Gary Tintinger

“Our choices are the chisels that shape our lives” – Gary Tintinger

Gary Tintinger recently walked away not only as the winner of the Speaker Factor contest, but he was also awarded the highest accolade that Toastmasters International can award a speaker, the Distinguished Toastmasters Award. We wanted to know more, about his journey with Toastmasters, his international stage experience at the World Championships of Toastmasters , and his vision for the future, and also what inspires him. Here are some of the nuggets of wisdom, from Gary’s 30 years’ as an entrepreneur, business leader, trainer and coach.

“There is freedom waiting for you, On the breezes of the sky, And you ask “What if I fall?” Oh but my darling, What if you fly?” ― Erin Hanson Gary says that for many years he lamented his personal situation and blamed everyone around him for his circumstances. It was only when he accepted responsibility for his own decisions that his fortunes started turning. This led him to coining his own quote: “Our choices are the chisels that shape our lives” –Gary Tintinger

Gary, you represented District 74 (Southern Africa) at the World Championships of Toastmasters International in 2017 in Vancouver. That’s quite a big deal. What was that like?

Attending a Toastmasters International conference is an experience all on its own – literally thousands of like-minded people from across the globe, in one place celebrating leadership and communication – it is a highly recommended experience. The calibre of speakers is obviously through the roof – it was pretty overwhelming at first.

What lessons did you learn through the World Champs?

I was sitting at breakfast after the contest and a few of the finalists were staying in the same hotel. Observing them in this mundane setting with their families made me realise that all of us, World Champions of Public Speaking or aspiring Champions are just ordinary human beings trying our best to make it through life. We all deal with highs and lows, success and disappointment. If I had gone into the contest with the sole objective of winning, I would have left feeling as if I had failed, as would have the 35 000 other Toastmasters that had competed at the various levels of the contest. The ultimate lesson for me is remembering that in all things, “The Joy is in the Journey”. In contest speaking, as I suppose there is with any public speaking opportunity, there is a period where you are in complete control and you have the audience eating out of your hand – I call that the “Golden Moment”, it feels like the world has slowed down around you and you have all the time in the world. That didn’t have that experience in Vancouver 😊

What did your preparation look like?

I’ll be honest – I made a rookie error. I took the advice of a more experienced speaker and changed my speech a week before the semi-final. The first time I delivered the speech to an audience was on the semi-final stage to hundreds of people. Rather than just enjoying the speech and engaging with the audience, I was more focussed on remembering the lines. Although I enjoyed the experience and never made any obvious mistakes, I wasn’t really in “flow”. Interestingly the same thing almost happened with my Speaker Factor speech. I was battling to get within the time limit – a week before the final somebody suggested that I scrap the speech and start from scratch – thankfully, I didn’t.

The Distinguished Toastmaser (DTM) is the highest educational achievement in Toastmasters, can you explain to the members what the journey looked like?

The program took me four and a half years to complete – I equate to being almost like an honour’s degree in Public Speaking and Leadership. By then end I had completed around 40-50 prepared speeches, a number of educational presentations, facilitated training programs, served on my club executive committee in most roles, attended and conducted club officer training, mentored new Toastmasters, served twice as club mentor, chartered a new club and served a year as an Area Director. It’s a pretty tough ask, which is why they say that only around a small percentage of Toastmasters ever achieve the DTM award.

What were some of the highlights for you in your DTM journey?

Toastmasters offers a safe space to develop speaking skills, so it is always so rewarding seeing someone find their voice and the courage to step into their own light. I have loved watching the transformation of many individuals – Of course, the personal stories that you get to hear are also incredible. It’s an incredibly humbling experience when someone shares that you inspired them overcome their fear of public speaking.

What were some of the hard lessons you had to learn in your DTM journey?

The hard lesson was the servant leadership lesson. I come out of a pretty tough industry and was used to an authoritarian hierarchal management structure with the appropriate respect shown to management. Like PSASA, Toastmasters is a voluntary organisation, and I learned pretty quickly that titles mean nothing. Leading, motivating, persuading and inspiring is very different to managing and instructing. It was a bit of a wake-up call for me when late in my corporate career I realised that I may have been a successful manager – but for many years I had been a pretty poor leader. We definitely need more leadership coaching in business.

How did you develop the resilience to push through?

I have to admit that the last bit was a really heavy lift. I can understand why so many people give up before they reach their DTM. Like anything worthwhile doing, Toastmasters requires a significant personal investment – and that’s what I kept reminding myself – rather than thinking about the effort required – I focused on the fact that I was investing in myself. I would not have been able to push through, without the support of my Toastmasters community (my Carpe Diem and Golden Gavel club members in particular) in the achievement of my DTM.  Special thanks to the Immediate Past District Director, Nikki Quinn who  supported me throughout my TM journey.

Getting back to Speaker Factor, what were some of your highlights?

Clearly winning the contest was an amazing feeling – but it’s the support and encouragement of the speaker community that have relished. And I’m really looking forward to delivering a Keynote at the 2021 conference. One of the things that I really came to value about Toastmasters, is writing speeches. The best speeches are always personal stories – so this requires a fair amount of introspection and reflection. It was during a period of reflection that I became interested in how and why we make the choices we do – and that lead me to researching the concept of our personal values and belief systems. I’m of the opinion that far too many people operate in the world guided by a set of values that they have never really challenged. I certainly learned a lot about myself on this journey.

What are some of your high’s as a PSASA member?

The highlight for me has to be the Speakers Bootcamp that was organised and facilitated by Carl Shultz and Chris Vermeulen. The community that has developed out of that weekend is one of the most supportive and caring that I have ever experienced. Attending that bootcamp was one of the best decisions I have made on professional speaking journey – and I have the PSASA to thank for it.

What is your vision for your speaking future?

I’m developing two tracks at the moment. On one hand I have spent the past 25 years in the Sales and Marketing space, and over that period have personally delivered some really shocking presentations and experienced some even worse ones. I’m combining my deep interest in human psychology and how our brains work, with my love for public speaking and my passion for great design to help individuals and businesses articulate their stories better. I’m all about authentic storytelling. The second track is connected to with my other passion, and the subject of my Speaker Factor speech – how our personal belief system influences our values and in turn the choices that we do and don’t make. It’s mind boggling to me how many people go through life not really understanding why they hold certain values higher than others. It was an epiphany moment for me realising why I behaved a certain way – especially when it came to things that triggered intense emotions. I think we should all be issued a self-mastery handbook before we are allowed to have children. In case you missed seeing Gary’s final winning speech, you can watch it here We look forward to seeing your conference opening address in 2021!

Here is Gary’s bio if you want to introduce him to potential clients

Gary has managed, lectured, trained and consulted extensively in marketing and business development over the past three decades. His recent roles have included Sales and Marketing Director for a large multi-national services business and Group Bids Director of the leading commercial property company in Africa and the Middle East. He has a passion for public speaking and presenting. He earned International Honours in public speaking when he represented Southern Africa in the semi-finals of the World Championship of Public Speaking in 2017. He is a Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM), a certified NLP Practitioner, Executive Coach (UCT) and a Toastmasters Leadership Institute (TLI) Accredited Trainer. Besides being an Associate Member at PSASA, he is also a member of the Association of Proposal Management Professionals and a National Executive Council Member of the Security Association of South Africa (SASA). Gary has been married to Kerry for 30 years and together they love travelling and camping. They’re blessed with two adult children, Brandon and Tanita-Lee. Gary’s mountain bike is his (2nd) best friend and his happy place is on a single track in the bush. By Yoke van Dam and Alison Weihe

Gary Tintinger