The Long walk to DTM

I received my Distinguished Toastmaster Plaque all the way from America today. After the 6-month backlog of the Post office, it finally arrived. I was feeling quite nostalgic reflecting on my 10-year journey to getting my DTM.

According to Daniel Rex- the CEO of Toastmasters International “Distinguished Toastmaster recognition is the highest honor that can be earned by a member of Toastmasters International. The DTM Award is given only to those who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and communication skills and who have used these skills to help others in their self-development efforts”.

Toastmasters was a huge learning curve for me. I didn’t only learn to make speeches, but also how to serve, and how to follow. How to inspire, and how to motivate, how to facilitate, and how to train, and most importantly how to hold people accountable in a nice way.

Allow me to share some of my 10-year Toastmasters journey with you

My mentor and friend, the late Vic Brits taught me the importance of taking every assignment or role on in a serious manner. He would be furious if I arrived at his house and didn’t already know the speech of my heart. He believed in a culture of Excellence, of going the extra mile, making magic on stage and his legacy will always live on.

 When I moved to Johannesburg in 2010, I found that same culture of excellence I had been part of at President Club at 4th Dimension Toastmasters. These people were proud to be part of this club. They were speaking on such a high level, that you wouldn’t dare to not put effort into every assignment. This was a very safe environment, a group of cheerleaders that wanted you to do well, that cheered you on and picked you up if you fell.

Arranging the “Mexicon conference” in 2009/2010 under Adele du Randt as the leader was one of my highlights. New friendships were formed, and I could see how a team from different generations, cultures, and genders could make magic.

Nikki Quinn became one of my mentors and friends, who shaped me into being her Contest Chair at her Area contest. She encouraged me to become an Area Director, to Sponsor a club, to become a TLI trainer and to chase my Distinguished Toastmaster award.

Sometimes others see more in our abilities than we do ourselves.

I became an Area Governor in 2014 coaching 4 clubs including 4th Dimension, UWP, Randburg and Dainfern Tigers.  Nikki taught me the lessons of asking for help kindly, always offering support and allowing your teams to do their work and to then get out of their way

Golden Gavel Advanced became my home club and my friend, Michael Coyle asked me to arrange the Culture evening for StarCon.

I thrived on allowing my inner creativity to come out. We had a flaming evening, with funky lighting, cigar lounge slash Italian vibes -a photo show combined with old movies, and life entertainment. We opened the evening with a Cheese and wine tasting, and progressed into Storytelling by Petro Janse van Vuuren, and a poetry recital by no one else than the Commonwealth Poet -Philippa Jaa de Villiers.

Throughout the years there have been many conferences, and World Champion Speakers that I had the pleasure of meeting and engaging with like Mark Brown and Ed Tate. I’ve seen Speakers and leader grow and develop and get unto World Stages like Dave Cairns, Douglas Kruger, Zoya Mabuto and Jabulani Mangena.

I stretched my own speaking and leadership abilities especially when a project was long and volunteers had to be inspired to take part in it.  I progressed unto bigger stages myself and after many hours and years of practicing, I could start charging to train and to speak.

In 2014 I was head-hunted to become a Sales trainer at Auto Trader, I started doing Facilitation on the side and in 2017 launched my own Training, speaking and coaching business: Y-Connect, to disrupt the mindsets of leaders and teams.

With my first international Gig (Pakistan), I kept on sharing the Leadership lessons I learned in Toastmasters. Toastmasters shaped me into the speaker, trainer and Leader I am today.

So go out there and do good!  ‘We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.’ -J.K. Rowling

Yoke van Dam – DTM