These last two months post Techstars London Demo Day, I've been incredibly privileged to mentor at startup competitions and events all across Europe (over 15!), with two more left this weekend - Startup Weekend London: Fashion Edition and Hack Humanity. If you're free over the weekend and in London, you should definitely join. These events promise to be a lot of fun and really show the diversity that we have in the London startup scene.
Mentoring can be exhaustive . My fellow mentors do it not for the money, but for the experience and as a way of giving back to the community. It requires sacrifice, as oftentimes these events happen on a weekend away from family time. And the mental energy required to be "switched on", sharp, and ready to move with the participants/entrepreneurs' pace is very very high. I want to acknowledge what the mentors bring to the table.
Mentoring is also an activity that can be improved upon. I've noticed that during my earlier mentoring sessions when I did suck, I tended to take too long to understand the entrepreneur's business, and leave less time to discuss the challenges. I now pattern-recognize that much more quickly, and can devote valuable time to the more meaty issues. By the way, the Mentor Manifesto is a fantastic template to start learning how to mentor.
I've also learned to use the question - "how can I help?". It's a technique that Marvin Liao uses, and the results are fantastic. It really changes the dynamic from one person pitching/selling to another, to a different dynamic where two people get into the issues, discuss, and drive the conversation forward. If there's one instant thing that can make a mentoring experience better, it is the use of this technique.