Avoid Boring: The Ice Breaker Speech

I want you to tell me about YOU. You know your story, your interests, and your hobbies, your life better than anyone else. That’s why it’s your first speech assignment. I’ll get to know you and you don’t have to do a ton of research. Win-win, right? Giving a speech about yourself doesn’t have to be a rote recitation of your vital statistics, and it shouldn’t be like that. That would be very boring. We want to avoid boring. How do we do that?

  • Stories. Stories are the best way to keep someone’s attention. Science has shown that people remember stories far longer than they remember facts or statistics.
  • Lists. Lists help the listener organize your information in a way that they can use it in the future.
  • Sequences. When you have to explain a process, making it clear in a logical, timely order helps the audience keep track of what you’re talking about. It gives you credibility and they’ll trust what you’re saying is true.

Here are three not boring techniques for you to consider in your speech construction.

1. Introductionsdon't be boring

We have talked about how an introduction is to get the attention of the audience and to lay out what the speech will tell them. Starting a speech with “I want to tell you about repairing my bicycle” is not an effective way to start a speech. I may not want to know how to repair a bike. I may not have a bike to be fixed, so why should I listen to your speech? You have to capture my interest. Humor is often the best attention-getting device. Suspense is another.

You may not be aware of it. Most people aren’t. They get in the cars, get on buses, trains or airplanes. They travel back and forth without a single thought about it. But I care about it. I make money with it. I could make far more… Should I tell you? Do you want to know?

Or

Be careful, ladies and gentlemen. The information you’re about to receive may put a responsibility on you… but I can assure you, at the end of this speech, you’ll be prepared.

Or

My mother worries about me. She said to me last night, “You spend too much time on that” but I ignored her. How could reading be bad for me? It’s not like I’m playing video games. I’m reading. So what if it’s Facebook!?

2. The Body of the Speech

Tying your introduction to your subject is the key because that introduction can be used for transitions between your points. An introduction to a speech about running might include references to Superman, and transitions between the points might mention “faster than a speeding bullet” or “outrunning trains.”

Informative speeches can be “how to” speeches, but they can also be “here’s this cool thing” that you want to tell us about.

My dog is half German shepherd, half Lab, and half wolf. His name is Pharoah and we’ve grown up together. My dog requires my time, my effort and frankly, all the plastic bags the newspapers come in, but what he gives me and my family in return outweighs all the mess he makes in my mother’s flower bed.

In the speech, the speaker has laid out the key points: time, effort, and returns.

Pharaoh was named after the kings of Egypt because it was so hot the day we got him from the pound. They promised my mother that he wouldn’t get too big. That promise was broken. A dog the size of Pharaoh doesn’t need a backyard, he needs a football field for his exercise. That’s why I have to walk him everyday – twice. Big dogs require more effort in ways other than walking. Pharaoh thinks that any bird that flies over our house is an aerial attack. He thinks his job is to get rid of that bird at whatever cost. That means we have to train him. Pharaoh is not an especially smart dog, even with the wolf in him. We worked with him daily for eighteen months to teach him various behaviors and some tricks. When he was little, we taught him to go back into his crate by saying “phone home.” Back then, he and I both fit into his crate. Now, he still thinks that “phone home” means get into the crate, but he also thinks that if I’m in there, he can get in there too. That’s part of the joy of owning a dog like Pharaoh. We can play with him. He protects us – not only from birds, but from the odd stranger who might step up to our door. His keen sense of smell has found any number of unwelcome rodents in the yard. He’s warm in the winter when we want to watch tv.

This is not boring.  It tells us a lot about the dog’s owner and how much he loves his dog.  We learn about Pharoah’s strong points and his weaknesses for birds.  You may not like dogs but I think this speech would still keep your attention.

Do you like to bake cookies?  A speech about baking cookies could be organized like a recipe.

Take a cup of butter and add the sugar. How much sugar? It depends on the cookies you make. Almost all cookies start by mixing the butter and sugar together in a process they call “creaming.” I call it yummy and my mother calls it disgusting when I lick my fingers. I love to bake cookies. Add the egg. Adding things to cookies ….

You are only limited by your own creativity in the body of the speech, but remember, the point is to inform your audience on a specific topic.  Keep the focus narrow.

3.  Conclusion

Your conclusion should restate your key points without being too obnoxious or boring about it. We’re not going for:

Today I showed you how to fix the brakes on a bike. You check the lines from the hand brake mechanism…

Boring.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve shown you today that bike repair is less a talent than a skill based on a bit practical engineering application. Hand brakes and the lines, the tire clamps and even the tires themselves are all part of getting that bike to stop before it hits a tree or goes out into the road. Now let’s roll, but let’s be careful out there.

Do not conclude your speech with “And that’s my speech on psychic theories held by the Russians in the mid 1950s.” “And that’s my speech” is lame. It’s painful. If you can’t come up with anything else, try “thank you.” That’s all you need.

Sermons vs. Speeches

Yes, a sermon is a speech. But it is a definite type of speech, half informative, half persuasive, half spiritual. Yes, there are 3 halves there. A sermon is based on a religious text for the purposes of education and persuasion. I am not here to hear sermons. These speeches are to be about something you do or are interested in. You may wish to give us a sermon but resist the temptation and give us a good speech about you. If you want to tell me about your interest in Christianity, you will fall into the sermon trap because you don’t know how to avoid it yet. This is not the time for a sermon.  Tell me about you!

I used stories, lists, and sequences in this paper.  You can do the same with your speech!

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