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The Icebreaker Speech

As I started counting the days, hours, minutes to the moment when I had to go up on stage and deliver my speech, my body reacted with a fight/flight response. The date was set for December 29th, 2021. It would be the greatest end to the year, or the most forgettable. I wanted it to be the former. There was a lot to prepare…no not the speech, that was the easy part. It was the facing of an audience. I was afraid that I would be standing up on stage, nervous, faltering, failing miserably. I was so tense, my jaw hurt from clenching my teeth. I was self-aware of all of the feelings of anxiety. Usually, I would avoid ‘feeling’ the feelings and distract myself by reading a book, or doing something else that would keep me from facing the truth. This time, I was determined to face this feeling and deal with it head on.

My speech didn’t take long to draft, 750 words, which would be 4-6 minutes of delivery. I knew exactly what I wanted to say, and I was eager to voice my written words. I flow with words on a page, but find it difficult to speak the words as easily. This is a challenge I want to overcome.

My mentor and the President of the Toastmasters Club provided some useful tips on presenting with mastery. A good presentation requires not just speaking eloquently, but also the correct amount of pauses, intonations, presence, and eye-contact. Taking all of these points into consideration, I practiced. I mentally recited my speech at night, in the mornings, in front of the mirror, also while I waited at the bus-stop and so on. And each time, as I imagined myself in front of an audience. I felt the familiar sense of anxiety rise up and my gut clench.

Each time I revisited my speech; mind and body reacted with: ‘do I really have to do this? I mean really??’

Then I reminded myself that my goal to do this speech is to create awareness, it is not about me, it is the message that I want to present with impact. I aspire to share what I have discovered in my journey as a writer and more.

If I cannot even do an icebreaker speech in a small supportive group, how can I ever be able to face a larger audience? I took a few deep breaths and a firm mental step to continue practicing. I read the Toastmaster’s articles, then studied/read/listened/watched multiple videos of how to cope with anxiety and stress of public speaking. Very useful tips and wise words. Still the anxiety persisted.

I came to the conclusion that the only way to beat the fear is to face it head-on, to challenge it with the persona of a terminator and Matrix-type mind mastery. While training to be a life coach, I learned a lot of interesting aspects of our automatic behaviours, how we are often conditioned by old beliefs that don’t serve us anymore. We have the power to overcome negative beliefs and redesign our thinking to focus on successful outcomes. It was a challenge to face this feeling, but I knew that if I succeeded, I would break this cycle of fear.

When the day arrived, 29th of December, I couldn’t eat or drink. I was surprised at the extent of how nervous I felt. I admonished myself for feeling this way. And later, I said to myself, I don’t need to do this, I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I don’t need to be so hard on my self. My inner dialogue was pushing me to return to my shell, my old ways of thinking, to my comfort zone.

I was determined, I wasn’t going to retreat. No matter how difficult or uncomfortable, I said to myself that I would stand up in front of a crowd, my legs turning to jelly, my mouth dry, my heart pounding, and still do my speech.

What is the worst that could happen? I would fail, I would lose my cool, I would falter. but the one thing I would succeed is to shake hands with my fear.

I did it. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. That’s the other thing I realised: we always imagine the worst in our head, then what it is in reality.

Evaluation was good, feedback from various experts will help with the next speech… I will be better prepared. Here’s my icebreaker: https://youtu.be/UwBUBUJe-rE

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