Monthly Archives: August 2011

The Ice Breaker Speech

Is there anything more terrifying than giving your first speech at Toastmasters?

Then, just to make sure you’re adequately rattled, Toastmasters calls it “The Ice Breaker“.

I don’t know about you, but I find just the title scary. So let’s take some of the terror out of the Ice Breaker.

First the good news.

Your first manual speech at Toastmasters is only four to six minutes long and it’s all about you.

This brings us to the bad news.

Many many new speakers lose track of time and blow right through the red light at six minutes. At First Oakville we actually had to stop a new speaker who was approaching 10 minutes and was only up to their teen years. Reading the manual and looking at the requirements of the Ice Breaker would have been helpful.

So what’s recommended when it comes to the Ice Breaker? This is your opportunity to introduce yourself to your fellow club members. So your speech should say something about who you are, why you’re here, how’s the family and what interests you in general. That’s about four minutes if you rush it and six if you drag it out.

I’d also suggest not memorizing every word. After all this is a speech about you and your life so you should know the content. And keep that content simple and straight forward. (In a future post I’ll tell you what to do when you forget your speech. Happens to me a lot.)

Here’s a secret to better speech writing and delivery. Tell your audience what your speech is about and how it relates to them. Give the speech and then in your conclusion remind us what the speech was about again.

It goes something like this: Fellow Toastmasters, tonight I’m going to share with you my journey with the hope that you will related to my struggles and perhaps be able to offer me some encouraging words of support….here’s my story…and now that I’ve shared with you a few thoughts, I hope you will share some of yours with me. Mr. or Madame Toastmaster.

That’s it. It’s that simple.

Where most Ice Breakers go off the rails is they are overly complex and go way too long. The speech takes on a life of its own and there’s no way to end it gracefully.

So keep your speech short, sincere and simple and your fellow Toastmasters will be looking forward to your next speech.

Oh yes, somewhere during the speech remember to smile. It helps your audience relax.

Here’s a link to another blog with tips about the ice breaker.


Your First Toastmaster Year

The first year in Toastmasters for many of us was the most magical.

We marvelled at the quality of speeches we heard and wondered how we could ever be so accomplished.

Jobs like being the Toastmaster or chair for the evening seemed beyond us.

Even speaking for a minute or so during Table Topics was a challenge.

And the business meeting (especially at First Oakville) well…that was beyond belief and terrifying.

So here are some thoughts about how to get the most out of that most wonderful first year in Toastmasters.

  1. Come to every meeting whether or not you are on the agenda. In this way you’ll be supporting your fellow members in the same way you’d like to be supported yourself. Besides you’ll learn something new every night.
  2. Get a mentor. The VP of Education will assign one or you can ask for someone in particular but do so and do it early.
  3. Volunteer to help on the Christmas or Charter Party committees or ask to be a counter at the next contest.
  4. Come a few minutes early and make it a point to greet newcomers (even if this is only your second meeting as a Toastmaster) and walk around and introduce yourself to the club members as they arrive.
  5. Ask the VP of Education to put you on the agenda for your ice-breaker as soon as possible. After all you came here to learn public speaking right?
  6. Try to find a way to speak at every meeting. Volunteer for Table Topics or Speaking Out. Participate in the business meeting. Introduce a guest.
  7. Make your own speaking schedule. I’d recommend doing a manual speech every two to three months if possible. In this way you’ll get your CTM in two years.
  8. Go to the fall or spring district conference. Every Toastmaster should attend a district conference at least once.
  9. Offer the best written evaluations of speeches that you can. Point out what impressed you. Offer a point of possible improvement. End with a positive supportive conclusion.
  10. Consider running for office in your second year. Roles such as Sgt.-At-Arms, secretary and treasurer are perfect for new Toastmasters as you’ll learn there’s more to Toastmasters than just public speaking.


Joining a Toastmaster club can be intimidating enough but joining a seasoned club like First Oakville can be downright frightening.

Everyone seems very skilled and the meetings run so smoothly that newcomers often say they felt overwhelmed sitting in through the first session. This is especially true of the 15-minute business sessions which are taken very seriously at First Oakville. (It can seem very intense but it’s always friendly regardless of how it may look – honest.)

So what’s the secret to having fun and getting involved when you’re new?

It’s by getting a mentor. The vice-president of membership will assign you a mentor or you can ask for someone specifically. First Oakville has many first-class mentors so if your first choice isn’t available you will be assigned someone else who will be able to help you.

Mentoring in Toastmasters is one of the secrets to success. A good mentor can help you avoid making mistakes and wasting your valuable time. The Toastmaster International website says a good mentor serves as a role model, coach and confident, offering knowledge, insight, perspective or wisdom useful to the person being mentored.

A mentor may see things in you that you may not be able to see in yourself.

For example, last year one of my mentees was hesitating about competing in the International Speech Contest at the club level. You need to have successfully completely six speeches from the basic manual to qualify to enter this competition (not all competitions have this requirement) and the Toastmaster had six speeches but didn’t think she was ready to compete. (Winners at the club level go onto Area competition and right on up to the International at the annual Toastmaster International convention.)

I suggested, in my role as mentor, that the objective wasn’t to try to win (and honestly I didn’t give her much of a chance to win against the strong competitive field of Toastmasters with much more experience who had signed up) but rather to compete and get used to speaking under the pressures of competition. I thought if she came third it would have been a remarkable achievement as would just competing be a big step up.

Well, as our members know, this Toastmaster delivered one of the best speeches of the year at our formal Saturday night Charter Party. She blew away the audience with her talk and took first place.

Now the payoff here isn’t only in the winning of a prestigious and hard-fought contest. It’s in the confidence that such a win brings with it. As far as I’m concerned, this mentee has graduated 🙂