The Wall, the Wobble, and the Wilderness

a wall with a door in it. Toastmasters are always improving their craft. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t sometimes wonder ‘what was I thinking’ when we committed to giving a particular speech. Especially when it’s the night before and we’re panicking and hitting a wall.


Maybe it’s not coming together and we’re worried we’ll look like idiots.

Or maybe it’s the wrong topic that has us in a panic.

Maybe it’s just not quite the right fit. Recently, someone had one speech ready and then when the moment came, she felt inspired, and delivered a completely different speech that what she’d planned.


What if it’s about taking a bigger risk and stepping on to a new learning edge? What if feeling unprepared just means the process for creating speeches has changed from the first moment we stand behind the lectern and deliver (or read!) our Icebreaker speech?

This idea was brought home to me in my recent experience giving a speech about the Wall, the Wobble, and the Wilderness..

And one other W too. You can read more about it here.

Importance of the Icebreaker

Toastmasters Storytelling“I can talk for hours about my job or when conducting a presentation at work, but I can’t hold a personal one-on-one conversation for two minutes.”

Do you or have you felt that way? Many of us are great communicators when we are not part of the speech, presentation or story. However, your personal stories may be the best connection to your audience.

Stories constitute the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal.
– Dr. Howard Gardner, Harvard University

Talking about latest products, awards, achievements and advancements are impressive, but often they are cold hard facts. To connect with an audience, there needs to be a warm, soft story that talks to the heart of the audience.

According to an online article (, “When you tell a story during your presentation, you can potentially activate up to seven areas of your audience members’ brains, as compared to the two areas of the brain that you can awaken if you tell only facts and stats during your presentation.

The best stories to share are the personal ones. The ones based upon failures, fears, successes, learning lessons and struggles. Think makeover or transformation.

Icebreaker is a term which describes an activity that reduces tension and anxiety in a group while forging new bonds.

In Toastmasters, the Icebreaker is often seen as a way for new members to introduce themselves to the club. They are encouraged to talk about their life, job, hobbies, interests or how they found themselves at Toastmasters. It is presented to the new member as an “easy topic” for you are talking about something you know — yourself.

I, however, think the importance of the Icebreaker is more than an introduction to the club. It is an introduction on HOW to insert YOU into speeches. This is the most important baseline for all speeches, over hand gestures and vocal variety.

If you can get up there and speak from the heart, you win the hearts of your audience. Even if it is a business meeting on financial asset management.

What’s your thoughts on storytelling? How do you incorporate it into your speeches?

Additional Resources:




Are You Showing Deception In Your Speeches?

I am one of those writers that harbours a secret fear that someone, somehow will discover what has been recently entered into my search engine. Mostly because, well, it’s a little bit scary.

While researching 911 calls and transcripts for a murder mystery I am crafting, I stumbled upon a website dedicated to statement analysis. In short, statement analysis is determining if a person is lying or telling the truth by analyzing the subject’s use of language in 911 calls, police interrogations, news coverage interviews and courtroom testimony.

I know what you are thinking — pseudoscience. Okay. Okay. I’ll give you that. There’s a huge error of margin in this due to nerves, verbal ticks, shock, habits and cultural or interpersonal differences. You can take it or leave it.

Deception Red Flags in Toastmaster SpeechesAs a Toastmaster, I find it fascinating how our choice of words (including the number three) may have the opposite impact upon our audience as we intended.

As we learned in Project 4 “How to Say It” of our Competent Communication manual, “words are powerful. They convey your message and influence the audience and its perception of you. Word choice and arrangement need just as much attention as a speech organization and purpose.”

According to Mark McClish, a retired Deputy United States Marshal with 26 years of federal law enforcement experience, on his website ( “people’s words will betray them . . . The key is to listen to what people are telling you and to know what to look for in a statement.”

What are the deception red flags? Here are a few things McClish and statement analysts look for when seeking signs of untruthfulness:

The Number Three
According to McClish, “I have found that when deceptive people have to come up with a number they will often use the number three . . . (It) has become known as the “liar’s number.”

Story Breakdown

When a person is describing an incident his story will be comprised of three segments: What the person was doing BEFORE the incident; what they were doing DURING; and what they did AFTER.

Truthful stories will generally follow a pattern of 25/50/25 (before/during/after). However, deceptive stories, according to McClish, have a ratio of 35/50/15. They need to set the stage for their tale while trying to work out the details for the conclusion.

Question with a Question
When someone answers a question with a question (or even repeating the question), this is a stall tactic, as we know from Table Topics.

“Really”/ “Very”
The use of “really” as a descriptor can be deceptive for it is trying to add importance, stretch a particular area. “I hit him really, really hard.” Over emphasis without substance.

“You Know”
According to McClish, deceptive people use this phrase to tell you that “you know this.” They expect you take for granted what they are saying is the truth. However, if the phrase occurs a lot, it is a speech pattern.

Non-Committal Words
Words or phrases such as: “kind of,” “I think,” “I thought,” “I don’t know,” “about,” “like” and “sort of.” These distant the speaker from the event or his participation. Trying to recall but not really a part of. Not to blame.

In short, use clear, simple, vivid and forceful words that add excitement to your presentation while utilizing good grammar and pronunciation. Use concrete, specific words that communicate what you mean and simple statements that are easy to understand.  Avoid the red flags of deception.

Happy writing!