8 May 2017

Breaking the Ice, from Smedley to now

Breaking the Ice through telling a story about yourself.
Making others know you better, creates instant connection.
In my own experience, deeper you open up, stronger you connect to a large audience.

Icebreaker was the first project, first speech from 1905 as Ralph Smedlay begun his first Toastmasters club, in the basement of YMCA after out of college himself. It is after other clubs where formed and asked him to write down the "basics" then he taped pages and let them be photocopied. Each project adds to our understanding of creating, rehearsing and delivering a good speech. "Use what you learned and add to it."

Icebreaker, through more then hundred years now: "Tell about yourself to the members of the club". Tell about your life or your hobbies, or passion. Decide what you want to tell then "wrap in into a story"

Of course, it is a subject we all know and it is easy to remember and be "in the moment" as we tell it. Of course, it is very difficult to decide what to tell in only 4 to 6 minutes! Of course, it is not evident to speak for the first ever before, relatively unknown people.

Difficult to forget our first times... and we have many but still remember them. They are special. Difficult also to tell a story even if we heard and told so many: we are not told here what is a story. Difficult but exciting to tell about ourselves!

My first ever Icebreaker in Monument Toastmasters spoke about my arrival in Washington DC and what I remember about it then at the end I was told to look more at the audience. I did learn to look.

30 years later, I was in London and decided to tell my life in the different subsequent projects of Competent Communication manual. Found a wonderful title for my Icebreaker: "And the ice did not break!" The content was from hiding in a cave during the Second World War, fearing nazis and shell bombing too, then when finally the Soviet army "liberated" us, having to run from them so they do not get to rape my mother through the frozen Danube. There were no bridges over the large river and in was  beginning March. As we fled very early in the morning, we had almost nothing with us and we were lucky: the ice did not break. We went through from Buda to Pest and got to a cousin of my mother.

I intended to tell all the way till I arrived in France at age 30, but... it was too long.
As there were not available speaking places in my club, I got a chance to speak as "mystery speaker" in an AREA contest (5 clubs together) and be evaluated by 5 contestants. Ok, I told myself, it is not me who they will judge but those giving me feedback. Only one realised I did not finish. She won the contest. What happened is when I have seen the red light on I froze.

Something more important happened at that Icebreaker. My story had a huge impact on the audience, they ah!ed, they laughed, they reacted. As for me, after a first second dread on stage, I did fall in love with the audience. It is a reciprocal love and lasting love.

The second project from the CC manual is "organizing" begin, transitions in the middle, end".
The third project from CC manual is "have a point" as Doug Lipman calls it the Most Important Point.
In the Pathways Icebreaker all three first CC are in one, but in plus we are taught different rehearsing techniques and then how to combine while delivering prepared (learning well beginning and end) with authentic delivery and not word by word. How by rehearsing bits by bits, we can embed it in us. Using at that stage only outline cards to remember if needed the flow.

In another slide - there are many - in suggest that you tell your club members why you joined and who suggested you to go to a Toastmaster club the first. My Pathways Icebreaker was 40 years after my "first" I did well remember the "why" that I did not tell them at that time... As a standup comedian it was easy to dig deep and open up: I knew it will leave impact to tell the truth.

I went to my first Toastmasters club meeting, to find a man.
There is always when I tell this truth in a club someone asking "did you find it"?
So, I can answer and get another laugh: "I am still looking!"

Then tell the truth too: I found my voice and learned to look, got confidence.
With those skills, I did find what I was looking. Outside Toastmasters.

In 1977, Toastmasters still had very few women as the clubs let them in little at a time. In 1977, I had been 'single again' for two long years and everywhere I went I found so many women, so few man! That is what I was complaining about when a friendly woman send me to the Toastmasters! The problem was yes, there were many, there were interesting too. But most married. Well married!

That is the long story, I do not usually tell. I told some of it during my Pathways Icebreaker at the Witty birds online meeting. Toastmasters expects us to tell "I come to learn to speak better" or "I come to get courage to speak in public" not other reasons. But all of us have many reasons, all legit!

In London, I was seeking like minded people to tell them my stories and hear theirs.
I did not expect all what I got from it: different leadership skills, a tribe I felt included, and later even the courage to become, at age 77 standup comedian! and so much more.

Already with the Pathways Icebreaker, I realised that we have to prepare longer for each task we get. This new program will let us become faster good speakers, more professional speakers, more effective. We will get less projects to advance but we will have to work on each more time to "get it right".

With each blog post, I will tell more about my Pathways experience and transitions in my life too. Next will come the project I love most so far : in fact three under one title: Feedback and Evolution.

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