Toastmasters: Ice Breaker


One’s first speech at Toastmasters is a ~5 minute ice breaker that is used to introduce yourself to the club. The speech presented here describes what happens to my mind when it is struck with social anxiety and how it impacts my interaction with others. The speech is formatted to indicate short and long pauses, which I decided to apply after reading a few chapters of “Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln”.


Fellow Toastmasters..

We're all here because we understand that communication is important.
We understand that we have room for improvement..
I am no exception..

During the first 3 years of my life,
I could barely hear..
Chronic ear infections made it difficult for me to speak
because the world sounded like it was underwater.
I mumbled my way through the next several years,
and only my family knew how to translate what I was saying..
My ability to speak would continue to challenge me for more than two decades..

I would like to believe that we have all had bad interviews at one point..

My first one was when I was 14.
I was asked to describe a project that I had spent months preparing for and executing.
My mind was frozen.
No thoughts existed.
I could not utter any words.

My second was in front of a panel of naval officers when I was 17.
My third was when I being recruited as an air force officer when I was 21.
My fourth was yesterday..
I could not describe a basic concept of a project I had spent 3 years working on..
It's humiliating..

My body shakes uncontrollably
when I have to speak about myself in front of people I don't know.
Insecurity progresses to social anxiety,
and each word spoken belies an intense mental storm.
My mind struggles to maintain clarity as it fights the darkness..

As they say,
you are your own worst enemy..

I am here today because I am filled with rage
and I need to overcome this silent oppression.
I am envious of those who can speak so eloquently,
and at the same time deeply disappointed in myself..
I, too, know those words..
I, too, have some great ideas..
I, too, have done impactful work..

the world doesn't care about you if you cannot communicate.

I do not expect Toastmasters to cure this debilitation,
but I do hope that it will help me forge the tools I need
to climb my own personal Everest.
I look forward to learning from your speeches and feedback
and I appreciate the opportunity to improve myself.


  • Required time: 4-6 minutes
  • Average practice time: 3:40
  • Presented time: 3:14
  • Ah counts: 1 Er
  • “Best Speech” vote: Under time / not qualified


Speech Evaluator

  • Authenticity appreciated
  • Speech ended abruptly when audience was looking forward to hearing more
  • Work on adding more content
  • Never leave the lectern empty without handing it off to the next speaker
  • Talk to the evaluator ahead of time so they know what to focus on evaluating

Written Notes

“Dear Robert, I was deeply touched by your speech. Thanks for sharing your stories with us. Public speech and communication are difficult, but we’re all here to help you and progress ourselves.”

“Robert -Everyone related to your speech. -Great job taking your time in the beginning. -I noticed you have a consistent rhythm w/ pauses. Maybe vary it a little.”

“Robert Thank you for sharing your story with us!! I really appreciate your courage to go on the stage and tell us such a touching story. I used to shy away from speaking in public due to my language barrier. Although mine might still be very different from your situation. After joining TM for 3 years, I do feel the small community helped me a lot in terms of communication and expressing myself. Hope it’ll help you too! Again, great job on your ice breaker. -Y”

“really touching speech and I think you are doing great given the short preparation time! Connection to a deeper level. Definitely looking forward to your next speech.”

“Great job taking the courage to do the ice breaker speech! You said your body would shake uncontrollably but I didn’t notice that until you pointed it out. You hold your posture and you spoke in a calm note, so you are already making a great start! for improvement, I would suggest you expand the story you laid out at the beginning. Those were emotional and inspiring stories and I would like to learn more.”

-vivid description of your own challenge. -although a little nervous, you spoke at a very nice tone, pace, and very organized -practice more, you will be more confident -your language is great, good writing would ensure your good speech -your body movement and gesture and eye contact are very natural -you’re good at impromptu speaking!


  • Too much swaying when speaking. Stand firm when movement is not needed.
  • Minor slip up on recalling correct words when giving speech
  • Writing a word or two on a notepad to indicate topic of next paragraph helped immensely as I was panicking when speaking
  • Don’t run away after speaking - follow proper hand off protocol

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