John C. Crosby said “mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.”
Good evening, Madam Toastmaster, Mr President, Fellow Toastmasters and welcome guests, thank you for letting me speak at your wonderful club tonight.
Mentor – Noun – “an experienced and trusted advisor”
Verb – “advice or train someone”
The role of a Mentor in Toastmasters is for the Mentor to take an interest in their Mentee or Protégée, and share with them information about the Club, Meeting Roles, competitions and what they need to do to progress through Pathways, as well as providing guidance, motivation, support, and role modelling. A Mentor may help with setting goals, developing contacts and identifying resources. The Mentor is someone who can encourage their Mentee and try to make joining the Club as easy as possible.
When you join a Toastmasters Club, one of the first questions you are asked is ‘do you want a Mentor?’, I think the answer to this should always be yes. Having a Mentor is like having a fast track into understanding how the Club works and what you need to do. My official Mentor when I joined Toastmasters was Declan Garvey and he was a wonderful Mentor, who kept a close eye on my progress and efforts when I joined the Club. The quiet word, the encouraging message, were all most welcome and a wonderful reminder that I had someone rooting for me. I was nervous about sending him my Icebreaker speech to look at, but, he could not have been nicer. When I stood up to make my Icebreaker, it was great to see him smiling at me and encouraging me.
You may ask, what do the Mentors get out of this? Well, they can learn from their Mentees, they remain active in the Club, they may find out some new information themselves and, of course, they get the joy of helping someone else and watching them grow. The Club in turn benefits from keeping Members, gaining new Members and having engaged, satisfied Members, so it’s a win for everyone.
In my experience everyone in Toastmasters is unintentionally Mentoring everyone else. As everyone wants the rest of the Members to do well, to improve and to benefit as much as possible from their time in Toastmasters. This is all done with a gentle touch, a quiet word here or there, a constructive comment, a suggestion, a point in the right direction or a clarification of some confusing element.
Our VP of Mentoring when I joined was Karen O’Donnell and Karen knows everything about Toastmasters, she has earned her DTM (Distinguished Toastmaster) and has served on every level of the Toastmasters organisation in Ireland. Karen is a wonderfully generous Mentor, who has been amazingly informative and supportive in the time I have been in the Club. Grainne and Colm, both of whom are also amazingly experienced and successful Toastmasters, have also been so kind and helpful to both me and others, they all genuinely want all the members to do their best and get what they want out of Toastmasters. Their faith in and support of me is greatly appreciated.
I saw a quote from Diana Olin that I felt sums up Toastmasters attitude to Mentoring, she said “Mentoring isn’t an extracurricular activity. It’s vital for cultivating an enriching, inclusive community.”
It was whiles I was preparing for this speech that I realised just how lucky I have been when it comes to meeting people who take an interest in what it is I am doing. In Photography, I have had the good fortune to cross paths with a number of very kind people who encouraged and educated me in a number of facets of the day to day running of a photography business, photography itself, and put up with me following them around. Thank you Derek, Wim and Lionel. Derek is an incredibly patient and kind person, who always listened, treated me as an equal, even though I was the assistant and made me feel like part of the team. He has been so open with his creative process and his sources of inspiration. It was a complete joy to hang around with him in his various studios and on shoots. Derek is so respectful to models, other photographers and workshop attendees. My favourite studio shoot we did involved a model and a hell of a lot of plastic sheeting in his Studio, so that we could protect it from all the warm water that we were spraying around the place, in an attempt to make it look like it was raining. Derek’s photos from that day are amazing, I just wish I had made more of the opportunity he gave me to shoot too. We had a mark on the roof that was the target for the squirt guns we were using, which was above, but slightly in front of where the model was standing. We were all very giddy and laughed a hell of a lot that day. A couple of us took in turns to squirt the water and I may have ‘accidentally’ squirted a couple of people other than the model. Oops! A couple of years later, I was watching a segment about Hozier being at a Victoria’s Secret Fashion show, when I saw a familiar face, the model we had worked with on the ‘Make It Rain’ shoot was now a Victoria’s Secrets Angel! When I told Derek, he said he had known that she was special and would go places.
I was incredibly flattered and a little nervous on the day that Wim asked me to shoot the Groom and his Groomsmen preparing for the Grooms Wedding as he had enough confidence in my abilities to do it. I ended up driving all but one of the Grooms party to the Church, the one I didn’t bring with me had gone MIA the night before, and just made it to the Church by the skin of his teeth for the ceremony. Wim would consider my answers, if he asked me a question and had enough faith in me, that he took my word for it if I gave him information on something.
Mentoring is an incredibly important part of the Toastmasters experience, but, one that I think is a transferable skill that we can apply to all elements of our life.
In summary, if you, like Lailah Gifty Akita believe that “every great achiever is inspired by a great mentor”, please consider taking the opportunity to be a mentor, as both parties will gain from the experience.
Thank you for your time Madam Toastmaster, Mr President, Fellow Toastmasters and welcome guests.