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 (ethos3.com), “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?

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Toastmasters: More Than Just Speeches

A guest at this week’s Toastmasters shared a revelation that coincided with this week’s theme of “Contrary to Popular Beliefs.” He admitted that he thought joining Toastmasters was going to be about him. About him making speeches. About him learning how to be a better communicator.

What he didn’t know was that Toastmasters is really about hearing other people’s stories. Connecting with others. It’s about . . . others.

When I used to dragon boat, there were three stages of paddler awareness. The first stage was beginner. This is the awkward stage where you are focused on what you are doing and whether you are doing it right. Your awareness was only for the bench you were on.

DragonBoats.JPGThe second stage of awareness developed over time. Eventually, the paddler realized that if they moved in sync with the bench in front of them and behind them, the paddles didn’t bang together as much. The awareness circle widens just a bit to the benches around them.

The third stage was when the paddler realized that their bench, their pod was part of the entire effort. All ten benches working together is what gives the boat lift and glides it through the water.

When we join Toastmasters, it is easy to see what it is we want to do. What we need help doing. Our focus is on our personal challenges or limits.

It’s only after a few meetings and a few experiences in the meeting roles that we start to realize how our presence helps to “lift” the meetings and “guide” others. It’s more than just our speeches — it’s listening, supporting and assisting others.

When we bring others into the mix, we care about the larger community. The boat. The club.

It is through the speeches, or stories we tell, that we are able to engage with the “boat.” People start to see the true person standing at the lectern. They see beyond our perceived short comings to the powerful person in each of us. Our teammate.

Contrary to popular belief, Toastmasters isn’t just about speeches. It’s about teamwork. It’s about others.

A few other highlights from this week’s meeting:

  • Sandy W. delivered a persuasive speech on the Power of Punishment and how poverty of spirit, hope and finances has impacted our prison system.
  • Michael W. shared his personal story of grief from the death of his dog with a beautiful poem. His realization that we never know what may happen was expressed in a self-composed song that he performed for us.
  • Ria Q. took center stage for her first role as Toastmaster. Hats off to a job well done.
  • Sheila C. offered us a laugh break with a joke she got from her children. It was her first time as Jokemaster and she knocked it out of the park like DiMaggio.

Note: Please sign up for roles for next week’s meeting. The theme is Say It With a Song!

Choices, Chances & Changes: The Morning Tide of Toastmasters

Three Cs of Life: Choices Chances and Change

This week’s Toastmasters Summer morning series had the perfect backdrop for the theme — speeches from the CC manuals.  One could hear the gentle lap of waves as three people took center stage in Sharon’s backyard to deliver their speech. The ocean waters repetitive, hypnotic beat was the perfect complimentary background noise to our speeches of choices, chances and changes.

“In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.”

I (Weegee S.) gave my second speech (but the third in the CC manual) about how CHANCE played a role in my life. After a series of misfortunes, I was given the chance to learn to call for a dragonboat. While I was filling in for a short time, the promotion taught me a valuable lesson in how to handle CHANGE and using my voice effectively to communicate with my support group.

“Destiny is all about the choices we make and the chances we take.”

Sharon K. eloquently delivered her Ice Breaker speech where she talked about the three CHOICES that brought her back to Gibsons, BC time and again. Her tale, told from her own backyard, was about the houses and the property we were sitting in with a filter that gave us a view into how it looked to her as a child. We saw how it changed since then and how it has changed her. She said she initially agreed with her parent’s choice to purchase the waterfront property because it had a tree swing, something that made her happy. It was that feeling that led her to make the two other choices to return to Gibsons — to stay.

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.” — John C. Maxwell, public speaker and leadership expert

One of the things each of us does daily without putting much thought into it is communicate with others. Conversation is a fine art that many of us overlook, neglect or have let our skills fall to the wayside. However, it is a necessary skill to take a chance encounter and change it into a lifelong friendship. Sheila C., in a speech from the Advanced Interpersonal Communications manual, showed identified techniques to use when conversing with strangers and the different levels of conversation (small talk, fact disclosure, viewpoints and opinions and personal feelings). She offered us a way to CHANGE how we interact with fellow Toastmasters, the grocery store clerk and even people in our lives who could use a promotion in how we classify them.

The morning meeting was topped off by a round of Table Topics, random questions picked out of an envelope for those willing to be put on the spot. It is no wonder that each participate picked the one question best suited for them. Lucky choice? By chance?

The overall theme here is that each of us have signed up for change. Change in how we communicate. Change in our confidence. Change in how we present ourselves professionally and in small talk scenarios.  Each of us have made a choice and taken a chance on each other in Toastmasters to make that change. A process that is one step closer with every speech, evaluation or Table Topic discussion.

We are changing. And it only gets better from here!

Contributed by Weegee S.

NOTE: Special thank you to Sharon K. for hosting the morning meeting and offering a fantastic location for our speeches.

Next meeting will be on August 26th, hosted by Katherine. Check TurboBase and your emails for details!