Contest Speeches and Ice Breakers

Contest Speeches, Ice Breaker Speeches, Impostor Syndrome

Today’s episode is about contest speeches and ice breaker speeches.

According to Toastmasters International, I’ve given more than 8 Ice Breaker speeches.

According to the evaluations on my desk, I’ve given my contest speech 8 times in preparation for this week’s area contest.

I see a connection, and it’s not in how many times I’ve done the same thing.


Do you want to overcome your fear of public speaking? Do you want to discover the leader inside you? Welcome to Toastmasters, in one hour per week, we can help you do both. This is Toastmasters 101 and I’m your host, Kim Krajci.

Area Contest Speeches

My area contest is this week.  I’m entering 2 contest speeches:  Table Topics and International Speech Contest.   I’ve worked on this speech for over a month now. It’s not a new story for me to tell, but it’s been a rocky road to try to refine it.

I’ve shared with you my plans to adapt my current path into a storytelling path. That’s directly related to my contest speech and I have researched storytelling – the hero’s journey, the quest, the fairy tales, the arc of a story, verbal storytelling – and frankly, it’s exhausting. I worked myself into a massive case of impostor syndrome.

Impostor Syndrome

Have you heard of impostor syndrome? It’s an overwhelming sense that you’re faking it and everyone is about to find out.

How to deal with impostor syndrome? Google offers me hypnosis, mindfulness training, anti-anxiety drugs, and pep-talks. I’m not going to talk badly about any of those – there are people who need that kind of help.

Oddly, what helped me the most was – simple encouragement.


Desperate for an audience to try out my speech on, I asked my weight loss program leader if I could practice before the meeting in front of my fellow members. They were slightly skeptical – do they have to listen to the crazy woman in the hat talk MORE?

But they liked my speech. Not just liked it – they loved it. In fact, they asked me to do it again. Then they asked me every week when my contest speeches were to be given. Week after week, another person asked about it and wished me well.

Granted, these are not my judges in Toastmasters. They’re not people who have been trained as evaluators or judges in our contest formats. They’re just my friends who stepped up, just like I stepped up when another of our members shared that her family member had just been diagnosed with dementia – a situation I’ve been living with for a few years.

I’m not comparing care-giving for a family member with a debilitating disease with giving a speech with the specific goal to get to Paris. No – not the same level at all. But what this group offered me was encouragement, just as we offered that woman some comfort and suggestions for her to get started down this very difficult path.

When I went to a storytelling workshop earlier this month – I’d highly recommend it if you’re new to storytelling – I got really confused. That’s where my brain started telling me that I can’t do this contest speech.

Ice Breakers and Impostor Syndrome

When we’re new to Toastmasters, something inside our minds tells us that we can’t do the ice breaker speech. That we shouldn’t do it. Or that we shouldn’t have to do it again.

We fight a lot of internal battles with public speaking. Far more than we’ll ever face on a stage!

So much of what we face in public speaking isn’t just the physical reactions of stage fright, or the emotional response we have to those physical reactions.

That’s too complicated. Let me break that down.

Our bodies have certain responses to stress, regardless of what the stressor is. We fight, we flight, or we stink. Or maybe we do a combination of all three.

So brides start to “glow” as we so delicately call it. Or maybe just before a big event, we get into a stupid fight with someone over something incredibly trivial. Or we run away from the roller coaster or the viewing deck in a tall mountain or next to the Grand Canyon.

We sometimes take our emotional cues from our body’s reaction to the stressor. Our body is doing this thing, so I must be afraid.

Maybe you’re excited. Maybe this is something that’s truly wonderful and you want it, but your body’s reaction seems to indicate that you’re not happy. Do happy people break out in sweat and get nervous?

Why yes we do. When we’re happy, we call it butterflies in our stomachs. When we’re not, we tell ourselves that maybe we’re about to throw up – one of the stinks I was talking about.

