Friday, July 13, 2012

Advanced Communicator Bronze

I gave my tenth and final speech towards the Advanced Communicator Bronze designation two weeks ago. Our VP of education submitted the forms to Toastmasters International last week. They sent the e-mail telling me that the next packet was on its way.

It took me two years to do it. I wasn't as crisp or diligent as I wanted to be. I chose two booklets with five speeches each. The first was Speaking To Inform; the second was The Professional Speaker. That second one was tough. Most speeches are 5-7 minutes long. The Professional Speaker has five assignments, and every one is 20-40 minutes long. I had a tough time writing and preparing for these. The difficulty slowed me down a great deal. But finally I slogged my way through.

The last speech was particularly challenging. I had to give a professional seminar. My two professions are mechanical engineering and software development. How could I manage that without losing my audience? Then my youngest daughter had a fine idea - why not talk about the Mandelbrot set that I wrote about back in March 2011? It gave me a chance to talk about sufficient mathematics to mention complex numbers. I presented some background about Benoit Mandelbrot, the mathematician for whom the set is named. I showed the Java code I wrote to perform the calculation. And then there was the payoff for all those who managed to remain in the room and not fall asleep: a presentation of the image itself.

It went very well, indeed. People were polite and feigned enthusiasm, even if they didn't feel it deeply. Some people thought I could have done a better job of tying the work and the image into real problems. Would they have been happy if I'd started talking about large eddy simulations of turbulent fluid flow? I was satisfied with how it went and my delivery. I felt comfortable and relaxed.

I was very glad to get it over with. It's motivating me to move on. I'm starting to think that perhaps I can achieve Distinguished Toastmaster status. Others have - why not me?

I think the secret is to write ten speeches out, rehearse them, and have them in pocket. Whenever there's an open speaking slot, I need to pounce on it. We have about 45 meetings a year. Each meeting has two speaking slots, so there are only 80-90 opportunities to make progress. I'd have to monopolize 11-12% of all speaking slots for an entire year to achieve my goal of earning Advanced Communicator Silver a year from now. It's a worthy goal.

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