Stuff Your Mentor Should Tell You

Here are some thoughts you won’t find in a Toastmaster manual. Over the 17 years I’ve been a Toastmaster I’ve seen lots of people come and go. Some Toastmasters were at so few meetings I really can’t say I ever met them. On the other hand there are some Toastmasters I’ll never forget and not always for positive reasons.

Why is this? Here are some things I think every mentor should consider sharing with their mentees.

Here’s how it goes:

You may not progress in your Toastmaster career as fast as you might wish if you only show up for meetings when your name is on the agenda. Worse, if you blow off assignments or roles and just don’t show up at all sooner or later you’re going to find you’re not getting assigned to any key roles. This may or may not be a conscious thought of that year’s vice president of education who sets the agenda but it is a fact and I’ve seen it happen over many years.

Even finding replacements when you can’t fulfil a role, while essential, still results in another lost opportunity for you to get to know your fellow members better and they in turn get to know you.

(This is one of the reasons I think cell phones should be banned from the room as a cell phone left out in view on the meeting table says loudly “I’m just as important here as any speaker or member”. If you’re on call at the nuclear plant then put the darn thing in your pocket on vibrate and if you get the call walk outside before reaching for the phone. It’s very hard for even the most seasoned Toastmaster to approach someone hunched over their cell phone looking like they’re doing something important when in actuality they’re hiding out from any human contact…..okay I’ll take a deep breath now.)

Everyone in a Toastmaster club gets a reputation. It can be a positive reputation for always being there ready to lend a hand or it can be a negative reputation for never being around.

Some people come to Toastmasters who are just unteachable. I was one of those. If it wasn’t for the kind, thoughtful and generous (and occasionally brave) intervention by my mentors and friends in the past I wouldn’t have learned that it isn’t “all about me” when it comes to Toastmasters. This is a tough lesson for some of us and some of us leave without ever discovering our true potential that can be found by being a member of Toastmasters.

I remember one member who was actually a professional speaker. Their (I’m using the gender-neutral pronoun purposefully here.) speeches were extremely well crafted and delivered but the speaker never learned, after many opportunities, to craft a speech that was actually of interest to the audience. They never connected on a personal level and after some frustrating months, this member left us to continue their speaking career without our help.

Giving speeches, even winning contests, contributes just a little to the overall experience that is available at Toastmasters. I encourage my mentees to join committees and volunteer whenever possible and after their fourth or fifth speech to consider joining the executive team. It is by volunteering to help out and joining committees that you get better known to your fellow members.

We learn how to take on the more complex roles by succeeding at doing the less challenging roles. This is the beginning of the leadership path that is available to you in Toastmasters.

All of this takes time and effort but it doesn’t take smarts or even an outgoing personality. What it does do is help you create a reputation when it comes not only to Toastmasters but to life as well.

Not everyone benefits from Toastmasters. Some get it and some don’t want it. Fair enough.

First Oakville Toastmasters is a big club and there’s lots being offered here if you hang around long enough to discover it.

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