Share Your District Table Topics or Humorous Speech Contest on Facebook Live

As a live streaming video tool available to any Facebook user, Facebook Live presents a tremendous opportunity for clubs and districts to showcase their talent.

If we want to demonstrate that Toastmasters is more than a bunch of people giving PowerPoint presentations to each other, what better opportunity than the humorous speech and table topics contests? Since the district is the top level of competition for both table topics and humorous speeches, this is a great opportunity for districts to show just how compelling and entertaining a good Toastmasters speech can be — and perhaps inspire more people to visit a club and join. And by getting current members to share the video with their friends, districts have the opportunity to reach a sizeable local audience.

Below, I’m sharing a (slightly edited version of) the proposal I just sent to my district leadership. My suggestion is that other districts who have their conferences coming up consider this as well.

Update: One question I’ve gotten about this idea is what to do if one or more contestants do not agree to the broadcast. My answer is you acknowledge and respect their wishes, without pressuring them. Ask if they will agree to be video recorded, with the opportunity to review the video before it is published (see these tips). That’s an alternate strategy that’s perfectly valid — I just see Facebook Live as an ideal way of reaching a larger audience, if the speakers and contest organizers can agree on it.

District 47 humorous speech contest winner
District 47’s 2016 humorous speech contest winner Jason Blank and friends.

Proposal: Facebook Live broadcast of District Humorous Speech Contest

I’m writing to suggest we take an advantage of a publicity, recruiting, and social media marketing opportunity by broadcasting the district humorous speech contest on Facebook Live.

I have been a proponent of video recording the contest speeches for the past several years, but a live broadcast from the event could be more engaging and reach a larger audience. If you agree, the planning and preparation would need to start soon — at least as soon as we know who won the division contests.

This would only work if all the contestants agree in advance and complete the video release form from Toastmasters International. This would be a live broadcast, meaning there will be no opportunity for the speakers to review the video before it is published. (However, we might offer them the option of having their video removed from the replay after the fact — I doubt anyone would request that, but it might be reassuring for them to know they have the option of destroying the evidence if they really mess up on stage).

I would NOT suggest doing this for the International Speech Contest, as the winners are often sensitive about not wanting to “tip off the competition” by sharing the video beyond the club. But the humorous speech contest is ideal, engaging content, and a chance to show off some of the best talent in our district. If this experiment works well, I also would suggest doing Facebook Live for the Table Topics competition in the spring.

Why Facebook Live

If you’re an active Facebook user, you have probably seen the alerts that some contact in your network or some business page you’ve subscribed to is going live with a Facebook video. These productions range from professional broadcasts to extremely amateur selfie video. The Online Presenters club I founded recently did a workshop (see replay) with the author of Facebook Marketing for Dummies on the Facebook Live tactics available to small businesses and nonprofits.

Live video tends to command more attention because there is more of a reason to turn in right now while an event (such as our contest) is happening. When a Facebook user tunes in and “likes” or comments on a live video, their friends who are online at that moment will also get an alert and may tune in, broadening our reach. We can do some advance promotion to tune in at the time we expect the conference to begin by visiting the District Facebook page – and that they should “like” the page to get an alert when the broadcast starts.

We can also make an announcement encouraging the in person attendees to share the feed as it is starting (right before they turn off or at least silence their phones and turn their full attention to the speakers).

Speakers can encourage family members or club members who are not in attendance but would like to see the speech to tune in.

I would also suggest doing a press release mentioning that the contest will be broadcast on Facebook Live – a detail that might make publications more likely to publish the release, send a reporter, or perhaps tune in for our broadcast.

Logistical Details

In addition to obtaining the video release forms from the speakers, here is how I would recommend setting this up:

  • The Facebook Live broadcast should be sent out from the district Facebook page, not a personal profile. The camera operator will need administrative access to that page (at least for the duration of the event).
  • The simplest way of doing a Facebook Live broadcast is from a smartphone (fully charged, with a couple of auxiliary battery packs handy!).
  • Use WIFI rather than the cellular network. If the conference room facility WIFI isn’t trustworthy, consider bringing in your own wireless router and connecting to the Internet with a hard wire. Work out the details with the facility well in advance.
  • The camera operator needs to be seated close to the stage. Although smartphone cameras works surprisingly well, audio and video quality will be much better if the camera is close to the subject.
  • Bring in additional lighting, rather than what is built into the conference room. Video quality will be better if the speakers are well lit.
  • The humorous speeches are engaging content, but the minute of silence between speeches is not. I suggest having a team of people recruited to post comments and keep the conversation lively during that period. If you do not like the idea of people in the room fidgeting with their phones, recruit allies who will not be attending in person to help keep the conversation active during that time.
  • End the Facebook Live program after the last speaker but announce that the broadcast will resume for the announcement of the winners.
  • Consider doing an additional Facebook Live broadcast as an interview with the winner.

I am sure there will be other details to be worked out, but that’s everything I can think of right now. If you adopt this proposal, I will be happy to do what I can to contribute to making it work, along with your public relations and social media team.

David F. Carr, versatile and inventive writer, editor, and web consultant
Author, Social Collaboration for Dummies
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