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Experts! Speak English Podcast

(151 Volunteering Your Way Out of Your Communication Comfort Zone)

Welcome to the Experts! Speak English! Podcast!

Together we’ll discover how to talk yourself into an international career without the bullshit.

And at the end of each episode, I give you an opportunity to try out what you have just learned on the show because I give you Coco’s Communication Challenge which gives you an opportunity to get out there and try out one of the tools, techniques or tips that you will have heard on the show.

I’m Corinne Wilhelm, I’m a corporate communication coach with over 20 years experience of helping leaders to secure the career that they deserve through intentional communication, intercultural awareness, and the confidence to show up as the English-speaking expert.

Corinne - podcast host of the " Experts Speak English Podcast" with her editing headphones on
Top tips

Last week we had 150 communication tips. Now, I hope that you’ve taken some of those on board and maybe you’ve earmarked one or two to try out yourself in the next couple of weeks.

What I meant was when I said last week about volunteering wasn’t just about volunteering. Okay, when I was younger, volunteering was enoughbut actually what I meant was to take a leadership role within an organisation where you can grow as an individual but give back at the same time.

In at the deep end as a volunteer

Now, in the UK, every 16-year-old had to get involved with a community project, so this involved a 12-week stint or something of going to a charity every week for an afternoon to help out.This was to,basically,give something back to the local community.

So I, like any teenager, looked for something simple and easy to do, something that I was naturally good at and I’m a real water baby, right? So,I went to help handicapped children to swim because taking handicapped people swimming is really hard work, you need lots of hands and eyes on the job.You need to have a bit of extra muscle power to get them from their wheelchairs into the water. And,of course, you also have mentally handicapped children who-these were actually adults as well-, who tend to do weird and wonderful things just as you’re getting into the water. So, you have to really have an extra pair of hands.So I was that extra pair of hands and I’m a real water baby, right?

I grew up in the South West of England. At the coast,I grew up exploring in rockpools,for sea anemones and crabs and all this lovely stuff. Swimming, then sailing, then windsurfing, then diving. I mean, I am a complete water baby. So,this for me was a really wonderful way to do this.I found out about this school. I went to see them and asked them when I could do this and so on.


But then … I had a week to think about it and I, you know, between making the arrangements and actually starting, then I started thinking,

What happens if they don’t like me?
What happens if they’re frightened of me?
What happens if they don’t want me to touch them?
What happens if somebody drowns or I don’t see that their head is underwater?
Or what happens if they slip?
What happens if there’s nobody to help me?

All of these thoughts were like charging around in my head, and I’m like, Oh my goodness, what have I let myself in for?

Have you ever been in that situation? I find myself in this situation rather a lot

Deep End sign at the swimming pool
Girl jumps into the deep end of the pool on a cloudy summer day
YES gesture

Say yes! Worry about the implications once it is too late to back out.

I tend to agree to things and then think later about all of these repercussions.

So ever since I’ve been 16, I’ve been volunteering in some capacity for whichever organisation I find interesting at that time.

When I went to university, I was on the student union, (as the academics affairs officer) when I came out of university, I went to London and I got involved with hospital radio.

After that I got involved with Brandon Hall. This was right at the beginning of the e-learning era, so I wanted to learn from the best. And I was actually a judge for Brandon Hall, who are based in the US, and are evaluating e-learning providers and their products.

This was a real eye-opener for me. And as I got to know more about online learning, I wanted to try it out myself. So,I got involved with Tapped In, which is (or was) an online platform for teachers. It was a sandpit really to try out new techniques and tools and things like that. And I got to learn some amazing teachers and trainers there on the platform.It doesn’t exist anymore, unfortunately, but it used to be a really inspiring place for me to learn and to grow as an online trainer

Intercultural & Speaking Knowledge and experience

I then went on to work with SIETAR, which stands for the Society of Intercultural Training, Education and Research.

And having discovered Toastmasters, I’m actually now an Area Director,as well as the VP of PR for my local club First Berlin.


As you can see, with each opportunity that I’ve taken, I actually created an opportunity to grow as an individual, to learn new skills, to learn and use a new culture. So, for me, this is like part and parcel of who I am. #lifelonglearner

Group of young intercultural colleagues interacting at meeting
selective focus of firefighter with water hose extinguishing fire on street

Bring your skills to life

Now, you don’t have to be doing this all the time. I (personally) feel a bit kind of almost greedy/guilty/selfish if I’m not giving something back to community somehow.

But even if you have just phases in your life where you are being the trainer for a local football coach or whatever it is, it doesn’t have to be business-minded, it doesn’t have to be related to your industry, but it means that you have the opportunity to grow as a leader.

I have a wonderful client, for example, who is very involved in the fire service and he has used this to expand on his leadership skills to become more motivational to, you know, focus on his communication skills and to really make sure that these kids are safe and under control.

Can you see how these transferable skills can really put you in a better position in your career?

In a Career Slump?

Now, many of you might feel that you’re a little bit trapped in your career, and that happens to many of us at some point in our career.

Then it’s time to look up and look for other opportunities. Now, maybe you’re at a stage in your family life, where you don’t really want to be changing anything, it’s just easier to keep it as is.

Because let’s face it,
family life can be a bit turbulent, can’t it?

That’s fine. I’m all in favour of keeping life simple.

