Speaking Tips: Don’t do it all alone

As a member of Toastmasters, I’ve had the good fortune to have many experienced speakers provide me with guidance, feedback, and advice. Toastmasters uses the term Mentor to describe the person who helps you reach your goals. Although many members can act in that capacity, usually you only have one named as your mentor.

What surprises me is how many folks join Toastmasters to improve, and then don’t take advantage of the mentoring opportunities – from both sides of the relationship. As an example, I recently agreed to be the Toastmasters mentor for someone in my club that I’ll call “A.B.” (because I want to).

“A.B.” and I had lunch today and we spoke about some of his goals, and also about some things that I am doing right now (i.e. this blog). The idea I had in discussing my blog with him was to talk about some of the things I have learned doing this, and I even suggested that he try something similar. I did stress that he not feel the need to necessarily post/publish his thoughts to Al Gore’s Internet right off the bat, but simply get them down on “paper” so he could review them.

Before I talk about what happened next, think about one of the Leadership Giants of our generation, Dr. Stephen Covey. In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (available in bookstores), the sixth habit is Synergize. In short, this habit says that we can create more working together than we can working separately. Put another way, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Covey’s words.

Back to the story:

“A.B.” and I talked about his goals and how Toastmasters would help him improve his abilities (he’s already a solid speaker – he won our club’s annual Humorous Speech contest two weeks ago). But guess what else happened? Did you say Synergy? Good show! While we were talking about putting thoughts on paper and working out story files, a couple of ideas surfaced about how I could format my future book and/or tighten the focus of this blog. So, while I went there to help “A.B.”, I ended up with some tangible benefits as well (on top of that whole “it feels good to help others” thing).

 So, what did “A.B.” get out of this process? I can’t answer for him, but I hope at least a couple of things:
1. Some ideas for the process of becoming a better speaker
2. The wisdom of Rob (!)

As for me, I can speak to what benefits I recieved:
1. A new friend that I can learn from
2. Some ideas to improve my own writing and speaking
3. An idea for tonights post (this, obviously)
4. Bonus: An idea or two (on mentoring) for future Toastmasters speeches

If you’ve passed on the idea of having a mentor or being one yourself, you may be underestimating the incredible value of the relationships that you’re missing. Like many things in life you can learn some things from reading and hearing about them, but you’ll never see the true value and potential you can reach until you step up to the plate and take on that mentor role. For just an hour or two per month, you can make a difference in a fellow Toastmasters journey to success, and even move a bit closer on your own journey.

Heck, I’d even call that “Win-Win”, if Dr. Covey hadn’t beat me to it in Habit #4…

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