Ample Ways of Exuding Excellence
Through the Toastmasters Experience
By Craig Harrison DTM
Do you express your excellence each time you participate in a Toastmasters event? Here's why you can and should express your excellence, regardless of your role, at every meeting, contest, conference and training. Our inspiration for excellence: the late Joe DiMaggio.
“Joltin” Joe DiMaggio was as fine a baseball player as ever was. A Hall of Famer and two-time batting champ, the Yankee Clipper, as he was known, set the record for the longest hitting streak in major league history, 56 games! His mark may never be broken. Joe DiMaggio exemplified excellence.
Late one summer, in a season the Yankees were already a cinch for the World Series, Joe was banged up. He had bumps and bruises from a season of running, sliding, diving for balls and being hit by pitches. There was no need for him to even be in the lineup, let alone play 100%, all-out in this particular game. And yet there he was, taking the extra base on a base hit, running full speed, sliding into the bag in a cloud of dust.
After the game, a sportswriter asked him why he was playing so hard in such a meaningless game. Joe looked at him and answered in all earnestness: “Because someone might be seeing me play for the very first time!”
That’s an expression of excellence!
Joe DiMaggio’s pride in his appearance and in his reputation were so important that for Joe it meant never taking a day off. It meant always giving his best performance.
Do you strive to make every speech your best yet? If not, why not? As a speaker do you treat all your audiences to your best? Or do you calibrate your performance to the number of people in the room?
Don’t ration your excellence. If you stand for excellence then don’t apportion it out in relation to who you believe is in the audience or whether your audience is big or small. Whether there are two, twenty or two hundred in your audience, they deserve the best you can offer. As an nine year Toastmaster and current professional speaker, each time out I strive to express my excellence. I try to treat every presentation as if I were competing in the World Championship of Public Speaking!
Here's Looking For You!
I’ve spoken at a meeting where, as a result of an unexpected location change, there was just one other person in attendance. It would have been easy to feel sorry for myself and cancel the speech or suddenly not care and give a sub-par performance. I’ll admit I felt funny saying “Mr. Toastmaster, Fellow Toastmaster, and missing members…” yet I saw this as a challenge in and of itself. PT Barnum was right…the show must go on! I’ll admit I had some fun with this situation, asking the other attendee (who was concurrently the Toastmaster, my entire audience and speech evaluator), facetiously, “Can you hear me in the back?”
Modeling excellence should be a full-time endeavor. If you embrace the Japanese concept of kaizen — continuous improvement, then you can see that each time you speak, whether introducing or evaluating another, speaking off the cuff or giving a prepared speech, you have the opportunity to model excellence. Each utterance of yours can be an expression of excellence. And when you express your excellence, it not only advances you, but it inspires others too.
As a Distinguished Toastmaster and Advanced Leader it would be easy for me to believe I’ve topped out, yet each year I complete another CTM for Districts 4 and 57, whose clubs I belong to, because I believe I can express my excellence through completing the basic manual, whether for the first of ninth time. And each year I learn more as I repeat this seminal manual. It’s one of my expressions of excellence.
Interestingly, you can express excellence without uttering a word. A Sergeant-at-Arms whose meeting room is well set up, the Toastmaster of the day’s well designed meeting agenda, the tastefully dressed and groomed attendee who makes a positive impression on a guest, each is an expression of excellence, demonstrating good taste, good planning and good manners. When you strive for excellence you find ample opportunities to express it. So whether your name is Bill or Ted or Billie or Tesha, you too can have an excellent adventure each time you perform a Toastmasters function. By expressing your excellence you’ll help others excel as well.
When you mentor another member your excellence speaks through that member. His or her comportment, the way the carry and express themselves, is a reflection of the way you have mentored them. They can model your excellence through their behavior. My mentor, past International Director Ginger Kane, taught me various lessons in humility, protocol, boundaries and the benefits of advance planning. My expressions of excellence embody these lessons. Now her excellence speaks through me as well as through her own words and deeds.
When you chair a contest or a conference, your excellence is experienced in many ways, from the way the guests are greeted to the fluidity of the event to the way the printed programs, certificates and awards are handled. Expressions aren't just uttered.
Don't presume that excellence can only derive from long speaking assignments or when you are the toastmaster of the day. Here are some expressions of excellence I've seen lately that have inspired me:
The best parts about expressing your excellence are the unique ways you can find to express yours. Once you set your mind to expressing excellence you'll excel at doing so. Excellence knows no bounds, within and beyond one's Toastmaster club. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. understood the powerful message one's excellence sent to others when he said:
" If a man is called to be a streetsweeper,
he should sweep streets
even as Michelangelo painted,
or Beethoven played music,
or Shakespeare wrote poetry.
He should sweep streets so well
that all the hosts of heaven and earth
will pause to say,
here lived a great streetsweeper
who did his job well.
Within and beyond Toastmasters you have ample opportunities to express your excellence. Accept the challenge and you will inspire others and yourself to greatness!