Heather had never give a speech before at a VanCore meeting, but she instinctively knew a good way to start: with a question.
“Let me ask you this,” she said. “When in your life do you feel most free?” She scanned the faces around the big boardroom table.
“When I’m with the family,” someone said.
“At the cottage, said another.
Heather nodded. There was no one right answer. And because everyone had responded to her question in their own head, Heather was now in a kind of silent dialogue with every soul in the room. She was dialed in.
“I’ll tell you when I feel most free,” she said. “When I’m on the move.”
The best thing about the Icebreaker Speech – number 1 in the Toastmasters’ Competent Communicator manual – is that new members often use it to tell their own story. People speak most effortlessly about what they know best, so it’s a gentle entry point for the presenter. And of course it’s a great way for the rest of us to get to know the newbie in our midst.
Turns out Heather’s travel itch has its own origin myth. It was born the day, during a Hawaiian vacation, her mom lost the traveller’s cheques. The family was on the Big Island. They decided to sleep on the beach. Not so radical for a sixteen-year-old (Heather’s age at the time), but fairly radical for her sixty-year-old mom. They weren’t alone on the beach: lots of cool people had made the same decision, and all of them had great stories. This was SO much better than bivvying at some big commercial hotel in Waikiki.
“I was hooked,” Heather says. Hooked on being a traveler — as opposed to a tourist.
Her life since, she explained, has been punctuated by adventures: crewing on a sailboat bound for Tonga, riding crowded Mexican buses, getting that “hit” of calm that comes from being a little out of control. There are probably methadone programs to get people like Heather off of travel, but who’d want to be in one? “Knowing can help you survive life,” she said. But not knowing can help you LIVE life.”
Heather’s speech did all you can ask of an icebreaker: it informed, inspired, beguiled.
And the rest of us, feeling a little exposed in our suburban routines, a little oversafe, vowed to kick out the traces and … maybe have red wine with fish tonight.