Green Bay – The Road Trip

When you think like champions, practice like champions, and play like champions, you are champions.

If you ever go to Green Bay, Wisconsin, make sure you visit Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. Take a guided tour of the stadium. And, for sure, you may also find it only fitting to pay homage to one of the legends of American football, Earl Louis Curly Lambeau.

In 2018, I traveled to Green Bay with my daughter, Phylicia, to check off one of her bucket lists items. Our road trip felt like we were on a pilgrimage as I watched her experience one of her happiest days at an almost empty stadium. I had bitter-sweet memories of those times she sat in a corner like Jack Horner, eating humble pie. At the same time, the rest of the family celebrated with our heroes during the Niners’ glory days. Yes, game days were challenging for the family whenever the packers were in town. But, while she was cheering for the Packers, everyone else was for the forty-niners.

That day she was all smiles as we admired the trophies and magnificence of Lambeau Field. The many Super Bowl trophies with Lombardy’s words of wisdom adorning the walls of the stadium. One that stopped me dead in my track: “There is only one way to succeed in anything, and that is to give it everything.” Still, I kept thinking, where did I go wrong as a father? But, as the tour progressed and the story of Curly unfolded, I was reminded of one of my first parenting lessons. We make our kids, but not their choices. That day, I was the one eating crumbs off my daughter’s humble pie as our tour guide spoke about the life and loves of Curly Lambeau. His coaching philosophy was simple; when you think like champions, practice like champions, and play like champions, you are champions.

Curly Lambeau was an outstanding player at Green Bay East High School, where football was like a religion. And curly was very religious. After graduating from high school, he fulfilled his childhood dream of playing college football at Notre Dame for the legendary coach, Knute Rockne. However, curly returned to Green Bay after only his first season with Notre Dame and never returned to the college. Some say it was because of injuries; others claimed it was because of his inadequate finances. But I believe it was because of his love for his girlfriend Marguerite, who became his first wife. Oh, Curly was known to be quite a lover and could sell snow to Eskimos. He even had two more wives before his sunset in June of 1965. When asked in what was his final interview if he had any regrets in life, he said: “My only regret was that I didn’t start two teams back in 1918.”

The story of the Green Bay Packers dates back to 1918n when Curly returned to Green Bay from Notre Dame. Curly took a job at the Indian Packing Company but continued his love affair with football. You see, Football was not a profession until the mid-1920s. Salaries for the top players were between 100 and 300 dollars per game. Still, in 2017, Curley jumped at the opportunity when he learned about a Community League that was about to begin in Green Bay. The fee to join was $50.00. Curly, with his smooth-talking, convinced his management at the packing company to pay the startup fee, which they did reluctantly. And, the Indian Packing Company Football Team was born to boost morale at their meatpacking facility.

Sadly, the novelty soon wore off, and in less than two years, it was curtains for the league and the team. The following year, Curley learned about the formation of a National League. However, the signup fee for that league was a whopping $150.00. Curly again approach his management, who politely told him to get lost. Who wouldn’t have loved to be a fly on the wall to hear his pitch, as he was told: “Come on, you waisted our $50.00 just a year ago!” But Curly would not be denied. Finally, his management relented when they learned about a plan, Curly and his buddy from his high school, George Whitney Calhoun, who was in the newspaper business. The Indian Packing Company Football team was restarted and admitted to this newly formed football league called – The NFL. Yes, the same NFL we know today.

The team needed Additional funds to purchase uniforms, gear, and other necessities. So together, Curly and Calhoun came up with a genius plan, selling Zero valued shares. The shared offer nothing to the buyers, only bragging rights, nothing more, nothing less. To this day, Green Bay is the only sports franchise that is of the people, for the people, and by the people. There is even an ongoing waiting list of prospective buyers today. That startup fee that was about $500.00 is also known as one of the most significant ROI – Return on Investment in the world of sport and business. The Green Bay Packers as a franchise is now worth over 2.7 billion dollars. Ironically, the name change from the Indian Packers was initiated by Margarete when she shouted – For goodness’ sake, Curly, why don’t you call the darn team the Green Bay Packers and stop this? “Indian Packing business – You are now a professional ballplayer man.” The new name stuck, and the team became – The Green Bay Packers.

