Post written by Moira Beaton DTM







The Judge’s Role

The important thing to remember is that, as a judge, your role is not to evaluate the speakers as you would in your club; it’s simply to judge and select a winner.

Great judges are:

  • Accurate – they must complete the judging ballot correctly
  •  Fair – they do not let personal feelings influence their decision
  •  Trustworthy – contestants trust them to select the best speaker as the winner
  •  Knowledgeable – they must know the contest rules; how to judge; and how to complete the ballot
  •  Good listeners – they focus and do not become distracted during the speech.
  •  Objective.

How to become a great contest judge

  • Read the guide on the back of the judging ballot and familiarise yourself with the criteria before the speech contest.
  • Sign the ballot as soon as you receive it. That way you won’t forget at the end of the contest.
  • Focus on the speech, and take brief notes if it helps. After the speech, enter the scores on the ballot. NB – these scores are to help you and are not written in stone.
  • At the end of the contest, make sure you must have a first, second and third place , or the ballot will be discarded.
  • Do not take the speaker’s time (if you know it) into consideration when judging.
  • Beware the Halo Effect – this is when we allow a speaker’s good past performance(s) influence our judging.
  • Beware the Reverse Halo Effect – this is when we allow a speaker’s bad past performance(s) influence our judging.


Q. What happens if I forget to sign my ballot?
A. It is discarded and, therefore, won’t count in the final scoring.

Q. What happens if I ‘tie’ 2 contestants on my ballot?
A.  You cannot ‘tie’ 2 contestants for first, second or third place. Decide who you prefer.

Q.On what grounds might a contestant be disqualified?

a. originality
b. eligibility
c. timing (over or under time)

Q. Is the speaking area important?
A. Yes. At the beginning of the contest, the Contest Chair will announce where the speaking area is. On the ballot, the speaking area comes under ‘Delivery’. A speaker cannot be disqualified if they go outside the speaking area but you can, if you want, mark them down.

Q.What do I do if I suspect a speech may not be entirely original?
A. You may protest to the Chief Judge and/or the Contest Chair before the announcement of the winners. After the announcement, the placements cannot be changed.

Q. When is a speech not original?
A. Here is what the rules say:
“Twenty-five percent or less of the speech may be devoted to quoting, paraphrasing, or referencing another person’s content. Any quoted, paraphrased, or referenced content must be so identified during the speech.”

Q. Can a member of the audience lodge a protest?
A. No, only judges and contestants can protest. And only about originality and eligibility.

Q. Does the Chief Judge complete a ballot?
A. No.

Q. Does the Tie-Break judge attend the judges’ briefing before the contest?
A. No. The TieBreak judge is appointed by the Chief Judge, and their identity is kept secret.

Q. Are the contestants allowed to see their scores after the contest?
A. No. Judges are not allowed to explain to contestants how they voted or give an evaluation of their speech. The judging ballots are confidential and after the contest, dispose of them securely.

Judging a speech contest is not as difficult as many members think. You need a cool head, clear focus, and impartial judgement.

Moira Beaton is a founding member of Waverley Communicators in Edinburgh and a member of Thistle Speakers, Scotland’s Advanced Speakers club. You can find out more at and