An effective mentor is essential for a new member when taking his or her first steps at Toastmasters. It makes them feel more secure and that, as a club, we are interested in them. Given that we meet just twice a month and we are all “so pleased to see each other” we can look like a clique and a difficult group to break into.
A good mentor will give – in addition to guidance with the first four speeches – feedback on smaller roles taken, like Timer, Grammarian and Thought of the Day. They will introduce the mentee to other members and chase them up if they miss two meetings for example. A good mentor will also encourage the new member to set goals, a speech perhaps once every two months. While some mentees/mentors meet for a coffee to discuss speech ideas, I find it just as efficient using email. It is nice if this system is explained to our guests as it is reassuring, and it might even sway the balance in favor of joining Toastmasters.
VP of Mentorship is, in fact, a new committee position that we started in Madrid Toastmasters a few years ago in order to take some pressure off the VP of Membership. It has proved very successful and our sister club, Excelencia Toastmasters has also introduced the role. The VP of Mentorship can, for example, speak to new members before and after the meeting, while the VP of Membership can look after guests. It is helpful if the Sergeant at Arms, or Toastmaster of the Day, can be reminded to introduce these new members at the start of the meeting as they can easily be confused with visitors.
When looking for a mentor for someone I encourage the new member to come along to the main bar after the meeting where our free tapas await us. I introduce them to several members and observe what experienced member they chat to the longest, and the following day I suggest by email that they pair up! Another question to be kept in mind is that some of our members also join to improve their English, so it is quite useful to pair up a native with a non-native speaker.
The VP of Mentorship should also leave some time to follow-up the introduction. Is the mentor actually being proactive? Are they still attending meetings? Some mentors may forget who they have been assigned (if they are mentoring several people) and a mentee may be waiting in the sidelines for the other person to take the initiative.
It is always a thrill when a member makes a tenth speech and becomes a Competent Communicator, but we should always remember that behind every successful speaker there stands a mentor!
Written by Jane Kinnear, CC, CL