How To Help Someone Become A Better Speaker

It takes skill to be a good mentor
It takes skill to be a good mentor
Image Credit: Brian Ujiie

No matter where you are in your journey to become a better speaker, there will always be people who are behind you. You have an obligation to find ways to help those people become better speakers just like you did. One way to make this happen is to agree to be a mentor to someone. This is an opportunity for you to share with them what you have learned so that they can grow and become better speakers more quickly. However, just exactly how does one go about being a speaker mentor?

How To Become A Speaker Mentor

Speakers should realize that the concept of being a mentor was first introduced to us by Homer. In the classic tale of the Odyssey, Odysseus, on the eve of his epic voyage, leaves his son Telemachus in the care of his trusted friend, Mentor. In the tale it is later revealed that Mentor is actually Athena who is the goddess of wisdom, inspiration, skill and strategy in disguise. These days, mentors can play a critical role in the personal and professional development of speakers. Their insight and practical experience can pave the road to success for tomorrow’s speakers.

Back in the day when we were students, we were fortunate enough to encounter potential mentors. Our experiences in engaging with possible mentors ranged from never getting a reply, to getting an introductory email, to learning to count someone as family. What was it that turned an adviser or boss into a trusted mentor, someone whom others turn to for wisdom, inspiration, skill and strategy? Whatever it was, you will want to emulate them in order to become a mentor for other speakers. You need to understand what you can do to maximize your effectiveness as a mentor.

Tips For Becoming An Effective Speaker Mentor

The first thing that you are going to want to do is to humanize yourself. Forget all of the impressive titles on your desk and the awards on your wall. All of these can make you seem pretty intimidating to someone who is seeking your guidance. This can end up discouraging them from speaking frankly about their problems or asking questions that they fear will seem silly. A speaker wouldn’t be meeting with you if they didn’t already respect and admire you, so don’t be afraid to admit your own stumbling blocks. You need to make yourself more relatable by being willing to share a big mistake you made, a regret you have or something you’d do differently in hindsight. Revealing such a confidence makes it easier for speakers to admit their own struggles and helps them see that failures are natural pit stops on the road to success.

If you decide to become a mentor, then you will need to be willing to make regular appearances. You can provide a speaker with reassurance when you check in with them periodically. Sometimes they may hesitate to contact you until they have something big to report. You need to make an effort to keep in touch, especially if you haven’t heard from them in a while. An unsolicited email with a link to an article of interest and a line asking how they’re doing is a thoughtful and easy way to reach out to them on a regular basis.

Find ways to provide balanced feedback. Once you feel you’ve gotten to know a speaker, give them honest feedback about their performance and personality. You can act almost like a coach to a speaker. When a speaker that you are mentoring is having a hard time, you can tell them that you believe in their speaking potential and even go so far as to list qualities that you see as their strengths. Your goal should be to tell the speaker not only how they can improve, but also give specific, actionable recommendations for how to do so.

You are going to want to always ask for something in return from the speaker that you are mentoring. Understand that no good relationship is one-sided. You will be giving a lot to your mentee, and while many mentors may consider the feel-good nature of mentoring reward enough, you should not hesitate to ask your mentee for a favor or two. You need to understand that the speaker that you are mentoring will be flattered to be asked and welcome the opportunity to show their gratitude.

You will need to foster a sense of community. You can accomplish this by creating group get togethers outside the office. This kind of “behind-the-scenes” exposure to your world allows the speaker that you are mentoring to learn about the many other parts of your life you value beyond work, such as family, friends and hobbies.

It’s all about making introductions. A speaker can benefit from developing a diverse board of mentors or a mentoring team. A group of mentors can offer a speaker their broad expertise and even create the opportunity for new partnerships. Encourage a speaker to think critically about whose guidance can build on yours and address their other needs. Connect them with individuals you know, and ask them if there is anyone else they might like to meet. Take actions such as making an email introduction, or even better, arrange a coffee break or lunch during which you can introduce them personally.

Finally, you need to be a mentee. Being a mentee is the foundation for our own experience as budding mentors. Everyone can benefit from being both a mentor and a mentee at the same time. Always continue investing in yourself and your own development.

What All Of This Means For You

As speakers, we need to understand that we have not been able to reach the level that we are now at all by ourselves. Along the way, others have been willing to help us out. We need to acknowledge this and it is now time for us to start returning the favor. This means that you need to be willing to become a mentor for more junior speakers. Being a mentor carries with it a lot of responsibility. Make sure that you understand what will be required of you in this role.

Mentors need to make sure that they are approachable. They need to put away all of their awards and make sure the speaker that they are mentoring understands that they are not perfect. Mentors have to stay in touch with the speakers that they are helping out. The key to mentoring is providing balanced feedback. Make sure that you ask the person that you will be mentoring for something – this can’t be a one-way relationship. Create a sense of community among all of the speakers that you are mentoring. Make introductions to other speakers so that they can also help your speaker grow. Understand that you can also be a mentee while you are a mentor.

Truly one of the most rewarding things that a speaker can do is to agree to mentor another speaker. No matter if you’re a seasoned mentor with many mentees or a new mentor just starting to cultivate your first mentoring relationship, keeping in mind these points will help ensure that both you and your mentees grow and strengthen as a result of your mentorship.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: How many people do you think that you could mentor at one time?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Living in the wondrous 21st Century has given speakers access to tools that never used to be available to anyone who was giving a speech. It can be hard for us to realize that back in the day, the person who had the loudest voice was often considered to be the best speaker. Over time new technologies have come along and changed how speeches are given. When these new technologies have arrived, they have not all been greeted with open arms. As speakers we need to understand what changes have affected how we give speeches so that we can prepare for the changes that are yet to come.