Tuesday, March 3, 2009

can a mentor help me be a better speaker?

Have you asked another woman to mentor you as a public speaker? Accenture released a new report today that focused on mentoring, with interesting responses from women executives. From the report's key findings:

When asked to whom they turn for career advice, just 14 percent of women cited a formal mentor at work, compared with more than 50 percent of women who cited either family, friends and current or former colleagues...Yet women acknowledge the value of a mentor: they report that their mentors help them think differently about certain situations, help with their current roles and help them see more opportunities and possibilities...help with identifying their skills and capabilities, increasing their confidence and encouraging them to stretch themselves
Nearly 30 percent cited mentors as having "helped me improve my communications skills." And in many situations, from meetings to medium-sized presentations to big speeches, a mentor can fill in the gaps between training as a trusted advisor. A mentor can watch you present and watch the reactions, and talk to you privately about the results.

Mentors can be in your workplace or elsewhere (and I'm always gratified that so many of my coaching and training clients are eager to get my feedback as they keep advancing in their speaking skills). Can't find a mentor in your workplace--or have a group of women needing or willing to give mentoring help to emerging women speakers? Try the social networking site GottaMentor.com, which currently has a challenge to gather 5 million mentors.

Can men help women get on the program?

Chris Messina blogged last week to update a 2006 post he wrote, taking the tech industry to task for fielding major conferences with only white male speakers, and deploring the absence of women from the program, an issue I've written about here. After a little progress--one woman on the program of a major conference--he sums up his concerns this way:
The question is no longer “where are all the women?” — it’s why the hell aren’t white men making sure that women are up on stage telling their story and sharing the insights that they uniquely can provide!

Why should it only be women who raise their voices on this issue? This isn’t just “their” problem. This is all of our problem, and each of us has something to do about it, or knows someone who should be given an audience but has yet to be discovered.
Tech leader Susan Mernit blogged about Messina's post, and added:
...the challenge is for organizers to budget the time to jump out of their comfort zone when they plan their programs--and to believe it matters enough both to the quality of the experience--and the marketing--that they find, invite and include talented women.
I agree, though I'd still recommend that women put themselves forward as potential speakers at the same time. What do you think?