I was 23, and ready to release more of me.
And I had plenty of options. I could have gone on countless dates to enhance my love life, but my heart was longing for something else; instead, I went to multiple Toastmaster clubs’ meetings to catapult my dream life. When I say multiple, I mean over 80 Toastmasters clubs within two years! Can you say Toastmasters junkie?
Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. When I walked into my first Toastmasters club meeting in June 2010, I knew I was in for an amazing treat. That’s where I met leaders who spoke with such confidence that they could quiet a room with the sound of their voice. When they spoke, people followed their every word and were swept away on a journey to another world: that’s leadership in its finest flavor. But they weren’t ordinary leaders that you would find in the office next to your cubicle or on a stage trying to persuade a crowd to offer political support. They were Distinguished Toastmasters. And all I knew was that I wanted a taste of the ingredients that they used in their recipe for speaking.
Earning the Distinguished Toastmaster medal was the pinnacle of speaking and leadership success in Toastmasters. The average time to achieve Distinguished Toastmaster is 6–9 years. Being a Distinguished Toastmaster means that you have delivered over 40 speeches, managed the educational achievement of both corporate and community clubs, organized speech contests, hosted leadership trainings, delivered leadership workshops, chartered new Toastmaster clubs, and have taken on district leadership roles.
Now let’s be clear. I didn’t walk into the doors of Toastmasters, find a DTM, and immediately think, “I want that!” I had no idea what a Toastmaster was, yet alone what a Distinguished Toastmaster was. I was just trying to prepare for my first beauty pageant and didn’t want to melt on stage during the Q&A portion of the competition that required proficient extemporaneous speaking abilities.
But two years went by and I realized I had done more than challenge myself with absurd table topics questions. Following the Toastmaster track and listening to guidance from my mentors, I earned the Distinguished Toastmasters designation in only two years. At the age of 25, I had become one of the youngest (if not the youngest) Distinguished Toastmaster in District 30 Toastmasters.
Wowzers! And I don’t think I truly understood all of the skills that I had added to my career toolkit as a result of my journey to being a DTM. My experience had earned me multiple corporate promotions, speaking gigs at national conferences, and opportunities to deliver presentations for professional organizations. I can’t forget how my speaking training helped me to win the title of Ms. Corporate America in 2015. Thank you, Toastmasters! My dazzling crown belongs to you.
If you are wondering what it takes to earn the Distinguished Toastmaster designation, here is a list of the awards and dates when I earned them. You can use this timeline to push you forward and achieve more than I have.
Competent Communicator – October 29, 2010
Competent Leader – March 23, 2011
Advanced Leader Bronze – June 2, 2011.
Advanced Communicator Bronze – October 7, 2011.
Advanced Communicator Silver – December 17, 2011.
Advanced Leader Silver – July 3, 2012
Advanced Communicator Gold – July 9, 2012
Distinguished Toastmaster – July 9, 2012
But this is probably what you really want to know: how did I become a Distinguished Toastmaster in two years? This is how I achieved this almost impossible feat.
1. Know Your Why
It all started with a compelling why. I wanted to win a pageant so that I could have a platform to inspire others to achieve their most desired dreams. I truly believe that anyone can succeed from anywhere they are in life, and pageantry is what took my ambitions to the next level. It was a hobby that I never thought I would partake in, but it was an inspiring goal that stretched me to become a person that was worth becoming. I knew that I had to be a speaking-queen in order to achieve my pageantry goals, so I was willing to go above and beyond in my Toastmasters involvement.
Remember your why: this will keep you striving even when you don’t see the light and want to give up on your goals. Your why is what you will use to achieve every goal inside of you.
2. Find a Mentor (Or Two)
If there is any goal that you want to achieve, there is most likely someone else who has achieved it already and can help expedite your progress. Take advantage of these people.
District 30 has a league of individuals who are looking to help you get to the next level. In fact, mentoring a new member is a requirement in the competent leadership manual. If you don’t have a mentor, contact your Vice President of Education so that they can pair you with a club mentor. A mentor can show you the quickest, most harmonious way to achieve your goal. I’ll be honest: I had at least 10 mentors who I latched onto for guidance and support. Each mentor came with different insights that helped to shape my experience in Toastmasters.
3. Have a Plan
Distinguished Toastmaster Joan Moore says it best: “Set your goal. Plan your work. Work your plan.” If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. A plan can give you the direction you need to take advantage of strategic opportunities that will facilitate your progress.
I don’t think anything else needs to be said. It’s as simple as that.
4. Find the Road Map to Success
What will it take to achieve your goal? What does success look like?
Let me tell you this: I did not leave the house without my Toastmasters folder. It contained a visual of everything that I needed to accomplish in order to become a DTM.
I also tracked my speeches and leadership activities so that I could measure my progress. This is where most people fall short; they are doing all of the great work, but don’t have the supporting documentation to support their growth. Document. Document. Document!
5. Become a Member of Multiple Clubs
Being a member of multiple clubs doubles your speaking and leadership opportunities, as well as providing you with diverse evaluations and role models.
I joined Chicago Speakeasy Toastmasters club in June 2010 and became a member of Successfully Speaking Toastmasters club in July 2010. My first pageant was taking place in November, so I wanted to partake in as many opportunities as possible to become a well-versed speaker.
6. Choose Your Possibility Posse
Jim Rohn said, “You are an average of the five people that you spend the most time with.” Choose wisely–the company you keep is a reflection of where you are going.
Keep a handful of DTMs by your side. By surrounding yourself with individuals who have achieved the highest educational designation in Toastmasters, it makes your goal seem realistic and easy. Associate with people who have done it already and they’ll teach you all the tricks of the trade. They allow you to bypass some of the time-wasting mistakes that they made and introduce you to successful tips that can expedite your progress. The mentor can help you achieve success in your club but your DTM team will expose you to opportunities beyond the four walls of your club.
7. Become a Club Ambassador
In my first nine months of being a member of Toastmasters, I traveled to 51 different clubs. This led me to earning the first District 30 Club Ambassador of the Year Award at the Fall Conference in November 2011.
It also helped me to meet district leaders and achievers. Through the club ambassador program, I met people who were so engrossed in the Toastmasters educational program that they were obtaining multiple triple crown awards. A triple crown award is earned when you complete three educational goals in a six month period. The Toastmasters triple crown award recipients were my vision of success, so I started to achieve triple crown awards.
8. Enjoy the Journey
It’s not about the credentials you get. Yes–being a DTM is pretty impressive, but the person you become on the journey is what makes each moment count. The best present that you will unwrap as a member of Toastmasters is you. Through every speech contest, leadership role, and educational goal completed, you tap into the potential that exists within you. Most times we have no idea what we are capable of, but organizations like toastmasters sheds a light on the hidden talents within all of us, allowing us to become all that we can be to achieve any other goal in life.