And the Ice did not break...

Going through the Competent Communicator Manual, by the Toastmasters International.  I did it, this year! The 10th November I become « Competent Communicator » finishing the projects number ten, from the Toastmasters first Manual, giving ten speeches.

The same day and evening, Richard gave his first "Ice breaker" speech. His was so much better then mine, a year ago! But each of us learn in our own pace and our own way.

Here is my story. Each of our story is different, yet, a bit the same too.

When we join a Toastmasters Club, we receive a first Manual called the Competent Communicator that teaches us the basics of making speeches, with ten projects for ten speeches. Each project teaches us a new technique and brings us farther in our  understanding and learning.

Speech n°1 : « Icebreaker »
Its goal is to give courage to speak before an audience, to « break the ice » of our fear and reticence to stand up in public It  also teaches us to look into the audience’s eyes,  not vaguely, but  many, one by one.

The theme recommended by the Manual is a personal story, because «it is more easy to talk about something you know well» but also so that the other members of our Toastmaster Club learn something about us, new members. It is also said, with each project you add something new, but apply all you have learned before.

As we were all "there" sometimes before, we all encourage the one giving the Icebreaker, in fact it is the main goal: give a good feedback, a good experience, give courage to go on.

I have found my way to the Toastmaster Clubs in January through Philip, the president of the Lewisham Speakers club whom I met by chance. I begun preparing my first speech immediately, even if I was not sure exactly how. I'll write about how I prepared tomorrow.

 I was very disappointed, in February and March, as the Vice President of Education who  makes the programs told me: « You’ll be able to give it in May! » At the time, I did not know, most of us in this club were new!

In May? How could I wait so long?

I wanted to finish my first ten speeches until the end of the year! I have already gone through them 33 years before, even if I forgot most of it, so I had to refresh my knowledge. I wanted to begin fast, I was ready, I have repeated it day and night so many times!

I knew it by heart! World by word - perhaps that was my first mistake.

The second mistake was that I also did not plan time for the audience reaction, which is wonderful to have in any speech, but slows it down, extends the time you tell it.

The whole time  for an Icebreaker is around 5 minutes.

How to put 75 years in five minutes?

I decided to give the beginning. But how can I not wait until May to give the speach?

I joined a second Toastmasters club, Meridiam Speakers from Greenwich, and there, suddenly David, an Experienced and Advanced Toastmaster, Chairman of the Evaluation Contest asked for a volunteer, to give his speech at Croydon Speakers. They needed an Icebreaker speech to be evaluated by five Competing Evaluators.

« They will be the one’s judged, not you! » It seemed fun and interesting, but mostly it will give me occasion to begin faster.

"I’ll go"!
"Tomorrow? "
"Yes, I am ready. I know my speech. "

The title of my speech was « And the Ice did not break » a bit of humour I found while preparing this Icebreaker speech.
The tale that I have to reconstruct yet, begun when I was ten years old, under shell attacks in Budapest hidden with my parents and lots of others in a cave. How  later, after we have escaped the Nazis, we had to fled  now before the Russian soldiers who wanted women, and asked my mother to come next morning to peal potatoes in their kitchen. That is how they called it.

It was February, we had to pass the frozen Danube from Buda to Pest. All the bridges were blown up by the retreating German army, so we had to go through on the not so thick ice without going under. As my parents did take the minimum and we were very careful, the Ice did not Break and we get through. Some others after us did not.
I did arrive to this part, and suddenly, I realised my time was up.

I froze.

(The ice did not break…not as much as I hoped.)

I could not continue. The evaluators went out, to ponder what they will say about my speech so far. I have hoped to go farther in my life, until I arrived, at twenty years later in France, but I could not. .

The Toastmaster of the evening, Chairman in a contest, told me I can go on, my story is very interesting.

« Go on, if you want. As you want. »

I could not go on. My mind went blanc I should have, could have, but I lost my momentum. I did not know yet then, that the Toastmaster leading the day, decides. what will happened, how long anyone can speak. He or she decides what happens at that meeting.

I have imagined the scenes I will tell, first in the cave, then passing the Danube river, with my parents and a small slide to hold all we took with us, and also the one of me leaving Romania and the one of me arriving in France.  I have decided, from the beginning that the rest of my life’s story will be told in my two « home-clubs », to each telling a part of the tale about my life.

What was the most important, my Icebreaker, did his job, broke through the Ice! I had a wonderful contact with my audience, I even felt drunk of its pleasure! Adrenaline? Who knows.

Despite that I could not finish it,  despite that I got stuck, I felt so light-headed even the days later, that I decided immediately to drop lots of what I was doing before, mostly going to Photographic Meetup groups, Artist’s way Meetup, Discovery of London Meetups too, all or almost all, for devoting more time to prepare the next speeches, one after the other.

I did not knew, I did not remember, speaking to audience could be such a joy!


  1. I'm glad that this interruption didn't dent your confidence for later. I want to do more speaking in public... we dont have a very close Toastmasters so I will find another path :)

  2. I hope you'll find, Rachel. Toastmasters is only twice a month, perhaps after you learn you can create one very near.

    There is also Storytelling, perhaps you have a Storytelling circle near you.