But if you feel that you need a challenge, if you feel that you’re ready to grow and you don’t want to wait, you’re kind of a bit on hot coals, then joining a club at leadership level is a really good way to do that. Because you can be doing it at the same time as you’re doing your day-to-day job, right?

You can do it in the evenings,before you go to work. I have friends that call me in their lunch hour and we,of course, meet in the evenings, but you can be gaining leadership skills at the same time as doing your job.

So for example, since I’ve been an Area Manager, I’ve had to deal with some tricky conflicts, I’ve had to deal with struggling numbers of club members signing up. I think that’s a problem that many clubs face. So,we had to go all in on things like PR, but also picking up new members, making sure they’re feeling really welcome, get that icebreaker done.

As nerve-racking as it is to do that first icebreaker speech,acting as a mentor to get people past that very first speech, which can be so nerve-racking, but it is a vital first step in your Toastmasters journey is a really amazing experience for both of you, you know.

And this is something that you might not have the opportunity to do at work. And yet here you are kind of opening yourself up for;

new experiences,
new challenges,
new opportunities

to grow as an individual.

If you would be interested in joining your local Toastmasters club, just let me know and I’ll let you know where your closest one is.

(or click HERE)

Nervous woman: portrait of unhappy doubtful female biting lip, worried of mistake or before event
Female soccer team and their coach going through game plan on football pitch.

Get active!

But on the other hand, you might decide to do something more active. Maybe you’re not doing enough sport, and by getting involved in a local sports club or something, you could kill two birds with one stone.

But also look at the international clubs around you.

There’s an episode about these clubs coming up >>>

For example, things like Rotary and Lions and BNI and all of these kind of things.

You can get involved at a Board Member kind of level, you know, and this is something you can put on your CV, this is something that you can talk about at your interview when you actually get to change your job or go for a new project.

That makes you stand out and it shows that you’re willing to go the extra mile because people that take on extra responsibilities outside of work tend to be that much more motivated.

That’s very appealing for an employer. What employers don’t want is the 9-5’ers that just do their regular job and go home and it’s all very minimalistic.

Those are the people that really struggle to get opportunities in their existing line of work.

Be a role model

If you have a young member in your family, it might be a daughter or son, a grandchild, it could be a niece or a nephew, or it could be your godson or -daughter, if you have any at that age (19-25) and you think that they might be interested in (or beneift from) getting involved in something like Toastmasters, where they get used to standing up and giving a speech, which,let’s face it, they’re going to have to do that at university, and they’re certainly going to have to do that in their jobs.

And yet,nobody teaches you how to do this stuff. This certainly isn’t something that you learn at university. You’re just expected to be able to do it, and that’s what you’re being evaluated on.

So, if you know somebody at that age, then I would recommend you to go to your local Toastmasters club and take them with you.

Say that you want to work on your skills and you’ve heard that it’s really great for young people as well, and you’ll find that Toastmasters clubs are very welcoming. Everybody is welcome, it’s a very, very supportive, diverse and very, very international environment and you will get the opportunity to grow as an individual.

Your (plural if you go with your relative) confidence will grow and you’ll learn new skills, but you’ll also have a home, a place where you are welcome at any time, no matter where you live in the world.

The structure is the same, but the topics are different and you will learn about all manner of things.Like really, I’ve learnt about so many different things and you’ll also get to mix with people that you wouldn’t normally socialise with.


Pardon? Young afro man have a doubt
You can do it encouragement note on woman’s lap
Millenial people swiping on touch screens and using the internet concept

Challenge your biases

So if you have ever wondered whether you have an unconscious bias towards people of other races or ages, maybe you found yourself saying things like, Oh, millennials they’re this, that and the other-go to a Toastmasters meeting!

Go and see the Toastmasters that are young, who are pulling their finger out, who are getting stuff done, because that’s where you’ll find them, you’ll find them at Toastmasters.

And if you want to change your bias about coloured people, people with a different religion or a vegan, it doesn’t matter.

Change the group of people that you’re mixing with. Challenge yourself to find out more about the people that you tend to group into sections, races, religions, whatever label you’re putting on people,

I challenge you to go and find those people and get to know them as an individual. Because the moment you start finding out about people different to you, the more you’re likely to change those biases, the more they’re likely to shrink into the background and that will make you a more rounded, approachable, but also a happier person-and that will change your outlook on the world.

Coco's Communication Challenge

So,Coco’s Communication Challenge for this week is to reach out and do some volunteering.

By volunteering, preferably at leadership level, not necessarily immediately, but in time taking that opportunity.

By doing that, I promise you, you will open doors, you will start seeing opportunities that just didn’t seem to be there for you before. This is about communication, but it’s also about being brave, pushing that comfort zone so that you can show up as the real,true, brilliant self that you are.

Let me know which organisation you get involved with or if you’re already in an organisation, tell me how you are stepping up as a leader. if you decide to share this new development of yours in social media, then please use the hashtag #ExpertsSpeakEnglish! that way I get to see what you’re doing-how cool is that? Not only that, but you’ll inspire other listeners too, because they might well be looking at the same hashtag.


And if you’re more of a under-the-radar kind of guy or girl, then just get in touch with me via email, LinkedIn or Instagram. My email address is

Next week ...

Next week, I’ll be talking more about unconscious bias and what you can do to get over those twinges.

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Be the very best communicator that you can be and have a fabulous week!