In case you are wondering, who is still the Packers fan? My daughter Phylicia still is. But after that tour, I now have nothing but respect and admiration for the Green Bay Packer. Yes, I am still a Niner. On our way home, I had to ask my fabulous daughter again why – what on earth made you such a fan of the Green Bay Packers. Was it because of your favorite play Bret Favre, or was it Curly? What was the attraction? Still clutching her single share certificate offer, which added her to their waiting list, with a smile, she said: Dad, who would not like to be part of a team owned by their fans. Players will come, and players go, but the true fans will always remain. Is there any other team that is of the people, for the people, and by the people? It’s not just the players. Dad, it’s the fans and the community of Green Bay that make their team true Champions.

Do you Check-in with your audience

When you want to be heard, don’t follow the herd

Check-in if you want to be checked-out

A proven way to engage audiences in the first minute of your speech is to use a check-in. When you don’t check-in, your audience may just check-out. Many professional speakers will tell you that you may never get back that audience once you lose them in that first minute of your presentation. Checking-in with your audience is an invitation to get them involved. It’s like opening the doors to say welcome, let’s talk. That moment you take to acknowledge your audience will pay huge dividends to you, that audience, and most importantly, your judges when speaking competitively.

The best check -ins are questions, aroused curiosity, or conflict. However, you should also be aware that some check-ins can cause your audience to immediately check-out from you and your presentation. For example, overused openings like: “Have you ever….” When the second half of that question does not stimulate curiosity or excitement in your audience’s minds, that check-in may be a check-out. The next time you have the urge to open with: “have you ever,” try building the curiosity you are seeking with the word:” Imagine.

Speakers can find many excellent check-in examples in some of the Toastmasters World Champions of Public Speaking speeches. One example that immediately comes to mind is Darren LaCroix’s question while lying face down on stage. In the opening of his championship speech: Ouch, he asked: “did I stay down too long – have you ever stayed town too long.” That was one of the most memorable lines of that speech. Another excellent check-in was by Lance Miller – Do you validate.? Again, these are all questions strategically placed to open the doors to establish a connection with their audience. Notice, they all little questions that produce huge results.

Sometimes you can also connect with your audience by addressing the deliberately placed elephant in the room. David Brooks used that technique when he won the Championship in 1990. For his presentation, he wore jeans and a tuxedo. And, what did he do? He used this check-in: “in case you are wondering, some of us do dress this way down here?” His check-in was relevant to the 1990 current events and the situation in the country when the famous was becoming infamous – Sounds familiar – He did his homework, and it worked.  

It’s wise to know as much as possible about your audience’s expectations and demographics, age, background, and gender. Another technique commonly used by Toastmasters and by Jazz musicians too is the call and response technique.  At the beginning of the presentation, the speaker or performer frames questions to connect with their audience. For example, a speaker may ask questions related to the topic they are about to present. This technique is helpful when the speaker is not familiar with the audience they are facing. It can build confidence and quickly help establish parameters with that audience.  

The more you know about your audience, their likes, dislikes, and expectations, the easier it is to establish a connection. Keeping your audience engaged from start to finish begins with your opening. Then, a strong introduction sets the tone for the remainder of the speech. At every step of the way, you must know what you want your audience to think, feel or do. Speakers must also know how much is too much or how long is too long. Speakers must also listen to feedback but go with their gut feelings. “When you want to be heard, don’t follow the herd.” Instead, take the obstacle course or the proverbial road less traveled. And when you are a speaker who is known for checking in with audiences and keep them engaged, soon audiences from all over will be checking-in to just to check you out.

Storytelling

Your once upon a time is now!

Do you remember the first time you heard the words “once upon a time”? Who was that storyteller? What was their story? And how about you? Is your story still being written, or will it someday just be told. Why wait to be the sage on the stage. Those days are over. No one can tell your story better than you. Your once upon a time is now. And while we should never let the truth get in the way of a good story, if you keep your truths in the middle of your account, you will always have an attentive audience. With a basic understanding of what it takes to tell stories effectively, you can captivate any audience with your storytelling. 

When you’re an authentic storyteller, audiences will happily take a trip with you down memory lane. Every successfully told story begins with a plot. Your plot is your “what” of the story. It is the foundation on which you build the story. Also, to engage your audience, you need a “setup.” Your setup transports your audience to a time, place, and event. First, introduce the conflict in your setup that leads your audience to say to themselves – tell me more. I want to know who did what to whom. Then, unveil your story by recalling the narrative in a progression of time. As the event unfolded from weeks, months, or even years ago, make that event come to life as if it were yesterday. 

