Contestant to Chief Judge

By Tazud Miah, Division C Director 2018-19

I’ve been fortunate enough to compete at the District Finals three times over my years as a Toastmaster, how does being a Finalist compare to being a Chief Judge?

As a contestant, you are there to simply enjoy the moment; having worked hard to get to the finals, you know it is a special occasion where you will have the chance to speak in front of your biggest Toastmaster audience to date. 

There is a nervous energy present within you, giddy at the thought of winning it all, the next name added to the illustrious hall of fame. There is only one person you need to worry about, you! The Contest Chair will get in touch and ask you for a favourite quote or hobby. You can sleep well knowing that things are in order and you just need to turn up…

As a Chief Judge, things are somewhat more demanding. You may have a team of 18 people to co-co-ordinate on the day. You hope that they turn up as expected, but if they do not, there is an almighty dash to find an appropriate set of replacements. 

As it is the District Finals, there is an elevated desire to make sure that everything possible is done to ensure our Contestants get the best service and that District delivers the right result. If a process is enacted wrongly, you could be impacting the experience of 7 contestants, who have waited 6 months for this opportunity. 

The intensity of getting the performance right was not something that I had expected to feel. I’d thought having been a finalist and dealt with contest pressure, this facilitation task would be relatively straightforward!

In the 6-hour window of service, you learn to refine leadership skills in ways you hadn’t envisaged. The ability to inspire and define an assessment role as central to our value of integrity. The need to shore up the mental strength needed to be firm and fair for a protest that might occur. The ability to keep an air of effortless grace whilst meeting friends and guests – somewhat difficult for me as my face – according to well-wishers – appears to telegraph emotions very vividly!

You sit through the speeches not in a state of calm but of active duty. Are the timing lights still working, has the speaking area been breached? Did the speaker just swear, what might that mean? Is there something that might be considered as contravening the speech guidelines? Where did that Tie Breaking Judge sit!?

A sense of relief starts to descend when you make it to the counting room. The ballots are reviewed and announced to the counters in a monotone-non-triumphant-pools-announcer voice. Judge Smedley, 3 points for Speaker1, 2 points for Speaker 2, 1 point for Speaker 5.

The high of being able to return and announce the Winners, without getting the order wrong, or showing everyone the names on the certificates as you walk on the stage, is a delight. A rapturous applause welcomes the winners and they get their reward for their dedication, discipline and brilliance for what would have been an intense 3 months.

You leave the stage basking in the glow of a job well done, the human hive has done its job! To me, the most endearing realisation is recognising the contributions of our Toastmaster Community. So many come together at our District Conferences to make it run smoothly, unpaid, except in gratitude and smiles, leading to my meme that I share with others. Toastmasters: Where stories are made.

If you are looking for your next challenge, put yourself forward to be Chief Judge at a District Conference!

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