I’ve been a member of Toastmasters for a little over a year. If you’re unfamiliar with Toastmasters, please read my Toastmasters overview post. Many people join Toastmasters because they want to become better speakers, and one of the ways in which Toastmasters helps with this goal is by providing each member with a Competent Communication manual, which guides the member through his first 10 speeches. Each speech is considered a “project” because with each one the member is given a specific objective that will move him further along toward becoming a comfortable speaker.
The Ice Breaker
The first speech (project 1) is called The Ice Breaker. The goal of this speech is simply to give the new member a chance to introduce himself to the group and overcome that initial fear of standing before an audience. It also allows the new member to demonstrate the strengths in public speaking that he may already possess and to identify areas on which he would like to improve.
Tips on giving your Ice Breaker speech
- I’ve found that the best Ice Breakers are the ones that focus on a particular theme, or that tell a particular story that demonstrates who you are and what you’re about. If you simply rattle off a bunch of facts about yourself (I was born on … I have two pets … I like pigeons …) you run the risk of boring your audience. But if you can tell a good story, you’ll keep your audience better engaged (and who doesn’t love a good story).
- Don’t worry about nerves. Even some of the best speakers will tell you they get nervous every time they speak. In fact, some suggest that nervousness can be good because you can channel that nervous energy into your speech, giving it an extra dynamism. My only suggest is NEVER tell the audience you’re nervous. You may feel like your knees are buckling and your voice is quivering, but honestly your audience probably won’t notice, unless you point it out to them. So if you don’t want to draw attention to your nerves, don’t bring ‘em up.
- Say the whole thing out loud at least once before presenting it to the group. Everyone has a different approach toward giving a speech. Some people like to write out every word and stay on script, while others prefer to jot down topics and freestyle it. Personally, I prefer a hybrid approach. But regardless of how you map out your first speech, you should practice it out loud so you can get a feel for the timing (many people are surprised how quickly 5 minutes can go by), and the overall flow (does it sound as good out loud as it did in your head).
You can find more tips on how to give a great ice breaker on Andrew Dlugan’s website.