In just over a week, I will stand in the middle of my own miracle. I will stand before fifteen hundred international members and guests at the Toastmasters Convention in Vancouver, Canada and vie to become an Accredited Speaker. It is the highest distinction Toastmasters International bestows upon a professional speaker. For years, I have dreamed of being an Accredited Speaker with Toastmasters International. But, I never took the first step. Year after year, I gazed upon the requirements and told myself a false story. The story was that I was not good enough, not polished enough, not ready to be considered as an Accredited Speaker. After all, there are only sixty-nine in the world as of today.
I got caught up in my own story of inadequacy that I never took that critical first step. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. told us that “We don’t to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” Never mind that I had been a professional speaker in my world of work for thirty years as a leadership trainer and executive coach. This just seemed to be at another level of competence that was beyond my grasp.
In some ways, I was right. My style of speaking in the world of leadership and organization development was one of giving presentations with a professorial style. I had been a professor for over fifteen years. It was a hard habit to break. Being a Toastmaster over nine years has helped me to gain “platform skills,” the precision of using the stage as performance and engaging audiences to be of service to them. It was not about how much I knew and displaying my knowledge and expertise for all to marvel.
It was now about connection and transformation. It was also about inspiration, motivation, and influence. It was about mastery of the spoken word. I begin to ask first, as recommended by my mentor and Accredited Speaker, Dr. Dilip Abayasekara, “What does the audience need from me?” This journey has changed how I prepare and deliver a speech. I have reached a new level of discipline and practice that defines expertise.
If you have ever had a dream without a plan, it is no wonder you might feel stuck, like me. Once I decided to pursue this big, audacious goal, I mapped a strategy. But, first, I had to see the vision. I had to see me on the big stage. So, I took a picture last year of me in front of the big jumbotron screen with the Accredited Speaker logo in the background. This picture anchored my vision. I would be on a journey like any (s)hero in a story. I needed help and I reached out. I found many hands reaching back to me to support my journey. When I received less than great reviews on my practice speeches, each critique made the speech stronger, made me more resilient.
I am now almost there: ready to stand in the middle of my own miracle.
Note: The Accredited Speaker finals will have a live feed around the world on August 26, 2017 at 8:30 am Pacific Time.