Coaching New Members

This page describes how experienced Toastmasters can act as a coach to another Toastmaster, or a new member.

One of the requirements for Advanced Communicator - Gold is "Coach a new member through their first three speeches".  Coaching is a leadership role which an experienced Toastmaster can embrace.  This article outlines what a coach is, and how you should perform this role.

What is a coach?

According to the dictionary, a "coach" is an instructor or trainer. A "Mentor" is a wise, loyal advisor. Your role should be a combination of both. As a coach/mentor, you have the opportunity to share your wisdom, knowledge and experience with a new Toastmaster who wants to learn, grow and achieve.

Most new members join Toastmasters because they have problems and/or needs that relate to public speaking. Research has shown that a majority of these men and women equate the self-improvement they seek from Toastmasters with career advancement or professional development. So it's vitally important to most new members that they solve their problems and meet their speaking-related needs.

Yet many new members fail if simply left to "sink or swim" with no guidance other than that provided by speech evaluations. It's a mistake to assume that they can succeed without psychological or other support. They need reassurance that their goals and the effort required to attain them are worthwhile. They need practical advice from someone who thoroughly understands the Toastmasters program. In short, they need someone like you.

Clubs are urged to conduct an orientation interview for each new member. This is normally the responsibility of the educational vice-president who completes a New Member Profile Sheet during the interview. On this sheet are brief biographical data, along with a summary of the new member's needs and expectations. You should be given a copy of this sheet and should use it as a basis for establishing an ongoing dialogue with the new member.

Six Steps to Coaching Success

Here are the six steps for successfully fulfilling your role as a coach/mentor:.

1. Build a personal rapport with the new member. If you and the new member aren't already well-acquainted, get together informally and establish a mutual rapport. Discuss you own experiences as a Toastmaster, and relate some of the benefits you've earned.

2. Discuss the new member's needs and expectations. Using the New Member Profile Sheet as a basis for discussion, secure an understanding of what the new member expects to gain from his/her Toastmasters membership. Empathize with the other person's needs, and project confidence that Toastmasters participation will help to meet them.

3. Translate the new member's needs into Toastmasters program levels. Get the new member to equate his or her self-development with Toastmasters-related accomplishments, such as the Competent Communicator or Advanced Communicator Awards. For example, "When you complete the basic manual and get your Competent Communicator Award, you will have learned to overcome nervousness and express yourself well in an impromptu speaking situation." Or, "By the time you earn your Advanced Communicator Award, you'll be able to speak to community groups as a representative of your company."

4. Set specific goals and objectives for the new member. Agree upon a realistic set of program goals, as well as a timetable for achieving them. Have the new member write them down.

5. Discuss the effort and commitment needed to meet these goals. Most Toastmasters establish a set behavioral pattern from the beginning. Emphasize the need to prepare diligently for each manual speech to attend meetings regularly and to participate fully in club programs and activities. Discuss the new member's upcoming Icebreaker speech and urge him or her to put forth a good effort.

6. Monitor the new member's performance and progress. This is the ongoing part of your role as coach/mentor. It involves several activities.

a. During the new member's Icebreaker speech, compare his/her actual performance with his/her self-appraisal at the time of joining. Was the member's self perception accurate? Were there additional weaknesses requiring immediate attention? Was the member's skill level actually higher than he or she perceived it to be? Should the member's goals or the timetable for achieving them be adjusted? Confer with the new member shortly after the Icebreaker and provide positive reinforcement and support. Offer constructive suggestions for the second manual speech.

b. Supplement the evaluations given after the new member's first few speeches. If an assigned evaluator fails to recognize improvement or identify significant problem areas, provide your own evaluation, making it as positive and supportive as possible.

c. Be sure the new member is actively involved in club programming and is being given ample opportunities for participation. If not, confer with the educational vice-president.

d. Keep track of the new member's progress. Is he or she "on track" in terms of his/her goals? Is he or she improving as steadily as he/she should be?

e. Offer periodic advice, striving to be helpful and constructive rather than overbearing. Remember: Your aim is to help the member become able to identify and solve his/her own problems.

f. Answer questions.

Gain Recognition

The rewards of being a coach/mentor are tremendous. You'll find you are just as proud of the new member's accomplishments as you are of your own....perhaps more.

You also gain credit for your Advanced Communicator - Gold award.

More Resources

Toastmasters International Mentoring Manual and Resources (zip file)