A year ago I attended my first Toastmasters International Convention and launched a dream to become an Accredited Speaker. I had read about the program over my nine-year membership. Every year I looked at the requirements and thought it was out of reach for me. At best, I could aspire to be a district officer and a DTM, very noble and service-filled aspirations. I could not see myself as an Accredited Speaker, the highest designation for a Toastmaster.
The only woman in the world
But everything changed when I saw Rochelle Rice present a brilliant four-minute speech at the National Speakers Association’s annual meeting in July 2016, just a month before the Toastmasters Convention. It was the introduction that grabbed my imagination. “And now, Rochelle Rice, the only woman in the world to hold the CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) from NSA and the Accredited Speakers Program!.” The only woman in the world rang in my ears. Only?
Little did I know that they were no black women holding the Accredited Speaker designation — period. That realization came when I sat on the edge of my seat watching the smiling faces of all sixty-seven accredited speakers. I kept looking for me. I wasn’t there after three repetitions. I guess she did not submit a photo, I concluded. In that moment, I decided to become the only Black woman in the world to do both. (My third application to the CSP will be submitted on Jan.2018)
My Vision as an Accredited Speaker Is Clear
Rochelle and Sheryl Roush (author of The Heart of Toastmaster) were larger than life on the stage and on the jumbotrons. I was whisked away in a vision of being on that big stage. Afterward, I asked a stranger to take my picture in front of the Accredited Speaker logo on the big screen. In that moment, I could see me clearer. During the business meeting, I introduced myself to Sheryl Roush and told her of my vision of being an accredited speaker. “I will help you!” She beamed. My knees buckled.
Foaming at the Mouth
In my hotel room that night, I read the requirements with new eyes. I had a vision. My picture became my screen saver to empower my confidence. I now had to get paid engagements! I did what I knew how to do best. I asked for help and it came. I began collecting checks. Next, I hired a videographer, Andrew Rougier-Chapman (a Toastmaster), to get a professional video. Fairfax County Health Department paid me $100 to do a presentation on bullying and implicit bias. Last week, I had professional photos done. Now I am studying Rochelle and Sheryl’s wardrobe so I can be appropriately dressed for the biggest day of my life: August 26th!
I now dream of being in the crowd of accredited speakers when they join the stage at the end to welcome the inductee!
My call to action:
- Have a vision
- See it daily
- Ask for help
- Tell yourself the story you want to live!
- Keep a gratitude journal
- Speak the vision in 5-7 minutes as often as you can!
When we came back to our Toastmaster GUTS meeting. Bob Snyder did an evaluation of a speech. In his introduction, he said: “Tamara belongs on the big stage!” I kept his words in my heart.