Advice on How to Become a Champion Public Speaker–a speech by Dana Lamon

Dana LaMon, a blind African-American and retired judge, earned the title of World Champion of Public Speaking from Toastmasters International in 1992.   He has spoken to audiences from Asia to South Africa, including more than 35 states of the U.S., and our District 30 in Chicagoland was fortunate enough to be able to book him as the keynote speaker for our Toastmasters Leadership Institute (TLI) that was held on June 13th.    I was inspired by two of the speeches he gave at the TLI event, the speech at the opening of the Institute’s day-long program and the keynote speech he did at our luncheon.

The speech he gave at the opening was called Advice for Change, where he spells out the acronym ADVICE for those who are seeking to improve themselves in Toastmasters through their public speaking and leadership training program.

ADVICE on How to Become a Champion Public Speaker

How do you change from where you are now to becoming a champion public speaker?   Even if your goal is not to become the World Champion of Public Speaking, like Dana Lamon, he assured the audience that no matter what kind of champion you want to be, or what cause you want to champion, the art of public speaking can take you there.

1.   A is for Attitude

You have to make the moment meaningful, by willing to temporary forget the past, and be open to new ideas, new techniques, and new challenges.   When you are faced by a change, you have three choices, you can actively resist, you can passively adjust, or you can actively use the opportunity to grow.     If you focus on the now rather than the past, you will find it easier to let go of resistance and start to willingly change.

2.  D is for Desire

If you know what you want to do as a public speaker, you will know what adjustments you will need to make to get yourself to change towards that goal.    Find those who have done it before you and watch what they do.    However, how they do what they do is a different matter:    you will have to be authentic to your own voice and your own style in order to succeed.    So you can copy techniques, of others, but retain your own integrity in adapting them to yourself.

3.  V is for Vision

Keep a mental picture prominently in view, so that if your immediate path wavers, you will be able to hone in on where you need to get go next, like an internal GPS system.

4.  E is for … Innergy

What is Innergy?    A word Dana Lamon made up that encapsulates the power that comes from within that propels you towards the direction of change.

  • I can–rather than saying to yourself “I would like” to be a champion, actually spend some time feeling the feeling of what it would be like to be a champion public speaker.    What kind of influence would you be able to yield?    Feeling this feeling as if it already existed right now, and not sometime in the future, is a key emotional element towards identifying with success.
  • I will–if you have a so-called “failure” on your way towards your final goal, do not let it deter you, but stop and take stock of what you can learn from it, and then move on.     So many people quit because they are discouraging by having to pay their dues before they start receiving the fruits of their efforts.
  • I connect–connect with others who are on the same journey, either those who have gone on ahead of you, so you can be inspired to achieve more, or those who are behind you.    Helping others will give you additional motivational for keeping on the pathway towards success.   Network with as many people as possible and assist them, so they will remember you and be willing to assist you.

5.  C is for Control

Always stay in control when you are on stage, no matter what the circumstances are that you may encounter.    If there is a technical difficulty, you may acknowledge it, but don’t belabor the situation with additional apologies.    If you pretend to ignore it, your audience will, too!    If something happens unexpectedly, you can make the audience think that it was part of the program.   Of course, this takes preparation, but it takes mental agility–which is where the impromptu speeches of Toastmasters, aka Table Topics speeches, come into play.

6.   E is for Excellence

You need to be committed to moving forward.    If circumstances put roadblocks in your way, find another route.    If someone tells you no, keep looking for the person who will say yes.    You must have the drive for excellence!

In fact, he said this drive for excellence was so important, he had an acronym for that as well, which he shared with us during the keynote noon-time address.   That will be the subject of the next post!


Happy (Toastmasters) New Year!

Today is the first day of the Toastmasters New Year, which runs from July 1st, 2015, through June 30th, 2016.

Just like at the time of the regular New Year’s celebration, I make a plan for the year.    Resolutions are nice, but those are essentially wishes–to make them come true requires a plan.    What is in my plan for the new Toastmasters year?    That’s the subject of today’s post.

