I recently joined the Cigna Lunchtime branch of Toastmasters to improve on my speaking skills, and after much trepidation I decided to begin working my way through the new Pathways system. The first speech in the Pathway is "Icebreaker" - as the name implies, a speech meant to introduce you to the other members of the club. The writeup of my speech is below to help anyone else thinking of what to say for their own Icebreak speech. Feel free to share your comments or feedback!
Mr./Madam Toastmaster, fellow members and guests.
I thought it would be very easy, and very simple, to come up with an Icebreaker speech. I didn’t know how I would do during the actual performance, but I assumed getting the words on the page would be a breeze. I mean, all I have to do is talk about myself. I have to do that all the time – at happy hours, at parties, or at those delightfully awkward networking events. But I realized I didn’t want this speech to be about my career history, or my professional “brand” – I wanted to use this opportunity to share some things about me that I may not really mention to anyone. Don’t worry, I’m not trying to get some free therapy out of you all – but I wanted to . And trying to figure that out, what I wanted to really say about myself, while making it something someone would actually want to hear – that was not as easy as I expected.
So here’s to sharing something a little unexpected about myself – I have spent most of my life attempting, and usually failing, to just blend in. As the American-born daughter of Indian immigrants, I struggled with being fully immersed in either world. As a kid, I was embarrassed to bring my rotis and vegetable curries for lunch, but once I had guilted my parents into packing PB&J sandwiches, I found I just didn’t like them as much. As a teen, I wanted to be like my cool Frappuccino-sipping, mall-hopping friends, but I hated iced coffee and couldn’t really afford to spend all of my parents’ money at American Eagle. I couldn’t fully embrace just being Indian, either. My parents and my family friends all spoke Hindi, but I could only ever respond in English, and a lot of these conversations happened over some cups of chai – which I could not stand.
It took me a while, but in high school I found a group of friends that were all really diverse and unique and kind of weird – and it made me realize that, up to that point, I was constantly exhausted from trying to “keep up” with other people, and not investing time in things I enjoyed because it seemed weird, or embarrassing, or was something that no one else I knew was interested in – like Toastmasters.
Since that point, I’ve been making strides to do more things just for myself. If someone asks me what I’m reading now, I will gladly tell them all about the sappy Victorian romance novel or the weird post-apocalyptic thriller that was given an average 2 star rating on Amazon. I love that people have stopped me in a grocery store parking lot to say how cool and interesting my hair is. I still struggle sometimes with making myself do these things sometimes, because I can’t help but be concerned about what people will say, but I try to remind myself – how many people wish they could be doing the things that I’m doing? How many people wish they could be more like me? Sometimes, just thinking that maybe I’m the reason or the inspiration for someone trying something they’ve always wanted to do, but didn’t – that’s a big part of why I’m here and why I am giving this speech today. Thank you.