written by dan magill
Club President Croydon Communicators
Croydon Communicators, VP Mentoring, Caroline Rainford delivered a mentoring workshop designed to help members and guests not only to understand the benefits of being both a mentor and a mentee but also to lay out the plan for the club’s mentoring plan.
We caught up with Caroline to find out more about the workshop, her own Toastmasters mentoring experience and her plans for the future.
So, Caroline – you’re VP of Mentoring and you’re running a mentoring workshop for your cub. But do you still have a mentor yourself?
Of course, I do! At the moment, I have two mentors, which is lucky because one of them has spent the summer gallivanting around the globe. Seriously though, right from the start my mentors encouraged me to sign up for as many roles as possible, to feel the fear and do it anyway and pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I cannot stress enough, the value of having a mentor at the start of your Toastmaster journey.
And, do you mentor now? What do you get out of that?
Yes, I do mentor new members and it has become one of my most favourite things about being a Toastmaster. It’s so inspiring to see people having the courage to start out on their own personal journeys. And, what’s so great about Toastmasters is that it’s a journey we’re all on – just at a different point in the road.
Apart from being your club’s VP Mentoring, what were the key drivers behind you designing this workshop?
Our club has around 40 members and is a such a vibrant, fun place to be, but when I started in my role in July, I realised that we only had 4 members actively mentoring just 7 mentees. That just didn’t seem right. Like a lot of clubs, we have such a wealth of talent, experience, dedication and commitment at Croydon Communicators, so I knew it wasn’t a case of the members not wanting to be mentors or mentees. It seemed to simply be a case of awareness and structure. I ran the workshop to ensure our members were better informed about the benefits of mentoring on both sides of the relationship and to encourage members to join the mentoring program.
What were your personal highlights from the workshop? And, would you do anything differently next time? I absolutely loved the interactivity with the audience. This was a workshop and the last thing I wanted was to just stand and talk at the audience for an hour. Everyone got into the spirit of things and the time just flew by. In terms of moving the workshop forward, I’d like to run a session just for mentors (which still wouldn’t exclude anybody) but would focus solely on the ‘day-to-day’ of the actual mentoring role. I think when people do start mentoring for the first time, they are normally surprised by how much impact giving up a relatively small amount of time can have on a mentee.
Would you say we can all be mentors at Toastmasters?
100%! That’s the most important message I want to get out there. As one of our most experienced Toastmasters commented, ‘You only need to be one step ahead on the road to be able to mentor somebody. It can be invaluable for a new member to be mentored by a Toastmaster with years of experience and I wouldn’t devalue the importance of that for a second, but sometimes being mentored by somebody who is just a short distance ahead of you can have a huge impact too. As long as you have the desire to mentor, a sprinkle of passion and some steadfast commitment, you can be a fantastic mentor. When you have those qualities, the rest can be learnt in no time at all.
Do you think experienced speakers can still benefit from mentoring?
Yes. And I think it’s one of the most special things about Toastmasters that experienced speakers are always so open to recommendations from those with less experience. Sometimes a brand-new Toastmaster or guest can spot an opportunity for improvement in a speaker which nobody else has picked up on. In terms of an actual mentor-mentee relationship for more experienced speakers, I think at this point it’s really important for the mentee to know exactly what they want to achieve from the relationship. When a speaker is more experienced, they will normally have a more specific outcome from the relationship in mind and it’s important that this is clearly defined with the mentor.
Would you consider taking your workshop ‘on the road’ to other cubs in the Area, Division and District?
Yes, but you’ll have to speak to my agent! Of course, I’d be thrilled to have the opportunity to take my workshop ‘on tour’ but I’d also be keen to meet with other VPs of Mentoring and talk to them about delivering the course themselves at their own clubs. Let’s call it a mentoring franchise opportunity!
Ok, last question, before your agent drags you away. What would you say to somebody who is thinking of visiting a Toastmaster club but is feeling nervous and unsure? Well, I’d start by telling them that I know exactly what they are feeling. I was no different myself. I’d then guarantee them that no matter how nervous and uncomfortable they feel, it is nothing compared to the elation they’ll experience when they conquer their fear. Toastmasters is a process which works, as far as I can tell, without fail. The only real way to overcome a fear of public speaking is to practice. What better place to practice than in an environment which is completely safe, full of encouraging, supportive people on the same journey as yourself, and with access to mentors who can give you guidance every step of the way. Just do it – sooner rather than later!