Essentially, those reactions are the same – it’s how we frame them in our minds.

Facing an Ice Breaker

If you’re facing an ice breaker and this is your very first time – accept that your body is going to do all these horrible things. And give the speech anyway.

Your club is here for you! You can do this.

Just this week, I saw a young man give his first ice breaker and he froze. He held his note cards in his hand and still he couldn’t think, couldn’t speak, just stood there, unmoving. I asked him to read the next line on his card – and finally, he did. That was all it took for him to find the voice inside him and let it out. I was so proud of him – he pushed through.

I’m not taking credit for this – I just gave him the encouragement to do the next thing. He’s the one who did it.  Just like my friends at my weight loss group – they’re encouraging me. Ok, one of them may have threatened to beat me up if she hears I don’t go through with my speech on Saturday.

Overcoming impostor syndrome takes bravery and a strong will – and friends who will encourage you to do it anyway. With or without a threats of violence.

Face the Contest Speeches Analysis

One of the things that I also did with this contest speech was to sit down with a friend who I trust to be as honest with me as she can. By just talking it out – talking through the points in this speech that I was struggling with – I found the real problem I was having – my first line in the speech was wrong. Wrong wrong wrong.

I wasn’t listening to my own instincts about how I should tell my own story in my contests speeches. That frustration blocked me – I needed the outside encouragement to push me through.

Perceived Value

I hear a lot of advanced Toastmasters who are frustrated with the idea that they have to give another ice breaker speech.

Is it their instincts telling them they don’t need to repeat this project? That they don’t need to go back to basics?

I’m not judging – there are lots of reasons to resist going back and repeating a task that doesn’t have any perceived value. Why waste the time and effort? That’s a legit question and one that I think Toastmasters International needs to answer better to our advanced members.

One solution is to reconfigure the Level 1 and Level 2 projects that everyone has to do into a single introduction to Toastmasters level that precedes the Pathways programming. I’m personally in favor of that.

But let me offer you some encouragement in the meantime.

Advanced Toastmasters and the Ice Breaker Speech

To advanced Toastmasters who don’t like repeating the projects – don’t think of it as an ice breaker. Think of it as another speech project where you’re going to stretch yourself as much as the new member does when they stand up for the first time. Try something wild, outside of your comfort zone. Try a new style, a new technique, a new voice.

Encourage the new members by example.  Come along side them and help them work through their impostor syndrome.  We have no idea how much encouragement, understanding and sometimes a question helps others until we receive it ourselves.

Look, I agree – repeating this many ice breakers as I have done sounds like it’s a waste of time and effort.

Advanced Ice Breaker Stress?

If the stress of doing another ice breaker is causing an emotional reaction, take a moment and examine why.  Is it pride?  Is it a belief that there’s no point is going back to the same project repeatedly? Is it boredom?

And I’ll be honest – a lot of those old Competent Communicator ice breaker speeches were impromptu speeches I gave at club meetings that didn’t truly introduce me to the audience. Even this last ice breaker turned out to be a review of a storytelling book and how I intend to change based on it.  So if you’re an advanced TM and don’t want to do another ice breaker, just think of it as stage time and give a speech that’s hard. You can do it! I believe in you!

Last Contest Speeches Practice

Tonight, I’m doing my last practice run of this speech in front of my club. I’m giving them specific questions to answer to make sure I’ve got this right. And on Saturday, we’ll find out if I’m still on my way to Paris, or going to spend the summer right here in District 10.

Don’t forget to tell one person about Toastmasters 101 podcast this week. Surely you know someone who needs to find their voice and their leadership skills in Toastmasters – this podcast is created to help all of us grow. I appreciate the referrals!

Our music is from and this podcast is sponsored by Toastmasters District 10.

I’ll let you know next week how I did in the contest!  If you’re not competing, but your club has a contest speaker competing, please go to the contest and cheer them on.  It makes a huge difference when you have encouragement from your friends!