Breaking the Ice

Icebreakers are not one and done

IMG_1980 (1)The first speech a new member of Toastmasters or any organization delivers is called the Ice Breaker. Ice Breakers give speakers the opportunity to begin speaking with confidence on familiar topics. It also provides them the chance to start developing their model for the preparation and delivery of future speeches.

Icebreakers provide a variety of choices. You may introduce yourself to your fellow club members. You may wish to speak about what brought you to the realization that you needed to improve your public speaking skills. You may choose a topic or cause you are passionate about.  However, the allotted time for an icebreaker is four to six minutes. A time limit that should be respected.

That set time limit has a specific purpose. It is designed to condition speakers to focus on a structure, economy of words as well as getting a feel for working with timers without having to concentrate on their devices. With time, you will begin to feel your green, yellow and red lights when you are on the platform. Therefore, discovering your speaking rate is very important. Calculate the number of words you speak by merely reading a passage is one standard method. For more information on that subject go to the resources page of  http://www.davidbrookstexas.com

For my icebreaker word count, I use the following manner:  (4 to 6 -1 =5)  5 times my wpm (words per minute) giving time for pauses and laughter.  My word count should be between 600 and 650 words. For speeches that are 5 – 7 minutes I use. (5 to 7 -1=6) 6 times my wpm which gives me a word count of about 750 to 780 words.

While there is no single recipe or formula for preparing a great speech, there are a few fundamental ingredients that can make your presentation memorable. Focus on your format. As you continue to become more comfortable with your structure for icebreakers, in particular, you will notice a natural tendency to approach your future speeches in the same manner as you do icebreakers. Icebreakers are not a one and done.  In time, they will be your default model for preparation and delivery of your speeches. The more you practice them, the better you will become as a speaker.

The following are a few additional tips for preparing icebreakers.

Where I was, where I am and where I’m going is one of those “hip pocket” icebreakers you can give at any time with very little preparation. If your scheduled speaker is absent, take the opportunity to practice. Keep an Icebreaker evaluation form handy at all times.

Make your opening remark a Foundational Statement. It is the foundation on which you will build the rest of your presentation.

Your greeting to the audience should follow the make a point, tell a story or tell a story to make a point format. For your Vignettes V1, V2, and V3. Remember, less is more. Use no more than three Vignettes. V1 -Transition -> V2 -> V3 -Time permitting.

Establish a phrase in V2 that will be the memorable phrase or statement of your speech. That statement is called your Magic Moment. Every speech must have one.

Signal to your audience you are closing on your V2 if you have only two Vignettes, If you have a V3 do it on the V3 – i.e., My Fellow Toastmasters.

Restate your foundational statement at the beginning of your closing and summarize your main point as you proceed with a call to action if appropriate.  Don’t thank your audience, your audience thank you for your presentation. Mr. or Madam TM is fine.

Stand and deliver is an excellent delivery approach for beginners. Move the material you prepared from your head to your heart and the hearts of your audience. Let your words dictate your body language. Build on the speaking skills you already have to establish your formula or receipt that you will use as you prepare and deliver your future speeches.

Author: HenryOMiller

Henry joined Toastmaster in March of 1997. He is presently a member of five clubs in the Santa Cruz and San Jose area. Henry is an executive speech coach, humorist, and speechwriter. He is also a musician and a lyricist​ who likes to approaches his speechwriting similar to his approach to songwriting.