Some members join Spa Speakers with a view to becoming a professional public speaker at some stage. For those with this aspiration, Toastmasters offers a roadmap: the Accredited Speaker Program. Here is a little bit about it.
The Toastmasters International Accredited Speaker Program is designed for professional speakers who combine expert knowledge in a particular subject with mastery of the spoken word, making them sought-after experts in their respective fields.”
This is Toastmasters International’s official description of the Accredited Speaker Program, which was created in 1981. As of 2017, 75 members have earned this prestigious Accredited Speaker (AS) title.
Who is it for?
But, it’s not for everyone. Toastmasters who achieve it are paid professionals who have a viable speaking business as topic experts and engaging presenters. They know how to find clients, negotiate speaking fees, create compelling marketing material, and be terrific with an audience.
Why earn the AS?
Every profession has its professional certification. This one is for paid speakers who have met high standards and are credible authorities in their chosen fields. It’s not a “next step” after DTM. It reflects a commitment to the craft, and gives clients confidence that they are hiring a true professional. Don’t think of it as a contest. The pass-fail judging does not produce one “winner.”
In any given year, several people can earn the designation. Some years had none. In 2017, there were six, the highest number ever in one year. The designation is also not a plateau to reach. On the contrary, the work done during the application process is the same work professional speakers continue to do to sustain their business.
What you need to apply
To apply for the AS, you must meet these eligibility requirements:
- Be a current Toastmasters member in good standing
- Have earned one of the following education awards, or higher: Able Toastmaster, Advanced Toastmaster Bronze or Advanced Communicator Bronze
- Have given a minimum of 25 speaking engagements (15 are paid) to non-Toastmasters audiences within the past three years
The application process has two levels. Level 1 includes an application that details your background, expertise (speaking topic), target audience and presentation format (keynote, workshop, training, etc.). You provide the list of 25 engagements, five letters of recommendation from clients, and a link to a video recording of one of your presentations. The video has specific requirements, so check the rules before submitting.
Using criteria similar to that of speech contests, a panel of judges reviews the Level 1 applications. Those who pass Level 1 are invited to Level 2, where they present a live 20-minute talk at the Toastmasters International Convention. Those who pass Level 2 are introduced at the convention as the newest Accredited Speakers.
Mentoring and Feedback
Since 1981, the program has changed for the better. Past International President Dilip Abayasekara (2005-2006) earned his Accredited Speaker designation in 1996 and has frequently served as a judge. He’s seen a shift that requires applicants to be paid professional speakers. He also says, “There is now a greater effort to provide feedback to the candidates who did not qualify so they can improve, should they wish to apply again.” Sheryl Roush, who earned the AS in 1993, has served as a judge several times. She says, “Judges get to shape the program, help maintain its integrity and recognize other speaker colleagues by affirming their expertise.” She passionately promotes mentoring for aspiring AS candidates. She says, “If you want to apply, contact the current Accredited Speakers for guidance, because we’re available to guide you. Rochelle Rice and I did a session at the 2016 International Convention that explains the program. It’s worth the time to watch it.”
How does the award create value?
Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking Dana LaMon, who received his accreditation in 1993, gives wise advice: “The designation can boost your professional marketing. But don’t seek it as validation. Get that validation from your professional audiences and clients.” Fellow World Champion of Public Speaking Darren LaCroix echoes this. After he earned his AS in 2015, he wrote on his blog, “Don’t do it for the money; do it for the person you become. Make it a goal to become an Accredited Speaker, not for the letters after your name, but for the speaker and businessperson it makes you.”
Meet the Newest Accredited Speakers
The 2017 International Convention in Vancouver, British Columbia, had the largest class of Accredited Speakers in Toastmasters history. Click here for short profiles of each one.
To apply for the Accredited Speaker Program, submit your application to World Headquarters between January 1 and February 1. To learn more, visit the Accredited Speakers Resources page.
Maureen Zappala, DTM is a former NASA propulsion engineer. Today she’s a professional speaker, author and presentation skills coach, as well as founder of High Altitude Strategies, a coaching and speaking service. She belongs to the Aerospace Toastmasters club in Cleveland, Ohio. Visit her website to learn more.
Source: Toastmasters International
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