It’s not often that I have the opportunity to attempt an inspirational speech. One recent occasion featured my speech, Aloha, which was my last speech as the President of Ashburn Toastmasters, the club that has done so much to help me improve my public speaking and leadership skills.
To start, let me provide some background on how a Toastmasters club works. In each meeting, people perform different roles according to a well-defined agenda. Some people run the different sections of the meeting. Some people give prepared speeches. Other members are assigned to evaluate the prepared speeches. People switch roles for each meeting. Bottom Line: You get a lot of experience speaking in front of people, whether giving a speech, conducting the meeting, providing an evaluation or even responding in an ad hoc fashion to questions.
Toastmasters also has a two-track curriculum, one focused on Communication, and the other focused on Leadership. The speeches that people give contribute to the Communication track, while the various roles they perform contribute to the Leadership track.
A good Toastmasters club has to accomplish four main tasks:
- Members should make progress on the Communication Track.
- Members should make progress on the Leadership Track.
- The club must recruit new members to replace people who leave (expect 25% to 30% turnover per year).
- The club must perform administrative tasks such as electing officers, getting officers trained so they can accomplish their position, collecting dues, scheduling regular meetings, etc.
Toastmasters International, the non-profit organization to which all clubs answer to, has a “report card” called the Distinguished Club Program (DCP) that evaluates how well a club is functioning. It’s a 10-point scale, with 10 being the best score. A club is considered “Distinguished” if it gets 5 points, “Select Distinguished” if it gets 7 points and “President’s Distinguished” if it gets 9 points.
Under my watch, the club achieved something it had never previously done in its 8-year history: “President’s Distinguished” — with a score of 10 out of 10. I was proud of the achievement. I was proud of what my club had done.
I wanted to give them a rousing speech that would make them feel part of something special, cement their enjoyment of the club experience, and inspire them to achieve “President’s Distinguished” again in the next year. I’m nothing if not ambitious.