Giving My First Toastmasters Speech: The Icebreaker

Giving My First Toastmasters Speech: The Icebreaker

Written by Zach Grossfeld

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This past Monday, I gave my first Toastmasters speech known as the Icebreaker.

A 4?6-minute talk, the Icebreaker represents the speaker?s baptism by fire into their respective Toastmasters Club. The speaker can choose any topic to give other members a deeper insight into their lives. I decided to break down my Hinge dating profile.

For those of you not familiar with Hinge, it is a dating app, like Tinder or Bumble, but unlike Tinder and Bumble, Hinge allows the user to choose three questions/topics to answer on their profile.

My Hinge profile states:

  • I Am Looking For (Hinge topic)?Cauliflower gnocchi at Trader Joe?s (my answer)
  • Unusual Skill?Rapidly de-shelling hard-boiled eggs
  • Worst First Date Experience?Let?s make it happen
  • I Want Someone Who?Chases their purpose unapologetically, tells the truth, treats others with respect, and doesn?t take themselves too seriously.

I then expanded upon each element of my Hinge profile, which lasted 7 minutes and 42 seconds. The next day, I reflected on the speech.

Here are my main takeaways from the Icebreaker:

Run Towards The Things That Make You Uncomfortable:

Public speaking makes me nervous.

As a podcaster, I have grown more comfortable, although not too comfortable, with the concept of speaking one on one. Speaking to an audience of ten plus people sparks a different level of discomfort.

Before the speech, I caught myself relishing the idea of the Toastmasters meeting getting canceled or calling in ?sick.? Don?t be soft, I said to myself.

I signed up for this club.

I asked for this.

Now put in the work to get better.

The tightening of the stomach, the thoughts of the things that could go wrong, the voice that says, ?everyone cares about everything you do,? are normal.

The best speakers feel these sensations and indulge their darkest thoughts, but then, they walk up to the podium.

Instead of avoiding the nervousness, I channeled that energy, observed it, and put it towards my speech. Something I wouldn?t have been able to do without meditation. This act doesn?t negate the nervous sensations, but it does make things seem more comfortable to handle.

After I finished the speech, I felt supercharged, the exact opposite of nervous energy.

I started plotting my next speech in the immediate aftermath of the first.

This feeling made the process worth it. I grew. Digging deeper, I stretched my limits of comfortability a bit further than they stood the day before the Icebreaker.

I Underestimated The Preparation:

On Friday, I started thinking about the speech. Saturday, I wrote it. Sunday, I ran through the main points in my head a few times, then said them out loud a few more. I gave it a whack on Monday.

A 4 to 6-minute speech can take weeks, even months to master. Who was I to think I could wing it in less than 48 hours and do a decent job? An idiot.

Consistent preparation leads to mastery and unlocks confidence.

I thought that running through the speech decently a few times would lead to a revelation of an icebreaker.

The day before the speech, I even had the thought, ?Could this be a TED Talk?? Jesus. I was bathing in the siren songs of my ego.

Rather than delivering a discourse out of The King?s Speech, I stumbled, stared at my notes at times, and rattled off a dozen ?umms? and ?uhs.?

Not a bad start, but not nearly as good as I imagined I would be.

In the middle of my speech, I thought, ?How could I think this would be easy?? It wasn?t, and it won?t be.

Practice doesn?t make perfect.

Practice keeps you honest.

The less you practice, the more time you have to fill your head with delusions of grandeur. Preparation forces you to face these delusions head on to realize I?m not that good ? more of that next time.

Feedback. Feedback. Feedback.

Like I mentioned before, I felt a rush of anticipation for the next speech after I completed the first. But doing the same thing again would only indulge my ego and do nothing to make me a better public speaker.

Qualified feedback allows for a marked improvement.

Some examples of feedback from my fellow Toastmasters include:

The next morning, I poured over every piece of feedback.

This process may have been harder than the speech. I didn?t want to look at what was subpar about my performance.

I was the only feedback I needed, right? Wrong.

The job is not done once you finish performing. Seek qualified feedback from people that you trust to be objective. Not all feedback is created equal.

Tweeting out, ?Who loved that last podcast?? does not count.

Good feedback comes from people who are knowledgeable on the subject and are straightforward.

Much better to receive blunt criticism than to get your ass kissed.

I am a below-average public speaker, and it will stay that way for a while:

When I chat with my peers or record a podcast, I am an above-average speaker.

But public speaking is a different beast.

Technically, I?m a toastmaster but far from a master of toasts. I approached the speech overconfidently, thinking that my podcast skills would make me an excellent public speaker. Podcasting helps, but it?s more like getting a thirty-second head start in a marathon.

I still have 26 plus miles to go.

In the coming months, I?m looking forward to getting slightly better. If I stick with it for five years, I will make even greater strides. Today, I?m not that good, and that?s okay, even fun.

When you acknowledge to yourself, I?m not that good, it takes the pressure off of the need for perfection and enhances the process.

Don?t paint a grandiose scene of yourself speaking in front of thousands of people a few years from now. Instead, hone in on the slip-ups, the small wins, and slight improvements.

For me, picturing a better version of my future self has never worked.

I envisioned myself for years as a pitcher in the major leagues.

That didn?t happen.

In hindsight, those visions made me feel like I had achieved something before I put in the work to achieve it. I was telling myself a story in my head, which is where it stayed.

The blood, sweat, and tears of moving an inch forward are where success lies. By the end of the year, I?ll move another inch forward in public speaking.

Then one more inch after that.

What would you do for another two inches?

Originally published at on November 21, 2019.


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