Every story must have characters. Reveal your characters to your audience with clarity. While characters don’t always have to be a person, it takes a persona or personality to make something or someone your main character: your “who” may be fictional, a real person, or even yourself. When your main character occupies center stage constantly in your story, don’t make yourself the hero. Not a good idea – You can be heroic, but not the hero in your story. When your hero is someone your audience can identify with, or root for, making a solid connection with that audience becomes effortless. Storytelling reminds us that we are all human and share many of the same experiences of our everyday lives.

Telling your story using dialogue instead of a monologue can inspire your audience to get involved as they listen. With dialogue, you receive instant feedback. Dialogue takes your audience back to the time and to the place where your event occurred. The more you involve your audience in your story, the more you will feel like you are collaborating, and not just speaking. The days of the sage on the stage are over. Instead, invite your audience to contribute in real-time to your moment with their reactions. A smile, a gasp, a sigh of relief -their responses validate your story and you, the storyteller.

Storytelling is an art as well as a skill one can develop. It’s like riding a horse or a bicycle. The more you ride, the more you will gain experience. As your balance improves, so too will you. One of the first lessons you will learn as a storyteller is that some stories are better received. All audiences are not the same. When you believe you failed, always remember you never fall from grace when the stories you tell touches the hearts and minds of your audience. Your once upon a time is now. Tell your stories with passion and power, and the more you tell, the more audiences you will hold in the palm of your hands when you master the art of storytelling.  

The Olympics of Public Speaking

Did I take a club speech to Division or a Division speech to the District?

Making it all the way to the World Championship of Public Speaking is the dream of many Toastmasters who enjoy competing.  For some, it is the Olympics of Public Speaking. Many enter the competition for the love of speaking competitively and to develop as a speaker. The lessons learned from their successes and failures serve as reminders of the “dos and don’t” when next they are on the platform. However, for many, it’s the 2nd place finishes that are the hardest. You were so close. What could you have done differently?

Did your journey end at the club level, even though some felt that your speech could have been a winner at the finals at the International contest?   Even more painful, did your end come at the Regionals? Where ever it ended for you, make it your new beginning. The 1990 World Champion David Brooks called 2nd place finishes “The Sting of Silver.” Even before the pain passes, take the lessons learned and start preparing for your next trip to the platforms. Look at what worked and start fixing what didn’t. Your journey to the big stage continues.

A good place to restart is with your topic selection. Was your topic appropriate for the contest level, that room, your audience, and judges? Did you take a club speech to division or a Division speech to the District? That’s like bringing a knife to a gunfight. While you should choose a topic you are passionate about, connecting with your audience should be your primary focus. The topic you choose can decide your final place in your competition. Was your presentation all about you? Did the topic have some universal appeal? These are all questions you should address. 

Coaches always emphasize the importance of establishing a connection with your audience through personal stories and real-life events spun into a unique and powerful speech. Your speech should not be an act. Your results are by far better when you use persuasion and the power of the spoken word effectively to keep your audience engaged. While it’s a tall order for anyone, it is one of the main reasons why there is only one winner annually.

Every World Champion I can remember had a well develop (FS)-Foundational Statement. Your FS is the premise, theme, or message on which a speech is built. For some, it was a carefully worded sentence, a question, or a phrase with a unique connection to their message. That message should be powerful, catchy, memorable, and short enough to fit on the back of a business card. Be concise but also be clear. How you choose to deliver your message is also critical. Remember you are giving your speech to and for your audience.

To achieve your best results, don’t just tell your audience; show them, take them, be descriptive. Use word pictures to convey your message. If a picture paints a thousand words, then paint pictures with your words. Also, check for unanswered questions in your script. Questions can become a distraction to your audience. Answer every question, resolve every conflict, and be always clear to your audience.

Speakers should try to avoid recent events and stories overused by the Internet and social media. Events with varied audience interests, opinions, and topics too big to be delivered completely in five to seven minutes are risky to bring to the platform. If a topic can divide the views of an audience, it will most likely divide the opinions of the judges. Remember, all you have is five to seven minutes. And don’t use the platform for therapy. Let those who have moved on rest in peace. Establish your purpose in the first thirty seconds of your presentation and let that purpose resonate through your speech.

