Yes, and no. It was not the winning alone that made me a professional speaker. Although I continued to work at Bose, I had been building my speaking career since 1994. Every year I planned to quit Bose “in January.” And each January led to the next. Then one day a fellow employee, Brad Creamer, asked me when I was going to quit my day job. I responded by saying that my job at Bose was my “safety net.” Brad looked at me and, without hesitation, said, “You’ve been saying that for years. Sounds like Bose is your dragnet.” That went right through me. He was right. About a month after winning I did quit my day job of eleven years to start speaking full-time.
When I made the decision to go for it, I gave myself one year. My friends asked how they could help, and I asked them to set an extra place at the table because I might not have enough to eat! You see I did not have enough paid speeches in front of me to cover all my bills. I looked at what I did have and set out to speak everywhere I could, putting my book on display and selling it after my speeches. I had been working hard only to make Dr. Bose rich, and it was time to put those hours towards my own career.
Many Toastmasters think that winning the championship equals instant career. Besides “stage time,” what I did get from winning was a great marketing tool: the title of 2001 World Champion of Public Speaking. Ironically, even though it seems like the world should now be beating down a path to my door, most people outside of Toastmasters have no idea what all this means. Hopefully we can change that, as Toastmasters is still the “best kept secret.”
Toastmasters who want to become professional speakers need experience speaking outside of the group. They must become experts in their field. Both David Brooks, 1990 World Champion, and Ed Tate, 2000 World Champion, spoke for seminar companies before they went out on their own. My professional experience consisted of years of stand-up comedy in New England.