Mentorship & Coaching: Making Technology Work for You

Mentorship and coaching plays a key role in one’s growth a Toastmaster. This is often emphasized at club meetings, with Members being encouraged to be either a mentor or mentee. With our busy lives outside of meetings, I have found that some Members are hesitant to heed this call-to-action because they just don’t know how this extra responsibility will fit into their schedules. I had the same concerns when I started the process of being mentored/ coached earlier this year. Fortunately, I have realized that technology can be used as an effective tool to achieve coaching and mentorship objectives.

The objective of my coaching experience was to prepare for the 2019 Speech Competitions in the Evaluations Category. My Coach, Kage Kgobero (Division L Director), had observed my delivery of an Evaluation in a club meeting and saw potential (probably a lot of work too!). I, on the other hand, felt that I was still in my early stages of just gaining the confidence to be coherent in front of a crowd. The idea of me competing in such a novice state was ‘crazy’, to say the least. Nevertheless, my ‘crazy’ pursuit began.

I had pictured coaching as being one-on-one/face-to-face sessions at frequent intervals. I had thought that physical interaction was the primary foundation, and was worried that I wouldn’t find the time to work with my Coach or visa-versa under such model. 

Cue – Technology.

Through a simple platform such as WhatsApp, my coach and I were able to achieve the following:

  • Draft Write-up: I actually sent a photo of my handwritten draft introduction! (Talk about old school meeting new school!). I later reduced it more legible text that Coach could easily copy-and-paste edited versions.
  • Vocal Delivery: This was a tough one for me! Not many know that, up until this coaching experience, I had actually never sent a voice note in my life! I cringed at the sound of my voice and had tried to avoid hearing it at all costs. Well, I had to get over that fast – Coach required me to send voice notes of sections of my speech. This also meant that I had to learn to get used to the sound of my voice! With the feedback I received, I was able to gain insight on my vocal variety, pitch, pace and energy in general. He (Coach) was also able to send back voice notes with clear examples of how the same words can be spoken a different way. The voice notes exercises taught me the important difference between the sound of a read-speech, and the sound of an active spoken-speech.
  • Time: Voice notes time indicator also makes sure that you are not spending too much time on any element of your speech, and that you have factored in other elements such as applauses and pauses. It is a great way to make sure that you allow extra time in order to make sure you are a safe and comfortable distance from that RED light!

For all its wonderful conveniences, technology cannot fully replace the most important element of preparing a speech – practice!

  • Practice in front of a mirror (close up for facial expressions and full body for body language). It may feel a bit silly at first, but what it does is to help you get comfortable with your own physical presence.
  • Practice with deliberate movements across a makeshift stage. Treat your body as if it has its own parallel script to complement and enhance your vocal delivery.
  • Practice in front of demo audience – housemates, colleagues, partner, children or even pets! This gives you feedback from a live audience, and you can gauge if you have succeeded in keeping their attention and eliciting emotion as intended.

Through a simple platform such as WhatsApp, I have learned to appreciate the intense behind-the-scenes technical preparation that comes with crafting a speech. Further, it has actually connected me to my voice. I have come to accept the sound of my voice, and now see it as a powerful instrument with limitless possibilities. In these busy times, we can use the devices at our disposal to achieve an objective in a non-traditional fashion. 

One thing should always ring true: as much as a Coach can guide and assess your progress using technology, only you can do the real hard work between the blue ticks.

Gorata Hlope

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