Top Tips for Writing Your Ice Breaker Speech

Well done for booking your first speech!

We know it can feel a bit daunting to get up there for the first time and talk for 4-6 minutes, but don’t worry, we’re here to help.

A lot of Toastmasters members join to help overcome any nervousness they feel when public speaking or presenting, so you’re not alone if you feel a little uneasy. These tips are a simple guide to help you build your speech into something you feel confident in presenting, and we’ve added a few handy tricks to help with your delivery because your speech isn’t just about what you say - it’s how you say it, your use of eye contact and your body language too!

  1. Start with having a think about why you’re at Toastmasters and how you got there. Is it to help with your job? Or perhaps you’re making a speech at a wedding? Maybe you just want to meet new people from a variety of backgrounds who can help you develop both personally and professionally, with improved communication as an added bonus. We all join for a variety of reasons, and it can be a good starting point for your first speech.

  2. Pick a few short stories that let us know a bit about you. It’s always easier to tell a story that you know, because it’s more conversational and is clear in your mind. A familiar story means you can include details that help set the scene or explain more about you, meaning the time is filled pretty easily!

  3. Try and plan the outline of your speech, but don’t write it word for word. It can add unnecessary pressure and make it more robotic if you’re trying to recite it perfectly. Instead, use a few bullet points for what you want to cover and run through them as if you’re having a conversation. No one will know if you’ve said everything you wanted to say, so don’t panic if you forget to mention one of your bullet points! Plus, you can have your notes up there to help prompt you if you need them.

  4. Write your speech for how you would speak, don’t make it overly formal. Your tone is important for getting across your personality, which is the point of the ice breaker speech. If you’re naturally quite funny, add some humour into it, if not, don’t try and force it. Just be you!

  5. Try using visual aids. Not only could this help with keeping you on track in terms of reminding you what to talk about but also gives the audience something to look at to help them follow the speech. If you think they might be distracting, to you or the audience, then don’t use them. There’s no right or wrong!

  6. Practice standing confidently. Plant your feet to the floor and pretend you have two shopping bags in your hands. This will stop you from fidgeting, or standing with your hands in your pockets or clasped. It’s normal to want to stand in a ‘protective stance’, but opening yourself up not only connects you to your audience but also helps you feel and look more confident. If you want to, and it’s appropriate, you can further move with your speech. Movements need to be purposeful, from simple hand gestures to taking steps on the stage to demonstrate a change in time, or a progression in the story. Don’t put pressure on yourself to move for the sake of moving, and be careful not to go overboard with hand gestures or the famous windmill arms! Some of the best speeches are just a person, stood still, so move if you want to, or don’t!

  7. Connect with the audience. Eye contact is crucial in connecting with the people watching. It can be a little odd if you’re new to it, but it helps break down the barrier that can sometimes be felt between a speaker and the audience. It helps make it feel more conversational than formal, which hopefully helps put you at ease.

  8. Smile. We promise everyone watching is rooting for you to do well, and if you mess up, don’t worry about it! We all do! Just keep going, it’s a safe space to practice making mistakes, it’s how we learn and grow to be a better communicator.

  9. The feedback and evaluations are perhaps more important than the speech itself! It will allow you to understand what went well and what could be developed for next time. Listen to feedback from other speeches too, you’ll be surprised at how much you’ll learn from other people’s evaluations.

  10. Breathe! When we get nervous, it’s our body’s natural response to get sweaty palms, perhaps forget things and ramble. Rather than filling your speech with words like ‘erm’ and ‘soooo,’ just stop and breathe. If you need to look at your notes to jog your memory, do it. Try a few deep breaths, right down into your belly. It helps your body relax, your heart rate will come down and your hands will stop sweating. This is not a test. It’s a place to learn, grow and develop as a speaker.

We hope these tips are helpful, not only for your first speech but for any situation where you’re standing up and speaking. The main thing is to RELAX, but we know it’s much easier said than done sometimes. We’re all here to become better at communicating, and everyone has to start somewhere.

So well done on taking your first step to develop as a public speaker, we look forward to being on that journey with you, and finally good luck!

Nuala Doyle

Joint VP PR 2020

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