Monthly Archives: October 2014

How To Work Your Mentor

So how does this mentoring work?

Every mentor and mentee are free to create their own way forward but if you’re new to Toastmasters here are a few thoughts that might help:

First of all, let’s look at why you joined Toastmaster?

Didn’t you join, as did so many of your fellow Toastmasters, to improve your ability to speak in public? Perhaps you discovered, as many others have, that there is so much more to Toastmasters than just learning how to deliver a good speech.

Many of learned to speak with more authority and passion. We learned how to speak extemporaneously and how to overcome nervousness.

We also learned how to listen more intently when we were members of the audience. Plus, by joining committees or the executive team, we learned leadership skills of being dependable and supportive and accountable.

Our business sessions helped us to figure out ways of making decisions as a group and to be supportive even when opinions differed. Over time we discovered that helping other Toastmasters to achieve their goals helped us to achieve our own.

So how does mentoring come into play here?

This is how I do it and you can figure out what works for you. And those are the key words “what works for you”.

In other words it’s up to you to start the engagement in the mentoring program by either picking a mentor and asking them for help or getting the VP of Membership (or right now her designate…me) to help find a suitable mentor.

Then it’s up to you to work with your mentor. You can do it in person, by telephone, email or another way that works for both of you.

My experience suggests that the program works best if the mentee initiates the process by asking questions of the mentor and that the mentee continues to lead the way.

As a new Toastmaster you should never be in a situation in Toastmasters where you don’t know what you should be doing or saying next. If you find yourself not knowing something, then it’s your mentor who you should ask. If the mentor doesn’t know, they should know who they should ask and then get back to you.

You can ask your mentor to look over your draft speeches but not to rewrite them or to offer a deeper more specific evaluation of your next speech to help you progress faster.

Your mentor can suggest which committees to join and whether or not you should consider competing in upcoming contests.

Our mentoring program is key to your success and the success of the club as a whole. And always remember, if your mentor – mentee relationship isn’t working for you feel free to speak to the VP of Membership.

Cell Phones – Contests – Blue Jeans

I was at the divisional humorous and table topics contest last night which was held in Milton and was heavily attended by members of First Oakville Toastmasters who were supporting our own Sharon Jenkins in Table Topics.

Sharon did a great job.DSCF6346

But one thing I noticed was the display of cellphones by members of the audience. As the chair was calling the contest to order one woman sitting in front of me suddenly realized she had to terminate her phone call which we had all been enjoying so much. Lots of other folks were madly texting in the crowd.

The chair did caution participants to mute or turn off their phones which, as always, creates a moment of bobbing heads and button pushing. And then the contest began and went (more or less) smoothly.

Then we had a 10-minute break and it was interesting to watch the senior Toastmasters getting up from their seats to talk and share the great snacks and then to see four or five of younger and dare I suggest newer Toastmasters with their heads down over their laps texting while isolated in their chairs. How sad for them. Nobody has told them about the benefits of Toastmaster gatherings.

Oh sure I bet one of them was a neurosurgeon checking on a patient but all of them?

Texting is a great way to avoid intimate personal contact with other people. You don’t have to actually talk to anyone. Best of all since your head is down it’s a pretty good guess that others won’t even try to engage you in conversation. I mean what do you say: “Who you texting?” I don’t think so.

Improving our public texting skills isn’t the reason so many of us joined Toastmasters? It was to improve our speaking skills. And then we learned we could also increase our social skills and our listening skills and even our leadership skills.

For people out of work, Toastmasters was a way of resetting our own sense of self-worth while providing a pretty good place to network or to find folks willing to write letters of recommendation on our behalf. We were offered mentoring and most of us took it. We kept coming back to meetings. We met new people with new ideas. Maybe we even went to the bar after the meeting to talk some more.

I know when I joined Toastmasters many if not most of the men wore suits. At our club many members still dress up especially when they’re speaking. It sets a tone. It says you respect the opportunity you’ve been given to share with the group.

Even though I’m not looking for work or letters I rarely wear blue jeans to Toastmasters (and live in them at home) but I try to dress in a manner that elevates the tone of the overall club experience (I may have to buy a sports jacket at least) and when it comes to my cellphone, it sits in the car until I return from my meeting.

So far I haven’t missed a call 🙂

(This post also appears on The Toastmaster blog.)

The Role of the Member

You are the most important person in our Toastmaster club! Yes you mister or misses 20-year member and you too our very newest member.

How can all of you be the most important person?

It’s because each one of you participates in their own way to contribute to the good health of their club. Regardless of what role you have on the agenda, your most important role is to be a supportive club member. That means, even on those nights your name isn’t on the agenda, you’ve got a vital role: audience member.

When you don’t show up on those nights you don’t have an assigned role, you relinquish the key role of audience member. The speakers don’t get your written evaluations of their speeches. Our Table Topics Master can’t give you a table topic. Your voice is missing from the decision-making that happens in our business meetings. And, we’ll look around and we’ll just plain miss you!

It’s all about supporting your club and your fellow members.

It’s the same thing when a member doesn’t show up for a meeting where they have an assigned role and neglected to find a replacement. One quick email to  other members without roles often can produce immediate results.

If you just drop the ball, the club suffers. We have one less person on our agenda and when it’s a speaker or evaluator or other key role we all suffer. But we all suffer when we’re missing a greeter or timer or other role.

First Oakville Toastmasters isn’t a social club (but we do have a social program) but offers an educational experience. That educational experience includes learning what it means to be integral with keeping our word. When we say we will do something, we do everything we can to keep it. This is part of the leadership aspect of the program.

When we don’t keep our commitments, everybody notices and it’s human nature that everyone remembers. In Toastmasters that might not be as critical as failing in a work or family situation but the consequences are similar.

BTW when we fail (and we all do fail), it’s a pretty good gesture to apologize to those who were affected by our neglectful actions. Sometimes it’s to one person and it can be done privately. Sometimes the entire club needs to hear from you (and don’t ask how I know this to be true) but it can be very emotionally freeing to say you’re sorry when you’ve done something problematic that affected everyone.