Becoming a Pro
Earning Accredited Speaker status is a daunting journey – but well worth it.
By Jana Barnhill, PIP, DTM, AS
When Rochelle Rice and Karen Twichell passed the final round of judging at the International Convention last August, they became Toastmasters International’s newest Accredited Speakers. In doing so, Rice, from New York City, and Twichell, of Newport Beach, California, joined select company: Only 60 Toastmasters have obtained this lofty goal.
What is an Accredited Speaker (AS)? This is a person who possesses expert-level speaking skills. Many have made the jump from speaking for free to speaking for a fee, becoming professional speakers who work for themselves or their employer. Sound appealing? If so, Toastmasters International encourages you to apply. But be prepared: The journey is quite daunting.
Becoming an Accredited Speaker takes time and requires the completion of several prerequisites, including delivering at least 25 speeches to non-Toastmasters groups within three years of your application. But don’t let that deter you. The fact is, there are always groups within a community looking for speakers. Lions, Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, women’s special interest groups, and groups that support causes such as cancer and diabetes research, are often looking for individuals to speak either for them or to them.
A bigger challenge as you work through these 25 speeches is having to incorporate each type of presentation skill, including informative, persuasive, motivational/inspirational, entertaining/humorous and seminar/discussion leader. But in return for your efforts, you’ll “reach the height of excellence in public speaking skills,” as the AS Program Brochure and Application points out. This form (Item 1208) is available for download at www.toastmasters.org/asapp.asp.
Submitting Your Application
Once you have met the necessary requirements, you submit your application, due to World Headquarters on November 1, 2011. Among other requirements, you must send an audiotape or CD of a live 15- to 45-minute presentation you delivered to a non-Toastmasters audience. Your audio is sent to a panel of judges. Since you won’t be seen by the judges, this is a unique test of your speaking skills.
When you pass that first level of judging, congratulations; you’re almost there. You must then prepare for round two: a live, new presentation delivered at the next International Convention.
Just as with speech contests, those trying to become Accredited Speakers don’t always walk away with the trophy. This was Karen Twichell’s second attempt at earning the AS designation; she had spoken in the final round at the 2009 International Convention and did not pass.
“I had worked so hard for this and I was very disappointed,” recalls Twichell. “My fellow Toastmasters urged me to try again in 2010. My family and non-Toastmasters friends told me not to torture myself by trying again.”
Ultimately, she decided to give it another try. Twichell worked hard, reviewing the tape of her 2009 presentation, seeking advice and making the needed changes. It paid off!
Tackling the Ultimate Challenge
So yes, it is a daunting process: 25 outside speeches, a live recording, rigorous training and a live presentation during the International Convention. But all the Accredited Speakers I know agree that this program was the ultimate challenge in taking their skills to the highest level possible. It dared us to ask the question, “Am I good enough to be a professional speaker?”
As Accredited Speakers, we are often asked how we have benefited from earning our designation. In addition to improving our skills and receiving invitations to speak at Toastmasters conferences, the credential is important to those of us who speak professionally because it distinguishes us from other speakers.
Past Toastmasters International President and Accredited Speaker Dilip Abayasekara sums it up nicely.
“The AS designation has given me instant credibility with prospects and clients,” says the Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, resident. “Although non-Toastmasters don’t have any idea about what is required to earn the Accredited Speaker designation, they recognize it as a high-level recognition of professional speaking skills by an international organization. “I use it as a way to differentiate myself from others in the speaking, coaching and training industry.”
We are doing what we love: speaking and sharing our knowledge, our hearts and our motivation with others. And we get paid for it. How is that for icing on the cake?
Editor’s Note: For a list of all of Toastmasters’ Accredited Speakers to date, visit www.toastmasters.org/AccreditedSpeakers.aspx.
This is a condensed version of an article that appeared in the December 2010 issue of the Toastmaster magazine.
Jana Barnhill, DTM, AS, served as Toastmasters International President in 2008-2009 and earned her Accredited Speaker title in 1998. A member of the Lubbock Professional Club, she lives with her husband, fellow Past International President and Accredited Speaker Robert Barnhill, in Lubbock, Texas.