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May 2024
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Making a Difference as a Toastmaster

The real purpose behind public speaking.

By Steve Gilliland

A man and woman talking at a table

When the “why” is clear, the “how” is easy. People who make a difference have the ability not just to envision something in an abstract way, but they also have the drive to go out and do it.
As a Toastmaster and leader, your life’s work should be to serve others and influence them to do the same.

No matter what challenges you face each day, you have to remain determined to find a way to bring joy and hope to people around you. Try to focus on maintaining a calm, compassionate, humorous and positive attitude. While you don’t know what struggles other people might be facing, you do have the power to bring others hope—if only for a moment. That hope can multiply a thousand times and manifest in unexpected ways.

Fill Your Own Cup First

As a Toastmaster, you can make someone’s day; but to be inspiring, you have to feel inspired. You must fill your own cup first. If you are happy, then you will be better able to make others happy. How you begin your day will go a long way in determining the rest of it. Making a difference is about conscious choices that do, and will, affect the lives of people you encounter. It is about being a leader whose behavior models what you expect of the people around you. Your job may give you authority. But your behavior earns you respect.

When your cup begins to fill, drip by drip, you will be able to help others around you. Whatever brings you joy, find a way to let it in. Your contentment will be worth it.

Live Your Message

The number one question I am always asked about my career is, “What is the biggest challenge you face as a professional speaker?” My answer: living it! The saying “Actions speak louder than words” is never more accurate than when you deliver a speech and then are challenged to live it. When our actions do not fit our words, not only do we set off a negative chain reaction outside ourselves, we also set off a negative chain reaction within ourselves. We learn not to trust ourselves, and that leads to low self-esteem and uneasiness.

We cannot be dishonest to others without being dishonest to ourselves. Whenever you have someone else’s attention, your actions can convince them that the world is either a cold, frightening place, or that it’s full of love and joy. As a speaker and a leader, it is imperative that your actions match your beliefs.

Be Driven by Purpose

You may have considered the question: What would you do if you knew you only had six months to live? Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Even if I knew the world would end tomorrow, I would plant a tree today.” Or consider Saint Augustine: while weeding his garden one morning, he was asked, “What would you do if you knew you were going to die before the sun went down?” Without a moment’s hesitation Saint Augustine responded, “I would continue hoeing my garden.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Saint Augustine were two men focused on their purpose and sense of time—or lack thereof—and would not consider deviating from their paths. Would winning the lottery change your daily routine? If so, then ask yourself if you are driven by an actual purpose. Allow your passion to become your purpose, and it will become your profession.

Discover True Wealth

True wealth is discovered when you begin to realize your presence will either bring a person up or down. As a Toastmaster and leader, are you bringing people up? What specific things do you do every day to show others they are important to you? Do you celebrate their successes? People who make a difference set their self-interest aside and rejoice in the happiness of others. Sharing the wealth is about encouraging other people to go for their dreams and cheering them on to make their ambitions become reality. Don’t just give what you have, give who you are.

The real purpose behind speaking is to inspire people everywhere to make a difference. One person can change the world. It starts with you!

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