Be sure about what you want your audience to think – feel – or do after hearing your speech. The minute of silence after your address can be the most critical minute for you, your audience, and judges. If they feel compelled to take some action during that minute of silence, you most likely achieved your goal who knows, and you could be the next Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking. 

All Speaking is Public Speaking

You cannot unsay what was said

My first speaking coach once said to me, all speaking is public speaking. Whether you are giving a prepared speech, an Impromptu talk, a Table Topic, or even speaking with friends and family, you are public speaking. For that reason; speakers must always choose their words carefully. You can undo what was done, but you cannot unsay what was said. Good public speakers strive to speak with empathy, good tone, and vibe when speaking on or off the platform. They know what you practice, becomes permanent. They also learn and exercise the essentials of good communication. They open with short introductions, followed by the premise of their story, the story, before closing with a summary or conclusion. Their communication is always clear, concise, and engaging.

Table topics are one to two minutes long. Prepared and impromptu speeches are five to seven minutes. Call them whatever you wish; once they have an opening, body, and conclusion with a topic and purpose, they are speeches. And they should always be delivered as such to the audiences you are addressing. When delivering any of the thirteen different types of speeches, if you practice using the same delivery style as you would in your everyday speaking experiences, over time you too will notice a tremendous improvement in your ability to communicate effectively.

Preparation is your key to success as a speaker. Dr. Ralph Smedley, the founder of Toastmasters, often said “A prepared speaker should never be nervous.” However, today speakers must stay prepared. While we should always prepare for any speaking assignment, there will be times when you didn’t get prior notice. That’s when staying prepared pays huge dividends. It is great to have one or two pocket speeches you can deliver at a moment’s notice.  However, here are a few more ideas to help you stay prepared. Keep a list of one, two or three-word topics which you can comfortably speak on, anytime, anywhere. Build and keep a story file from your life experiences. Begin with that single word that is the trigger, which always leads you to reflect on each experience. From that single word, you can build an idea, topic, and story.

Your single word can also lead you to a foundational statement. Next, add one or two related words to develop your topic title. For example: Your first word can be Love.  A related word can be Marriage. You now have your topic title from those two related words: Love and Marriage. Another approach is to use categories: Here are a few: Good Times, Rookie Mistakes, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. You can also string two related table topics into a single five-to-seven-minute speech. Have fun developing your ideas into topics and titles. Titles also make good openings for your presentations. Don’t make them too complex; make them memorable. If your topic echoes universal experiences, that will prepare your audience for what is to follow. Silently they should be saying, tell me more, tell me more.

When speakers accept that all speaking is public speaking, they will notice significant improvements in their ability to connect with audiences.  It doesn’t matter if they are on or off the platform.  With every opportunity to communicate with others, their confidence grows.  When impromptu speaking, they will feel prepared, because they have stayed prepared. Use your everyday conversations to develop your communication skills. You will notice your transformation into a speaker who can take you on a journey, and not just tell you a story about a journey. Speakers who can bring the person they are off the platform, to the platform, are the ones who speak from the heart, and truly believe that all speaking is public speaking.

Your Natural Speaking Voice

The breath must be under perfect control.

Do you know the sound of your natural speaking voice? If you listened to a short statement read by you and seven of your friends recorded weeks earlier, could you identify which voice was yours? Whenever I listen to some of the great speakers of yesterday and today, I realize how critical it is to find your natural speaking voice. Notice the pitch, range, and timbre of the speakers you admire. They understand the importance of inhalation of air when speaking and the control required in its emission.

Many of us depart from our natural breathing as infants with age and development. We use almost exclusively the upper portion of our lung capacity. To develop proper resonance, flexibility, and vocal beauty, focus on correcting how you breathe and correcting that condition called shallow breathing. How you breathe determines the quality of your natural speaking voice.

Before you can improve your speaking voice, you must recognize it. It is the tone and pitch we all use in our everyday communication. There is no need to look much further. Observe the pitch you would typically default to if you were to start humming. Notice the ease and comfort you feel instead of when trying to hum at a lower or higher pitch. William Shakespeare, the famous English poet, and playwright (1564-1616), said it best. He had this to say about finding your beautiful tone when speaking or singing.

Two factors are necessary: 1.The breath must be under perfect control. 2. You must train your vocal organs to act with unconscious ease. Without proper breath control and freedom of the vocal muscles, a speaker cannot attain a beautiful clear tone of voice.

