You've just joined a Toastmasters Club in your area. You've rarely, if ever, spoken in public. Now you find yourself faced with giving a speech, gently named "The Icebreaker", but more realistically thought of by first-timers as a "BackBreaker, MindBreaker, and Potential DealBreaker", all rolled into one.
Don't let fear break you - instead, try these 3 Steps, and you will "Be the Icebreaker", not the broken!
1. Fix Your BrainYou don't think anyone cares what you have say. You feel like you'll completely blow it, stutter and stammer, or even break down and cry. Worse yet, that hyper guy is scheduled as ah counter and you're gonna get nailed for ah's and uhm's ad infinitum, running your club fine account up to the size of the U.S. National Deficit.
Stop. Breathe. Pour yourself a cool beverage and relax. Fix your brain by remembering the following:
a. You have permission to speak. Everyone their cares about what you have to say, and they were all in your position once, or soon will be. What you say may not change their lives, but for those 4-6 minutes, they care.
b. You have permission to stutter, stammer, and cry. The more you fear it, the more likely it is to happen. By accepting this possibility, you allow yourself to instead focus on what you're going to say.
c. You can just spare a buck. Bring a one dollar bill, and prepare to majestically pay the bank at the end of the ah master report. Or give it to him before the meeting as a bribe to forget to count. Either way, take the pressure OFF!
2. Don't Memorize Your own Life.Even if you love to write and memorize and feel this is the only way, for this speech, don't let yourself do it! The speech is all about YOU! When you meet people, do you open a notebook and read your bio to them?
Instead, sit down with a piece of notebook paper and write down two, or at most, three things you want them to know about you. What you do for a living. Your favorite sports team. How many kids you have. What marriage you're on. How double jeopardy laws have allowed you to be at the meeting tonight. Whatever you want them to say - it your call.
Then find a why story. Why do you have six kids, or why do you enjoy them? Did you adopt, merge families, or could you simply not afford cable? Why do you love/hate your job? Did you always dream of opening a hotdog stand, or was it left to your by your brother who just left the country with his fiance? Why do you love your sports team? Did Don Drysdale come to your house and sign a baseball for you? (Uh oh, now I'm channeling old Brady Bunch episodes....)
Open with a simple summary - I'm Bob Jones - I work with mystery meat, and the Dodgers rock, and I love being a dad. Boom - move into your dad story, then the Dodger story, then the mystery meat story. Missed a detail, said something wrong? Who cares? WE DON'T KNOW ANY BETTER! Just keep speaking! No notes means you can say whatever you choose, and still be right.
Close by hitting each story again quickly, just a word here or there: "Those are the basics of Bob - I make and market mystery meat, long for the days of Dodger domination, and since I don't have cable, I've joined Toastmasters - cause 6 kids is enough! Boom, sit down.
I know, easy for me to say - but you can do this. Give yourself a set amount of time with pen and paper, and see what you come up with. Blocked? Ask your spouse, close friend, or your facebook peeps what THEY if they have ideas. Take your notes with you, but leave them at your seat, buried so you won't be tempted to grab them mid-speech.
3. Enjoy the moment.After taking your position in front of the group, breathe. Smile. Make eye contact. Then go for it. You know who you are. You know your stories. And you know you're not going to be perfect - maybe not even very good.
Remember - that's why you're there. You don't become a good driver until you've been a new, scared, stop and start driver. This is your classroom, your support group, your laboratory, your garage workshop, your studio, whatever image you choose to identify with a place to create, learn, destroy, and recreate, Toastmasters is it.
Many of you are far beyond your Icebreaker speech. The concepts apply anyway, far beyond the confines of Toastmasters:
Fix your brain. Don't memorize (even if your speech isn't all about you). Enjoy the moment. Find a place to practice, to create, to evaluate, to create again.
Know someone about to give their first speech? Don't let the Icebreaker break them. Send 'em here, or email them this article - and show them they can "Be the Icebreaker" instead!