Editor’s note: If you’re looking for information about earning your DTM before or in the new Pathways program, click here.
The Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) designation can sometimes cause some lively debate, especially among DTMs who earned their designation meeting different requirements (i.e. before 2001) and those looking for fresh excuses not to meet the current ones. If you’re not a Toastmaster, don’t take this to mean there are issues with the program.
The fact is Toastmasters is a fantastic organization with members far and wide ready to support you and help you be more successful, whether you just want to overcome your fear of speaking in front of an audience, or you want to become a DTM and beyond. But because less than 1% of all Toastmasters ever finish their DTM requirements, there are a lot of misunderstood facts about the program.
For those of you that aren’t aware of the specifics, the DTM designation is the highest award an active Toastmaster can earn under the organization’s educational program. Here’s how the award breaks down:
Competent Communicator award (10 Speeches)
Advanced Communicator Bronze (10 Speeches)
Advanced Communicator Silver (10 speeches and 2 modules)
Advanced Communicator Gold (10 speeches, 1 advanced program and mentor a new member)
Competent Leader (10 Leadership projects completing about 20 individual tasks)
Advanced Leader Bronze (6 months-1 year as a club officer and 2 modules)
Advanced Leader Silver (1 year as a district officer, leadership project w/2 speeches and providing specific support to another club)
Some of the specifics take a bit of explanation, but you can tell from this is that it is a very real effort to complete this award, and anyone who takes the time and effort to get there has earned the respect of their peers. Period.
As for timing, this is an individually paced program, but here are some specifics:
All told, there are 40 speeches that will mostly fall into the 5-7 minute variety, but can include some 8-10 or even optionally 20-40 minute ones as well. Very few people speak at a “speech-a-month” pace or better (especially in their first few years), so this normally takes four or more years to complete (on average).
The four modules are basically prepared speeches of about 12-15 minutes each on specific educational topics.
The one advanced program is a seminar-style presentation that can range from 60 minutes to 4 hours. This takes extra preparation and special scheduling considerations.
The High Performance Leadership Program (HPL – I refered to it as a leadership project above) can take any amount of time, but expect 4-9 months, on average.
The 6-month to 1-year as a club officer should be done before being a district officer, and usually folks will serve in (at least) one position before being a club president. Then they’ll look toward district leadership.
So what does that mean in terms of a timeline? I’m glad you asked. I know a person who was able to go from joining to DTM in under 3 years, a member of one of my clubs did it in ~3.5 years, and I was able to do it in under 4 years. I also know folks who finished in 10 or more years, but those weren’t concentrated efforts. I don’t have a good number for an average, but it seems that there is such a broad range of answers that saying “8 years” or something would be misleading.
Speaking of misleading, there are a few misconceptions I’ve come across in my experience attaining my DTM. Disclaimer: These are my opinions, not anyone elses. I do not represent the Toastmasters organization with these comments, just my own opinions.
1. The process for attaining a DTM has become too easy.
– MythBuster: The process actually became a bit more difficult in 2006 with the addition of the Competent Leadership (CL) Manual. Plus you’ll notice from the other requirements that this isn’t going to be replaced by a three-week bootcamp anytime soon.
– Fact: the entire process is self-paced and integrity-based. There are standards to be met (as shown above), but you don’t have to earn “straight As” to finish. In fact, the whole process is about gaining experience and increasing your confidence. If that is easy to you, then you’re probably not actually doing it.
2. A DTM should be able to speak like a professional speaker.
– MythBuster: The accredited speaker program is for those wanting to validate their professional abilities.
– Fact: Many DTMs start out having never spoke in front of an audience. It’s tough to be a pro after 400 speeches, much less 40.
3. A DTM should know everything there is to know about Toastmasters
– MythBuster: Any DTM you meet will know more than many non-DTM Toastmasters, but it’s not a PhD in Toastology.
– Fact: DTMs are encouraged to continue learning and serving, but it’s not a requirement: Toastmasters Magazine – IdeaCorner
Note: This link will open a PDF of that Issue. Scroll down to page 18 to read the article.
– Here are some other ideas to do after you finish your DTM.
4. Some DTMs took a “shortcut” to completing their requirements
– MythBuster: There are no shortcuts. Some Toastmasters do accomplish more than others, but I’ve personally never met a DTM who didn’t meet the requirements.
– Fact: This is just mean. If you think someone isn’t measuring up to the standards, man-up and talk to them, not about them.
5. All DTMS are perfect, or are supposed to be.
– Mythbuster: You may think that’s what I’m trying to say, but it’s not.
– Fact: If you expect perfection in anything human, you’re going to be disappointed.
The Distinguished Toastmaster award is a difficult to attain and meaningful program for any Toastmaster to complete. It’s challenging, but if you have the time and the desire to serve and improve, you can reach the level of DTM and see the increased confidence, experience and skill that the journey will bring you.
Editors note: Click Here for an article on the Value of a DTM Award.