Once you have found your natural speaking voice, the next steps are development and maintenance. Freedom of the jaw, throat, tongue, and lips are critical areas speakers must develop. It is a slow and disciplined process. Some speakers may require help from a speaking coach to break some of the bad habits perfected over time. Speakers should also notice how their tone and pitch changes when they are on the platform.  It is natural for a speaker’s voice to change if they are nervous, excited, or assertive. Understanding how to use those changes effectively can turn what may be, to some, a liability into an asset when presenting. Start with your natural hum and try changing registers. That is an excellent exercise for beginners to practice moving seamlessly between registers. With soft lips lightly touching, hum a favorite tune. Then recite or read and record a few short sentences. Listen to your recordings. If you want people to listen to you speak, you must be prepared to listen to yourself.

Attention to detail as you practice is of paramount importance. Maintain good posture, proper inhalations, and hum with ease as you practice exercising your vocal muscles. Make sure the lips are soft, barely touching, and loose at the corners. The tongue should lie easily and loosely, with the tip of your tongue lightly touching your lower front teeth. Make sure your throat is free as if you are about to begin yawning. Exercises are useless when performed incorrectly. Those performed once correctly are far more valuable than an exercise done repeatedly while ignoring a single detail. Begin your humming with simple songs, even nursery rhymes.  As you become more proficient with your breathing, step it up to include classical pieces and choruses as your resonance improves. Keep practicing and humming correctly, and you, too, will find that which is native to us all, your natural speaking voice.

Understanding Your Audience

Values Beliefs and Characteristics

How well do you understand your audience?  That is a question all speakers should answer when preparing a presentation. Some may regard presenting TO an audience, rather than FOR an audience as semantics. However, both deliveries are different. When a speaker is preparing FOR an audience, they begin by researching mainly the values, beliefs, and characteristics of the group they will be facing. Speakers should also consider looking into the ages, gender, ethnicity, ability, and membership tenure. Of the group.  It’s also a good idea to start with your point of contact. Prepare a list of questions to understand the topics that will resonate best with that group. Once you have done your homework, you should have a pretty good understanding of what you should prepare FOR that audience.

Delivering TO an audience is a bit different. The speaker may choose a speech to inform, to persuade or to entertain. Similarly as when they are presenting FOR, their understanding of the audience’s makeup will help them determine how much is too much or enough.  Although the speaker’s topic usually is one with which the speaker is familiar or may even be an authority, the speaker’s goal is to connect with that audience. Speakers base their content on their experiences and knowledge. They are offering a slice of their life experiences to you. To diffuse discord, the speaker may use rhetorical questions. Speakers should also rely on their instincts and observations as they decide how to connect with the group they are addressing. A little understanding of the group will often lead to success.

Lifestyle can be an indicator of values, beliefs, and characteristics. Looks are sometimes deceiving. It’s always a good idea to compare your research with your first impressions.  Age, gender, ethnicity, and culture can influence everyone’s ability to relate to some topics. Speak to your audiences’ level of understanding. Audiences don’t like being lectured or preached to unless they planned to attend such an event. Be prepared to cite sources for the information you are presenting. Your delivery will determine how the group is receiving your message.  As you continue your delivery, read the reactions you are receiving from the group in real-time. Know what you want your listeners to think, feel or do after hearing your presentation. If your message is clear, concise, and you-focused, your audience’s understanding will keep increasing as you continue speaking.

If your delivery is all TO or all FOR your audience, that is a recipe for failure.  The goal is to make a connection while switching as you deliver. The speaker can deliver parts of their speech TO the audience and others FOR the audience. Decide where you will do your switching during your preparation. Use reminders in your script for your delivery. One approach that works well is the “speaking one to many” method when switching. The speaker focuses on one audience member. At the same time, everyone receives the messaging as if it was intended for them only. Delivery is where the rubber meets the road. Finally, whether you choose to deliver your presentation TO or FOR your audience, success or failure on the platform depends on how well you understand your audience. This talk was prepared FOR a Pathways-L3 project on Motivational Strategies.

The 3 Phases of a Speaker’s Development:

“All great speakers refined their thoughts on paper – before they spoke, they wrote.”  

The 3 phases of a speakers’ development are: 1: Their concerns about self.  2. Their concern about their message and 3: Their concerns about their audience.

