When a prospective member comes through the door and puts their money down at the end of their first meeting, two thoughts come to my mind. First, this is a kindred spirit, because that’s what I did, and second, their boss sent them. Come on – we all have seen the members who are here for career building. That’s fine! We’re glad to see them!
The reasons a member joins is not very important to me. Their “why” is their “why” and I’m a whole lot more concerned that we teach the “what” and let them take care of their “why.”
If I’m mentoring a new member and they want to jump to the career building speech projects, I don’t have the power to stop them. But I will spend time with them showing how these two projects – Prepare for an Interview and Making Connections with Networking, along with the Using Presentation Software project – are best saved for last, after essential speech skills are understood and practiced.
The Boss Sent Me to Toastmasters
Sometimes we hear a prospective member say that their boss recommended they join Toastmasters. Or we hear the opposite: I need a new job. These seem to need exactly the opposite sets of skills, but in fact, they’re the same – it’s just a different audience.
Prepare for an Interview
One of the things I like about the Prepare for an Interview speech project is that isn’t not just a job interview. That would severely limit the interest in this project. No, they include being interviewed as a subject matter expert or as a candidate for membership in an organization.
I’d like to add one more – the media interview.
If you’re a classic Toastmaster, you may remember some role-playing speech projects from the advanced manuals. I found these speeches a bit – chaotic. As the speaker, you were to recruit a participant for the project. Sometimes, that recruiting didn’t take place until the beginning of the club meeting… which led to some pretty bad speech projects. Or the person you recruited didn’t make it to the meeting. Or, simply put, they didn’t bother to prepare or didn’t understand the project. I remember watching a speech project where the pair recited the demonstration script word-for-word from the manual. Role-playing expects both participants to put in some effort.
Prepare for an Interview is another one of those unexpected speech projects like I talked about in Episode 20. You have to recruit a partner for this role-playing speech to play the role of the interviewer. This is entirely up to you who you pick. It can’t be the person who evaluates you. Ok, that’s not a problem. What might be a problem is that the interviewer might want you to write out the questions that you want to be asked.
Let me strongly encourage you NOT to do this.
Now, I’m being completely contrary to what the Project Checklist says:
Determine which member of your club will interview you. If possible, select a member who has experience interviewing others. Prepare interview questions for your interviewer that are specific to the skills you would like to practice during the activity.
In real life, you don’t get the questions in advance. Ok, if you’re going on a late night talk show, you might, but then, I expect you’re promoting your newest film project and they’ve got your answers scripted for you, jokes and all.
If you do follow the instruction to get a volunteer who has experience with interviews, you can instead give them some ideas about what you’d like to talk about and the format of the interview: new job, subject matter expert, or talk show guest. Hey! Why not dream big?
If you want to practice specific skills, then certainly tell your interviewer what you want. They can craft questions that can surprise you and help you better than anything you’re going to write and be prepared to answer. An interview – like a journalist’s interview – is best unscripted.
But the project instructions say…
I know – it’s what the instructions say. But if I were going to do this project as the interviewer with a speaker and I was handed those questions, I’d… let’s be honest here – I’d mess with the questions. I’d put them in a different order. I’d ask them for the information in ways they aren’t prepared for.
I’ve been interviewed a few times for other podcasts, or for radio or tv shows. I’ve NEVER been asked the questions I expect. There’s a good reason for you to write down questions: so you can craft answer strategies that may help you sound more professional. But when I was asked (a very long time ago) by houses in Florida that had been built by Habitat for Humanity had survived a hurricane* better than those that weren’t – I knew the answer, but I wasn’t expecting the question. Because I’d thought a bit about how Habitat Houses were built by volunteers, I didn’t have that “animal in the headlights” look. I answered the question and we moved on to the topic I wanted to talk about.
Career Building Interview Prep
If you want to send your interviewer some sample questions – ok, go for it. But consider asking the interviewer to use their own words, or to go rogue and do what they think is best. Like the instructions say:
Send the Interviewer Instructions resource, your interview questions, and any other plans for the activity to your interviewer well in advance of the meeting.
If you intend to do this as a career building speech project, schedule it out a few weeks. There are a couple of worksheets you need to complete before you give the speech anyway. And it gives your interviewer some space to be creative. (Be sure to save the worksheets for the VP Ed if they want the evidence that you’ve done the work.)
An interview is a discussion with a purpose – to get a job, to build your credibility, or to show off in front of Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show. Connections with Networking may also be an interview with a purpose, but it’s not so overt… at least, it shouldn’t be…
Make Connections with Networking
Please note that the title of the speech project is MAKE CONNECTIONS.
I found this great quotation from the pathways training for this project:
The goal of networking is getting to know people, not necessarily gaining something.
This is another one of those unexpected speech projects because you’re going to have to go to a networking event before you can give your speech to your club.
Purpose: The purpose of this project is to develop and practice a personal strategy for building connections through networking.
Overview: Prepare for and attend a networking event. After the event, present a 5- to 7-minute speech to your club. Your speech can include a story or stories about your experience, a description of what you learned, or a discussion on the benefits of networking. Your speech may be personal to you or informational about networking.
Well, I didn’t see that one coming. I probably should have.
Career Building Networking?
If you ask any long term members, networking is always mentioned as a benefit of joining Toastmasters. I’ve lost track of how many careers and relationships I’ve heard of being built on a Toastmasters networking.
Going to a networking event may need you to be a bit more attentive to opportunities around you. If you want to stay in Toastmasters – there’s the conferences, convention, speech contests, and club officer training sessions you can attend.
But be brave! Go outside and meet others in your community! You might check MeetUp.com or Eventbrite.com for some ideas. Check out your community events listing in the newspaper or contact a local business association for some options. Last week, my daughter went to a Tug Of War corporate challenge in our community. That’s career building networking and apparently a lot of fun!
Did you know that 80% of Toastmasters self-identify as introverts? So why is this a thing??? Why do we have to go out and talk to people?? Isn’t being in Toastmasters enough?
Look, I’m not an introvert, but going to a new place like a conference or a meeting where I don’t know anyone is scary. I’m not an extrovert either, so I’m not jumping into the fray to talk to everyone. In fact, when I plan to go to a conference, I actually contact the coordinator and ask if they’re looking for volunteers. That puts me in a position that I’m most comfortable in. I’m still networking but it’s… controlled. Find what’s comfortable for you if this is the first time you’re trying a group.
The preparation worksheet for this project are not something you’re likely to sit down in a night and finish. Crafting an elevator pitch is not something you do during commercial breaks of your favorite tv shows. You’re going to have to work at this.
This is another speech project that you should plan to schedule out several weeks. Do the worksheet first, then go to an event. But don’t expect to give that elevator speech if you’re tugging on a rope.
*For the record – Habitat Houses are usually built by volunteers who don’t like the “only use this number of nails” instructions. They like to use more. It paid off – those houses were among the very few that survived that hurricane intact.