Forrest Tuff, DTM, AS, has yet to parachute from a plane or win an Emmy Award—two items he notes are on his bucket list. But he’s achieved plenty of other accomplishments over the years as an entrepreneur, filmmaker, author, coach, talk show host, community advocate, father, former basketball star, and now, as Toastmasters’ newest Accredited Speaker (AS).
Tuff is the 89th Toastmaster to achieve the prestigious designation since the program began in 1981. His presentation, “Brand Strategy for Small Business,” given at the 2021 Toastmasters International Virtual Convention, is punctuated with an energetic voice, engaging gestures, and encouraging words. His passion for the small-business sector, which drives much of the word’s economy, is evident.
Tuff is the owner of One Vision Productions, an Atlanta, Georgia-based multimedia and branding agency that counts small firms, government entities, and Fortune 100 companies among its clients. Since 2015, One Vision has been recognized as one of Atlanta’s “Best and Brightest Companies to Work For” by the National Association of Business Resources.
Tuff says he pursued the AS designation because it has real merit in the workforce.
“Toastmasters has worldwide brand recognition and a reputation for excellence. The AS designation is like a badge of honor that provides organizations the confidence to know they’ve hired the right subject matter expert. And I want to assure my clients they’ve made the right choice with me,” he explains.
Click play to hear the hosts of The Toastmasters Podcast speak with Accredited Speaker Forrest Tuff, DTM.
For years, Tuff enjoyed success in behind-the-scenes roles as a business consultant, but when he started to receive public speaking requests, he realized he “was not up to the task.” That’s when he remembered hearing his mother talk about Toastmasters when he was a teen. As a speech student and orator in her own right, she had long championed Toastmasters. His mother was right. Gwinnett-Tucker Toastmasters Club in Tucker, Georgia, helped him soar professionally and personally, Tuff notes.
“I walked into this President’s Distinguished Club and was accepted immediately. I was the only African American, but it didn’t matter. It feels so good to be part of an organization where everyone wants you to be the best version of yourself. That really struck me and why, to this day, I enjoy being a Toastmaster,” he says.
“It’s something like a code of Toastmasters,” he adds. “Everyone is treated fairly and respectfully. Once you come to meetings, you understand this culture.”
Tuff says his skills were well-tested in the rigorous AS program. It’s a challenge many contenders don’t reach on the first try, and he was no exception. He made his first attempt in 2020 and, like his speaking peers, had to adapt to the suddenly alien practice of engaging an audience—through the eye of a small camera in an empty room. He began pursuing the accreditation before COVID-19 drove the process online.
“I didn’t know how to do a virtual presentation, but I don’t believe in passing up opportunities, so I said yes,” he notes, upon learning about the format change. “I wasn’t comfortable at first—but I learned, and I got through it.” His 2021 presentation was backed by intense personal practice, along with skills he honed as a talk show host during the early days of COVID-19. He also credits advice from other AS designees and expert evaluations he received from the North Gwinnett Advanced Toastmasters Club, for helping him to deliver a polished presentation to earn the accreditation.
Tuff says the AS journey is different for every speaker and advises aspiring AS candidates to request a mentor and join an advanced club, as he did. The objective advice of others was a strong complement to his own personal style and expertise, he notes.
Optimism and unshakable goals are also key ingredients, Tuff adds.
“Be sure to V.E.T. your goals,” he says. “You must have vision (belief in yourself), expertise (know your craft), and tenacity.”
Stephanie Darling is senior editor for the Toastmaster magazine. Reach her at email@example.com.
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