Many years ago, I attended a workshop with the 1990 World Champion of Public Speaking, David Brooks, who spoke about these three phases. In his talk, he also emphasized the importance of writing out your speeches to have something to edit. Immediately I was hooked. To repeat a few of David’s words of wisdom: “All great speakers refined their thoughts on paper – before they spoke, they wrote.”  

Do you know which phase of development you are in presently? You could find the answer to that question by simply looking at one of your recent speeches. Ask yourself, is my speech focused on self, the message, or my audience?    

In the first of the three phases of development, speakers are concerned about how they look, how they feel, and how they sound. Concern with yourself in this development phase is where many speakers begin and where average speakers remain.

When a speaker focuses on giving speeches for personal satisfaction, the singular first-person pronouns “I” are noticeable in their writing.  The text of the speech will show the number of times they repeated the pronoun “I” instead of the more inclusive, we, us, or you.

Putting your words on paper and editing them will help restructure your sentences to be more message-focused. Focusing on the message is the second phase speakers graduate to as they move forward in their development.

In the second phase of the development process, speakers usually shift their concerns to their message. Speakers in phase two edit what they have written for accuracy, clarity, and brevity. Their focus is on effectively communicating their message. Speakers in this phase put the needs of their audience before their personal opinions, likes, and dislikes. Their focus is on their message.  

They also focus how their audience will receive their message. Each sentence is checked carefully for clarity and brevity. Speakers in phase two know the importance of speaking to be understood and to be repeated. They know, what’s evident to the speaker may not be apparent to their audience. Regardless of how beautifully written your text sounds, when in doubt, leave it out. 

The third phase of development is where all speakers aspire to be; concerned about their audience. They are confident, comfortable with themselves, concern about their message, and are focused on their audience. To get to that third phase, speakers must free themselves from the expectations of perfection. They are willing to reveal who they are and what they are about to their audience.

Phase three speakers are confident communicating with their audience, even when faced with the unexpected. So, where are you as a speaker? If you are in phase one, the move forward is simple. Change your focus and concerns. Focus on your message and your audience. You will become a better speaker when you know where you are, in the three phases of development as a speaker.

Just another Icebreaker

Include the six emotions that touch all audiences

The first speech delivered by a Toastmaster is the icebreaker. However, that first speech can be the first of many great speeches if your chosen approach points you in the right direction to begin your Toastmaster’s journey. Pathways, the Toastmasters newly minted communication and leadership program, introduces each new Path with just another icebreaker. After being in Toastmasters for many years, it’s only natural for members, both new and old, to ask why someone must prepare another icebreaker to begin every new Path. How many times must you re-live that first experience when you almost fainted on the platform? Some of the main reasons are the ever-changing faces in club memberships and the development of each club’s programs. I believe we have a greater appreciation for that first experience when you take a moment to look back as you continue moving forward. With each new Path you begin, you will recognize the importance and focus on speaking about your life experiences. Telling those stories with passion will help you to continue with your development as speakers with greater confidence.

If you were to review some of the world champion speeches, both past and present, you would discover they contain many of the rudiments you will find in a well-crafted icebreaker. Over time, you may also conclude that icebreakers can set the foundation for that world championship speech you will deliver someday. However, your icebreaker will become that memorable speech only when you begin to live and share the values of the lessons learned from the stories you continue to develop and deliver. Telling your story is not enough. It would be best if you also took your audience with you to re-live those precious moments. When you speak about your successes, failures, and future aspirations, your audience will better understand who you are, which is one of the icebreaker’s primary purposes of the icebreaker. As you tell your stories, never forget to include the six emotions that touch all audiences: happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust. And when you make sure your speech contains a Purpose, Point, and Message that touches the head, heart, and soul of your audiences, they will always lend you an attentive ear.

Telling your story to an audience can be challenging. Pathways provide you with worksheets that help you structure not just your icebreaker; they provide you with the foundation for your future presentations. They will also help you organize your thoughts as you decide what you should include or exclude. Once you start working with the worksheets, you will quickly realize their value. Some of the questions you should consider asking yourself are, what’s the greatest lesson you have ever learned, who taught you that lesson, and how that lesson changed your life. Your answers should resonate with the audience for which you have prepared. Remember, you are delivering a speech about yourself to that audience and not giving a speech about yourself for yourself. Telling your stories in that manner sounds self-centered and selfish when the focus is entirely on you and not on your audience.

