In the Beginning
When I did my icebreaker speech in Cheltenham Speakers in June 2013, little did I know back then that I would become a Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) just 3 years later. A few weeks later I was living on the Clyde estuary and Toastmasters only came back on my agenda when I moved to London in late September 2013. Mastering public speaking and leadership was and remain a priority for me; so a rough plan was sketched in my head of joining several clubs to clock up experience faster.
My knowledge of the Toastmasters educational programme developed itself in drip by drip, mainly through my own research. Not having a mentor meant that I was on my own. But my natural curiosity coupled with an early promotion to VPE did the trick and so my first objective was set. Achieving Competent Communicator and Competent Leader status by June 2014! Once this was done, my next objective was a bold race against the clock, becoming a DTM before I turned 30; becoming a DTM before December 2016!
Launching London Victorians paved the way for completing all the leadership related tasks in time. The major stumbling block for me was the speeches, completing 30+ speeches in just 2 years. Like many I found the jump from the CC manual to the advanced manuals quite big and my speech progression stalled for a few months, adding to the dilemma. The dilemma was eventually sorted through a combination of forward planning and seeking out extra speaking opportunities whenever possible. Being a member of 3 and even briefly 4 clubs also helped in a big way! Eventually, my final speech from the Technical Presentations manual in late May, Speech 49 AM in my classification, 2016 sealed the deal.
Over the last 3 years I’ve learnt more about public speaking and leadership that I hoped for and the amazing thing is that my Toastmasters journey is still far from over. Indeed, the more I learnt about both subjects, the more I realise that I know little and still have a lot more to learn and experience. It goes without saying that I’m already working through my second DTM in order to focus on anything I may have missed when doing the first one!
Can anyone do the same? The answer is yes you can and here’s how.
1. Plan Your Speaking Schedule
As soon as I learnt the “2 roles in between speeches” rule in my clubs, I immediately requested speeches and roles far in advance to progress as fast as I could. I subsequently started keeping a record of all the meetings I attended and tabulated all the meeting dates of my clubs 6 months in advance. This way you can calculate how many speeches you’ll be doing over the course of a few months. Number your speech and here you go, you’ll have a very good idea of when you’ll deliver your 9th or even your 24th speech!
2. Join a Second Club
Not being a member a single club meant that I was exposed to some of the wider elements of the Toastmasters community very early on. You’ll meet more people faster, be known to visiting GEs and functionaries faster. But more importantly you’ll have more opportunities to speak and do meeting roles. Don’t neglect meeting roles as they’re just as important as speeches to sharpen your arsenal of skills.
3. Network Proactively
Had I not attended the Division B contests of October 2013, I most definitely wouldn’t have been as involved as quickly since these words of wisdom from the amazing Hillary Briggs, “you’re enthusiastic; you should get more involved!” Made me think a lot back then. In the same vein, offering my services as general evaluator, mystery speaker or judge, both pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to meet more people in other clubs. Without these relationships, London Victorians would have never happened, I would never have considered doing a Youth Leadership Project and becoming an area director would have been much harder.
4. Get to know the Educational Program
The Toastmasters Educational Program is rather simple, but the devil lies in its detail. For example in the requirement to do two speeches from the Successful Speaker Series to achieve ACS, the imperative of being a club mentor, sponsor or coach and a few more. Know what these bottlenecks will be far advance and plan accordingly!
5. Remember to Push Yourself!
You’ll need to do 46 speeches to become a DTM. That’s right a whopping 46 speeches! The effort will be worthless though if you don’t push yourself and excel in whatever you do. Always ensure that your speeches meet their project objectives. NEVER hesitate to repeat or redo a speech of you’re not happy about how it went. As club officer or district officer, don’t forget that you’re a leader and that you have a duty to lead by example. If you decide to launch a club in your own journey, make it the best you can, do better than what others do and serve your members first and foremost!
Just like me you’ll learn more on this journey than you hoped for. So onwards and forwards, go on and add these three letters ‘DTM’ to your last name by December 2019!