1.   Member Goals

a.   Join Windy City Professional Speakers Club

I joined my first Toastmasters International club back at the end of 2010, so that means I’ve been a member of Toastmasters for about four and a half years now.    I became a dual member of my home club, Yorba Linda Achievers, and a professional club, Orange County Project Masters, a Toastmasters club exclusively for project managers.    When I moved to Chicago in the summer of 2013, I continued being a dual member, first of my new home club, Homewood-Flossmoor Toastmasters, and then the Chicago version of a club for project managers, Project Management Institute (PMI) Chicagoland Toastmasters Club.

Now I am contemplating joining a third club, this one designed for those who are professional speakers or those who want a professional career involving public speaking.   It’s called Windy City Professional Speakers Club, and it’s a unique club in several ways.    First of all, you can be invited to the club as a guest, but you have to attend three meetings before you are allowed to audition for membership.    I just went to my third meeting last Sunday, so I am eligible to audition for the club on Sunday, July 26th.    I want to be a member of a professional speakers club because in my volunteer position as Director of Certification at the Chicagoland chapter of the Project Management Institute, I work with professional educators and am in training to become one myself.    I have taught four times already for Dushun Mosley of EduTeach, who runs a PMP study group for a company based in New York called NetCom.    Although I am just a substitute teacher, I am paid for my efforts, so I consider myself a professional teacher.    I plan to apply for a more permanent position after I am done with my volunteer position at PMI Chicagoland in December.   In that position as Director of Certification, a run a study group for free for the members of the chapter who are studying for the PMP exam, and it is there that I want to improve myself.     The study group is via conference call, but I want to do a video conference, and I want to use my training at Windy City Professional Speakers Club to make me a more dynamic teacher.

b.   Start High Performance Leadership Project

I have achieved my Advanced Communicator Gold award and the Advanced Leader Bronze award.    For the Advanced Leader Silver award, there are three qualifications needed:   1) be a club coach, sponsor, or mentor,  2) serve a term as a district-level officer (including being an Area Governor), and 3) complete a High Performance Leadership (HPL) project.   One year ago, I sponsored a new club, so that milestone has been achieved.    As of yesterday, I successfully completed a one-year term as an Area Governor.   This means that I only have one more piece of the puzzle to complete, the HPL project, in order to qualify for the Advanced Leader Silver award, which together with the Advanced Communicator Gold award, will qualify me to achieve the Distinguished Toastmaster award, the highest educational award one can achieve as a member of Toastmasters International.    My HPL project is on working with professionals in linguistics and English as a Second Language (ESL) to create a library of resources for those members of our District 30, which covers the Chicagoland area, for whom English is not their first language.    This will be helpful not only to those ESL members of clubs, but to the officers in those clubs who want to assist those members, but may not have the resources to do so.

I plan to start it now in July and finish it by September, so that I can present my results at the Fall Conference.

c.  Club Ambassador Program

I am fluent in five languages other than English, namely, Spanish, French, German, Chinese and Japanese.   I have taken proficiency tests in those languages to certify that I am fluent, but my membership in Toastmasters has led me to my next goal:   to be able to do a speech in all of those languages.    Now I have already had one experience as a professional speaker, which was to be an MC at a wedding anniversary for a fellow Toastmasters Club member whose parents were having their 50th wedding anniversary.    They were both Japanese-Americans, so I needed to speak both Japanese (to the older generation) and English (to the younger generation) at the event.    But I now want to do speeches in the other four languages, and fortunately, there are foreign language-themed clubs in District 30 for all four of them, and I want to visit those clubs as a Club Ambassador and do a speech in each of them sometime within the next year.

