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May 2024
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Game On!

Why I became an Accredited Speaker.

By Darren LaCroix, AS

Darren LaCroix
If you aspire to become a professional speaker, this could be the most important article you read this year. What is the Toastmasters Accredited Speaker (AS) Program, and why seek the accreditation? Why not?  You might ask why I reached for that accreditation after being a Toastmaster since 1995.

Two years ago I was challenged by a professional speaker to become an Accredited Speaker. Game on! I went for it in 2015 but did not make it to the final round. In 2016, I tried again. This time I passed to the final round and gave a live presentation at the Toastmasters International Convention in front of 1,000 people. The most common question I received afterward was, “Why?” That was usually followed by, “I thought you already were accredited.” No, I was not. 

Any profession has designations and accreditations that are recognized in that industry. The AS separates you from the hobbyist speakers, not that there is anything wrong with speaking as a hobby. The accreditation requires effort and direction, but it shows determination. Find out how to get there. 

The Most Exciting Part

When I competed in the International Speech Contest back in 2001, I did it for a different reason from when I competed in 1998, when I did it for ego and a trophy. In 2001, I had the intention of making one of my stories so good that someone would pay to hear it.

Similar to a speech contest, the final presentation in the AS Program is judged on several categories. But unlike a speech contest, it’s a pass or fail. AS judging has nothing to do with being compared to other competitors; whether or not you make it is 100 percent dependent on you. While it is not easy, it is much simpler than winning five speech contests! 

I remember hearing a brilliant quote by Jim Rohn, an American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker: “Set a goal to become a millionaire for what it makes of you to achieve it. Do it for the skills you have to learn and the person you have to become.”

Think about that. Don’t do it for the money; do it for the person you will become. 

The week before the 2016 International Convention, I spoke at Toastmasters clubs every day to strengthen my presentation. My opening question was, “Do you want to speak … or be heard?” I wanted to explain the difference between merely speaking and actually making a difference in your audience’s thinking. And then I had the idea of creating a visual to help clarify the difference. 

Professional visuals are part of the judging. Without my last couple of live run-throughs, that visual would not have existed. The process made me better able to communicate my message. 

Speech Contest vs. Accredited Speaker

Only one person wins the World Championship of Public Speaking® each year. And winning a speech contest does not equal a professional speaking career. No one has ever hired me for a large fee, or any fee, because I have a trophy. I have been hired because of the stories I tell. A speakers bureau doesn’t care if you have a trophy. They do care about first-class marketing materials and a professional demonstration video showing a powerful story and audience engagement. If you compete to improve your skills, you will win every time.

What is your intention? 

Going for your AS requires you to interact and build your business in the real world. You will need to present 25 professional speeches outside of Toastmasters. You will learn about the industry and how it works.

Start Now

Begin now to get the required documentation. Applications must be in between January 1st and February 1st each year. Download the forms now and start filling them out to see what you need to work on. Put pictures on your vision board and break down what you need to do into manageable tasks and goals. Even if your timeline to accomplish your goal is several years down the road, start now. If you are already a professional speaker, the process will be easier and faster.

Whether you are challenged or encouraged to speak professionally, consider pursuing the AS. Don’t do it to add more letters after your name, but for the speaker and businessperson that you will become in the process.  I challenge you!

For more information about the application process, please visit the Accredited Speaker Program page on the Toastmasters website.  


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