What is the best way to break the ice when presenting?
As one who enjoys coaching and mentoring others, I am very intrigued by the Icebreaker speech (a speech designed for your audience to get to know you. Usually the first speech you deliver to a group or club).
In an Icebreaker, one can sense the speaker’s confidence growing even as they are delivering their short address.
I have learned a lot about and from speakers during their Icebreakers, and also know that, in many cases, their journeys as presenters are just beginning at this point. It’s very cool…or should I say warm and toasty?
An Icebreaker can be organized chronologically or thematically—and there are so many creative ways to organize one thematically (around hobbies or interests, family dynamics, important milestones, etc.).
I look back at my own Icebreaker, and as I recall, it wasn’t as compelling as it might have been. It struck me as being kind of boring and dry. But hey, it was a start, and I did break the ice.
Of course, when breaking the ice, it shouldn’t be dry afterwards—if you forgive the pun and accept that image. The best Icebreakers I have heard have been creative, free of too much formality and genuine. When people make those connections with us, it tends to melt all of the ice away.
A second type of Icebreaker is an activity—perhaps at the beginning of a presentation or seminar—designed to break any tension and to help get everyone involved and “warmed up” in some way.
Recently, I visited a discussion thread on Linkedin about this type of Icebreaker. Strategies for how best to conduct these activities were shared and debated, while some participants were adamant that they never even use Icebreakers.
To the latter point, it brought to mind a seminar I attended earlier this year. It was conducted by two terrific speakers who are also top-of-the-notch trainers. It was well worth my time to attend, and I took many notes—viewing it as both a speaker who wanted a tip or two and as a facilitator/trainer who envisions myself leading more seminars on similar topics.
About 15 or so minutes (precious ones, if you will) were spent on an Icebreaker activity that—as I thought about it both then and now—just didn’t seem to serve much of a purpose. As opposed to the compelling nature of the rest of the presentation, the Icebreaker seemed flat and uninspired. More of a Timewaster than an Icebreaker.
This isn’t written to criticize the presenters who, on the whole, were wonderful. Indeed, they were wonderful because they were knowledgeable, generous with their time and advice, and warm. To my way of thinking, they didn’t need an Icebreaker activity for such a short program. Indeed, their credentials, and the topics discussed, were almost enough to (borrowing a phrase from the movie Jerry Maguire…thanks, Cameron Crowe) “have me at hello.” Rhetorically, not romantically, in this case.
So…what is the most common element of Icebreaker speeches and Icebreaker activities? They are both at their most effective when they are creative, genuine and resonant. There are many ways to connect with your audience, and it is easiest to do so when you are prepared, confident, open to others and…warm.
How to Successfully Break the Ice: There is no single way to deliver an Icebreaker speech or lead (if even needed) an Icebreaker activity. What is the surest way to break the ice? With your warmth. Naturally!