Once you have prepared and delivered a few icebreakers, you will begin to develop your format. Keep a story file to preserve the ideas and the beautiful lines you use in your everyday conversations. You will also start recognizing and paying attention to those lines and formulas you have heard delivered by other experienced speakers. One of those that immediately come to mind, which I have borrowed many times from Patricia Fripp, a Hall of Fame, award–winning speaker, is Q1, where I was, Q2 where I am. Q3, where I am heading. Answer those three questions, with three sub-points for each of those questions, and you will have the basic structure for your icebreaker.

Another I borrowed from the great motivational speaker; Les Brown: Q1: where have you been, Q2: where are you heading. Q3 when will you get there. And my very own: Q1: I was, Q2: I am, and Q3 I will be. Practice creating your own Q’s, and over time, they will become a natural part of your preparation, not only for but also for all speeches. Icebreakers are fun. When the stories you tell make your audience think. When your life experiences touch their heart and soul, when your subtle humor makes your audience laugh and cry in those four to six minutes that they will never forget, they will be ready, willing, and able to walk a mile with you in your shoes. When you develop your four to six-minute speeches, your five to seven will follow and flow with that same style and delivery. Keep breaking the ice with each new audience you face, and the day will come when you will remember every one of the icebreakers you deliver as just another icebreaker and some of the many excellent speeches you have given as a Toastmaster

Your Amazing Grace

It is a feeling of being Unbreakable-Unshakable-Unsinkable

Your Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound – it is a song that awakens the power of the human spirit to remind us, in our hour of darkness, if we reach out to the power of the human spirit, that spirit that is deep within us all, you too will be filled, with your Amazing Grace. Are you filled with Your Amazing Grace? It is a feeling of being unbreakable, unshakable, unsinkable, even when you believe that all but hope is lost.  

On Christmas Eve, some two hundred and forty years ago, Pastor John Newton, the man who coined that phrase Amazing Grace and wrote those beautiful words that became the song Amazing Grace, delivered a sermon in which he recalled a time in his life when he was lost, and how he came to be found. When he was too blind to see the beauty of humanity and when he came face to face with what he was sure was going to be his destiny, a watery grave at sea.

Newton, a self-proclaimed wretch – a vagabond of the sea, who broke every one of the golden rules of life, was sailing across the Atlantic with his crew and human cargo – Yes, he was a slave trader, a vocation many believed could only be reserved for the worst of humankind. As they sailed off the coast of Ireland on a bright sunny day, suddenly they ran into the eye of a storm. The seas were angry; the sky grew darker and darker. The winds were howling like mad dogs. Newton, an experienced seaman, realizing he was no match for the fury of mother nature that day, fell to his knees, begging for mercy, promising to change from his wicked ways if given a second chance at life. 

Newton got that second chance. Miraculously, they made it to Donegal – a little port of the Northern Coast of Ireland with his ship almost a complete wreck. It was there, while his boat was being repaired, he wrote those beautiful words that would become the song, Amazing Grace, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I am found-was blind, but now I see” – And I am sure if we had more than five to seven minutes here today, we all would still be singing that song of song, that hymns of hymns, that gives us all hope in our hours of darkness.

It is sung more the 10 Million times each year, recorder over 11,000 times in more than 100 different languages. But the true miracle of that song is the melody – which was inspired by the moaning and growing of shackled slaves in the hole of that ship, as they too struggled to survive that voyage, wondering if their destiny would also be a watery grave at sea. Haunted by those memories, Newton kept every word of that covenant he made at sea. He transformed his life from being one of the worst of humankind to become an advocate for the abolition of the slave trade. 

I truly believe, everyone will someday have at least one John Newton moment in their lifetime – a moment when their entire life flashes before their eyes like a bad movie. Do you remember your Newton moment? Did you too make promises? And were those promises made promises kept. I still remember mine as if it were yesterday. To this day, I could still remember seeing those two words we all dread in bold letters – “The End” – as the credits of my life journey scrolled amid a deafening silence. But in that moment of darkness, I too reached out and was blessed with an experience I will never forget. It was a feeling I can only describe as being simply Amazing.  

Today, whenever I hear someone cry in word or song with those – Amazing Grace! seeking comfort from their grief and suffering, I am reminded that second chances don’t come easy. And not every bend in the road is the end of the road. But what I do know for sure, is in your hour of darkness, if you reach out to the power of the human spirit, that spirit which is unshakable, unbreakable, unsinkable, you too will be filled with your Amazing Grace.