One of the goals I had set for myself is to a better creative writer and I believe that part of becoming a better writer is to become a better speaker, to be able to better articulate whatever story you have to say. I am not the best public speaker nor have I been any good at being put on the spot. Sure, I have read plenty of how-to books and even joined Dale Carnegie but what all of these missed was a venue for continuous practice and feedback.

Toastmasters is a non-profit organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through clubs. It is said that everybody who joins such a club is there to earn, and everybody started from the same place. Everyone is expected to make mistakes, and there is no shame.

The road to building a public speaking and communication skills begins with completing the Competent Communication, a 10 speech manual that begins with the Ice Breaker. As the name implies, this speech is intended to break the ice and get you started. The subject of the speech is something you are very familiar with, yourself. I would like to share my icebreaker speech below.

Good Evening Fellow Toastmasters. Please listen carefully to the two words I am about to give you, and remember these. These are important to the speech I am about to give. The first word is “Norman”, which is my given name. And the second is “Talon”, which is my last name.(Pause) And this speech is about me.

I have a short name, which makes it easy to remember and to enter into forms and ID like my drivers license. Not like my wife, she has three words in her first name, Maria Paz Arlene. Or my eldest daughter, Mydee Belle Patrizia, or my youngest, Cyanea Kiana… Ok, she only has two words in her name.

I’ve always wondered what was the meaning behind my name and why I was named so. An internet search reveals that Norman or Normans are people or person from Normandy, France, descendants of the Norse or Norseman. If you search for talon, it is the claw of a bird of prey, like eagles or hawks.

Actually, to find the real meaning of talon in the context of my name, I needed to go back to the country I grew up and my families origin. I say Grew Up because while I was born in Pennsylvania, I grew up in the Philippines. And in Filipino, talon means water falls, or pronounced differently, talon means jump. But in the local dialect from where my family came from, talon actually means farmer.

And as for my first name, I had to ask my mom. And as I waited for an earth shattering reason to my given name, she said she found Dr. Norman, her obstetrician to be very handsome. And that was all the reason she needed.

Back in high-school, while considering a career, I had seriously looked farming, to follow my ancestors, but ultimately decided against it. It was more work than I was willing to put in. So I studied Engineering instead and now work for the Electronic Sector of Northrop Grumman, in Elkridge, Maryland.

And ever since I as young, I had always had a problem speaking in public. In school, I could not bring myself to raise my hands in class even if I knew the answer during class

In social gatherings, I tended to just keep quiet and just listen. Worse for me, was during the times I wanted to engage in conversation but I always drew a blank and could not contribute say a thing.

I am sure most of you have heard the survey result that states most Americans would rather jump off a plane wearing a parachute than speak in public? Well, I thought “Hell no, I wasn’t going to be one of them”.

So I read books and joined seminars like Dale Carnegie. And while I watched my fellow seminarians improve a lot, I felt like I barely did. I decided then that what I needed was a setting that would allow for continuous development and practice, not one that ended after a few days.

And so, here I am with toastmasters. And after many years of procrastinating, I am finally ready to take this seriously.

To summarize, I have a name that is short and easy to remember, Norman Talon, I work with Northrop Grumman in Elkridge, Maryland.

My last name derives from the career of my ancestors,  farmers.

And I joined toastmasters because I would rather not be jumping off planes.

The Evaluation

I received a pretty good review, considering it was my very first speech. I was told I have good voice projection, pronounced the words well and kept the audiences attention. I had an obvious beginning, the main body, and conclusion, well organized. I was told, an unusual Ice Breaker. It did not sound memorized, even though I memorized the sequence. I had notes but I did not use it. Well how could it be memorized, I knew me well.

But not everything was all rosy. I basically stood at just one spot although there were times it appeared I was about to walk. And walking is very important. Walking from one spot to another allows you to pause and gather your thoughts. Walking allows the audience to absorb what you had just said. Walking is good, but don’t pace around too much and make your audience dizzy.

Overall, I accomplished the first important goal. And that was to give a speech without fainting or running away.

© 2016 – 2019, Norman Talon. All rights reserved.

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