Toastmasters: Icebreaker

27 March, 2009 at 1:49 pm 2 comments

"Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything"

Yesterday I delivered my Icebreaker speech at the Peninsula Toastmaster’s Club in Cape Town. This is the first speech in the competent communicator course, and was the first time I had done anything like this for some time.

I was really happy with the way it went. Because it was competition night, I got to speak for an extra minute (YAY – seriously, I had to cut 3 minutes out of my speech as it was!) and I got evaluated by my mentor, as well as by the 3 competitors in the evaluation section of the competition – not as nerve-wracking as it sounds. The club members are great – supportive but also give you useful feedback you can work with.

Anyway, here’s the speech, more or less how I delivered it.


Madam Toastmaster, ladies and gentlemen, welcome guests

A curious thing happened to me towards the end of last year – I found myself agreeing with Oprah. Not that I have anything against Oprah but I generally don’t jump onto passing bandwagons.

This was the object of our agreement, the book: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, which was raved about by the Oprah book club and has become a worldwide success. If you don’t know it, it’s about how Liz Gilbert discovers pleasure in the restaurants of Italy, devotion on an Ashram in India, and how to balance the two in the tropical paradise Bali.

So when I was thinking about preparing this speech, and what to say this evening, I had the brainwave of borrowing the structure of the book and talking about three different places where I have lived, and the impact they have had on me.
So here I am, delighted to share with you my version of Eat, Pray, Love, which I call Feet, Play, Life.

Feet is for London, where I lived for more than 7 years. Feet – because I very briefly stood behind a bar and was possibly the worst barmaid in South East London. And feet – because this is where I really started finding my feet.

I fairly quickly got tempted over to the dark side from my first job as a technology journalist. And worked in PR and marketing roles at a London-based start-up, where we very quickly spent tens of millions of dollars in venture cap money, and very soon after the dotcom bust, had a bit less fun picking up the pieces.

What I learnt though was, in the same way that what goes up, must come down; what goes down is also very likely to come up again, eventually. And all along, if you keep your feet on the ground, there is opportunity.

So much for finding my feet. Eventually my feet started settling – you know like when you stand at the edge of the sea and your feet start slowly sinking into the sand?

It was definitely time to play. I started making my way back home to Cape Town, with a stop along the way in Egypt to do my divemaster’s course. Now this is structured fairly similarly to the Toastmasters’ programme, with a number of tasks you need to finish in order to qualify. The thing was, while you were still in training – you got to dive as much as you liked. I stretched the length of that course as far as it would go, by simply refusing to do the last exercise – you had to float for 20 minutes or something – and managed to clock up a couple of hundred dives in one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

My all time favourite dive site is called Bells / Blue Hole just north of Dahab on the Sinai Peninsula. You kit up, balance your way over some slightly precarious rocks, and jump into a hole that is barely the size of a diver with all their gear on. A short tunnel leads to an open chimney that runs down the side of the reef for about 30 metres. It is called Bells because of the ringing sound the tanks make as the divers descend. There is a tiny tunnel section right at the bottom before you pop out to be faced with an infinite amount of blue ocean – it was like flying or being in outer space.

But sadly, as every five-year-old knows, playtime always comes to an end – and it was high time I came home and got a real “LIFE”.

Now I know I am more than slightly biased – but life in Cape Town is definitely for me.

You can almost see the energy and opportunity in the streets, and everyone has got something exciting on the go.
Early last year – and I do blame this on living in Cape Town – I came to the rather startling and quite profound realisation that I was almost totally unemployable – in a very good way though – working for someone else was just never going to work out for me – so I struck out as a freelance marketing consultant and haven’t looked back.

My start-up anecdote is that I naturally did not take my own good advice when I thought up my company name – coming up with it in about 2 seconds flat… Every morning when I left for my proper job I would say good-bye to my cats and tell them I was off to make some money, to buy you two cats some food … so it made perfect sense to name my company Twokats Communications.

So with sincere apologies to Elizabeth Gilbert for me taking rather too many liberties with her wonderful book – that was a short introduction to Vanessa Clark by way of FEET in LONDON, PLAYING in EGYPT and LIFE in CAPE TOWN.

Madam Toastmaster


Entry filed under: Toastmasters. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Anon  |  27 March, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    wow, that was brilliant! well organized and written speech. thanks for sharing it. i’m on my 3rd speech.

  • 2. vanessaclark  |  28 March, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Hey – thanks for dropping in and the kind words 🙂 Good luck with speech 3. I am keen to do my second speech next month, and perhaps also brave the table topics.


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