It was not like the Inquisition. You don’t expect the Inquisition!
I had scheduled my Ice Breaker speech for the 19th June, giving me plenty time to steam towards it like the Titanic, and hope to be more successful than she in actually breaking the ice that lay before me. I should have known better than to make the comparison even mentally, for out of the blue one weekend came an opening for that very Thursday. Too late to turn. I had to take it head on.
Actually, doggerel aside (which I strongly advise you not to use in your speeches!) it was terrific! I had been going to the club, Waverley Communicators, since January, had been voted in in March, and you could not find a friendlier group of people anywhere, nor a mentor better than mine.
The Icebreaker speech is the first of the ten speeches in the ‘Competent Communicator’ manual of developing yourself as a public speaker. The purpose of the Icebreaker is to showcase, to yourself and to everyone else, your existing public speaking skills. Most of all, it’s to introduce yourself properly to your fellow Toastmasters.
But after you’ve been to the club for even a few sessions, there isn’t much ice left to be broken – it’s all been melted already by the sheer warmth of the atmosphere. (To say nothing of the room temperature, the radiators taking the name ‘Toastmasters’ a little too literally!).[That’s been fixed! The Ed.]
On the night, I went to the front of the room, clutching my notes like a comfort blanket, and was greeted with a warm handshake, a wink and a mouthed ‘Good luck’ from club stalwart Eileen Scott, and turned to face an array of smiling faces.
For the first speech, you are allotted four – six minutes. In twenty, as Philip Marlowe said, ‘you can sink a battleship, down three or four planes, hold a double execution. You can die, get married, get fired, and find a new job, have a tooth pulled, have your tonsils out.’ Approximately five minutes to say all you need to say should be a doddle. I took six and a half. What can I say – I find myself interesting subject! The challenge is to make your audience interested as well.
But the secret of the incredible success of Toastmasters in turning out confident and eloquent public speakers is not just the course itself, excellent as that is. It is the close knit community spirit, and the desire of everyone there to help improve everyone else. After each speech, your evaluator and your mentor give you both praise and advice, so you know what you’ve done well, and what you need to improve. You can relax among your fellow Toastmasters, and because of that the words flow, and the confidence builds.
After just four months there I have found myself at home as I have in few other places, and would eagerly recommend it to anyone.
Are you still here? What are you waiting for? Come down to 28 York Place on Thursday 1st May and see for yourself.
Post written by Michael McLernan
Member of Waverley Communicators