2.   Club Officer Goals

a.   Become Presidents Distinguished Club (for home club) and Select Distinguished Club (for professional club)

I just ended my first term as being a President of a Toastmasters Club, the Homewood-Flossmoor Toastmasters Club, and it was a great learning experience as a Toastmaster and as a leader.   As the “public face” of the club, you interact with prospective guests to persuade them to become members, and you interact with members to persuade them to be active members.    You do this not just with your own efforts, but by orchestrating the efforts of all of the club officers.    You need to set the club goals for the year in what is called the Club Success Plan, but you have to obtain buy-in from the club officers and then the members in order for it to be successful.    As the President of the club, I was able to get our club members to come together to achieve all 10 points in the Distinguished Club Program, which made our club as President’s Distinguished Club.    I want to work the same way in my professional club, the PMI Chicagoland Toastmasters Club, as President of that Club in the coming year.    I want our club to be at least a Select Distinguished Club in the coming year.     This means doing a “quality control” checklist called Moments of Truth sometime in July, and then using those results to come up with process improvement projects that the club officers will carry out during the rest of the year.    This will also prepare us for our visit from our Area Director, Bill Morrill, when he comes to visit in August, because his Area Director Club Visit form is based on that Moments of Truth checklist.

b.  Assist Club Officers (for Windy City Professional Club)

Assuming that I pass the audition in July for the professional speakers club, I want to become a member of one of the committees that assist the Club Officers.    The reason is that I want to use my project manager skills to help organize and accomplish the work of the club.

3.  District Officer Goals

Last year I was an Area Governor, and in the coming year, I am an Asst. Division Governor and plan to use the year to prepare to be a Division Governor next year.    To that end, I want to accomplish the following.

a.   Assist Area Directors

Area Governors are now Area Directors, which means that they are doing the job I did last year.    This means I know exactly what they are going through, and am in a position to help them where they need it most.    I want my own area, Area S56, to become a Select Distinguished Area, which means that 3 out of 4 clubs need to be Distinguished Clubs or better.    This shouldn’t be too much of a stretch, because this is what my Area did last year.    It didn’t become a Distinguished Area, however, because it lost a club.    This year, if we maintain the 3 out of 4 clubs being at Distinguished Area or higher, we will become a Select Distinguished.   Rather than trying to be a Presidents Distinguished Area, which would mean creating a new club, I would rather the Area Director focus on having all 4 clubs be Distinguished Clubs.    That would be a great legacy going forward.    Hey, if the possibility for a new club happens, then great, but if it does go forward, the sponsors and the club officers have to have rock-solid commitments to the club.    I would rather not see a new club go forward under my watch as a Division Governor, than to have a club open prematurely and then close due to lack of continued support.

b.  Magnify Influence of Windy City Professional Speakers Club

As an Asst. Division Director, I am in a unique position to help the club magnify its influence in the district in three ways.  First of all, I can get the word out to those in the South Division about the club, and look for those with potential as professional speakers and invite them to the club.    Second of all, I can help get Evaluation Workshops set up that can help the clubs in the District get desperately needed help in improving their evaluations.     And thirdly, I can scout out the possibility for creating new professional-level Toastmasters Clubs (Windy City is currently the only one in District 30) either downtown or in the North or South Suburbs (Windy City is in the West Suburbs).

4.  Additional Goals

a.   Assist Veterans

As a member of PMI Chicagoland, I assist the group of chapter members who are mentoring a group of veterans in conjunction with the Black Diamond charity.    Currently I teach a group of veterans with a study group for the PMP study group, the same way that I do for the regular PMI Chicagoland chapter members.    I also am assisting at a group of mentoring sessions, one which completed last Saturday, and the other two coming up at the end of July and August.   In the July session, I will talk about Toastmasters and how it can help them as project managers and leaders.

b.  Conquer “Action” Style of Communication

In a “Team Dynamics” exercise we did last year when I first became an Area Governor, I found that out of the four styles of communication, I had a primary strength in “Ideas” and a secondary strength in the “Process” communication style.  My weaknesses were “People” and “Action”.   I decided to work on my “People” skills, and at our Division Director training session I went to in June, I found that my score in the “People” communication style had improved to the point that it was equal to my secondary strength (which was still “Process”).    My goal for the coming year is to get the last weakness, my “Action” style of communication, up closer to the other three styles.

This is am ambitious list of goals for the New Year, but when I do my monthly planning, I will include every month a piece of these goals so that by the end of the year, I will accomplish at least a majority of them.   But it would great to complete them all!    I’ll use this post as a record and see how I stack up on June 30th, 2016…