audience is held hostage for half an hour, and there are only enough announcements to fill part of that time. Nobody likes to feel like their time is being wasted.

The strange thing is, I have never heard of any reason or origin for this belief. Certainly, you want to make sure the ballot counters are not interrupted. That’s why they should be in a separate room, or a far corner. Bringing the event to a standstill is not necessary. There is nothing in the contest rulebook that could even be misinterpreted to make people think this is the case, but this belief has been handed down from year to year.

To make sure this is crystal clear, here’s clarification directly from Toastmasters International. They’re very helpful via phone or email for clearing up questions on Toastmasters procedures. See below.

Friends, let’s run our contests efficiently. Don’t make the audience wait for the ballot counters. The show must go on!

Speech Contests Tue, Mar 25, 2014 at 3:11 PM
To: Chad Schultz
Dear Toastmaster Schultz,

Thank you for your email. No the audience is not required to remain in the room while the ballots are actively being counted they are free to get up if needed.

Please contact us if you need further assistance; we will be glad to help!

Kind Regards,

Ben Brewer

Speech Contests Team

Toastmasters International

Where Leaders Are Made

P 949-858-8255
F 949-858-1207

From: Chad Schultz []
Sent: Saturday, March 22, 2014 11:17 AM
To: Speech Contests
Subject: Clarification on Contest Breaks

In my District, often a contest with multiple clubs/areas/divisions or events (International/evaluation) will have a short break between sections of the contest. Our tradition is that nobody may leave the room until ballot collection is complete. After speakers for an event finish, there is silence while ballots are collected. The chief judge and ballot counters then leave to go to a separate room to count ballots. While they are counting, the contest Toastmaster has time for announcements and plenty of awkward silence, waiting for the ballot counting to be fully complete before we go on break and are allowed out of the room.

I do not see anything relevant to this in the rulebook, so either it is not prohibited, or is an unpublished rule. If you could let me know the answer to this question so I can share it with others in my District, that would be wonderful:

Question: in a contest, is the audience required to remain in the room where the contest is held as long as ballots are actively being counted in another room?

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