Three Examples of Ice-Breaker Speeches

“Tell me about yourself?”

How do you respond to this most simple of questions?

This is the question that starts many friendships, job interviews, professional relationships and team experiences. However, in many cases… the way that we answer ruins the possibility of creating something great.  How do you answer this question?

Andrew Dlugan provides an excellent overview of the Ice Breaker speech at his blog Six Minutes.  I recommend that you start by reading that post.

Always be Prepared

3 Most Recent Blog Posts

  1. How to find Opportunities (increase your Luck)
  2. How to overcome your Fear and Get Important Stuff Done
  3. On Staying Young, Being Resourceful and Hiring Great People

This is a good speech to practice 
Introduce yourself: you are an absolute authority on this topic, no research will be needed.
Conquer fear: get started on preparing a speech that you will give hundreds of times over the course of a life; when you meet someone new, when you move to a new team at work, when you start a new training course.

Here are a 3 simple examples of how to introduce yourself:


Structure: “How did I get here?”

Patrick from US Toastmasters

Would you like to meet Patrick?  How did his story engage you?  Are you interested in finding out more?  How could you use Patrick’s structure to explain who you are?

Structure 4 phases of my life:

Esha from Indian Toastmasters

Would you like to meet Esha?  How did her story engage you?  Are you interested in finding out more?  How could you use Esha’s structure to explain who you are?


Structure: My life as Fiction

Charles from USA Toastmasters

Would you like to meet Charles?  How did his story engage you?  Are you interested in finding out more?  How could you use Tom’s structure to explain who you are?  (PS Charles has given over 4,000 speeches and is a professional speaker)

Are there any other good examples?  Please let me know.

Another way to improve your confidence is regular practice.  I have been developing an online module of my Persuasive Communications seminar.  It is available here: Improve My Speaking. Feel free to share this resource with friends (and people who need it).

P.S. If you liked this post you might also like The greatest coaching question of all time and The top 5 Commencement Speeches.

Resources for Developing Relationships and Career Success Seminar

This is a central page with links to resources for participants in the IESE Business School Seminar: Developing Relationships and Career Management.


Further Discussion and Questions

Articles on Networking

Articles on Use of Email
Great Blogs on Networking
Books & IESE Technical Notes
  • Managing with Power, Jeffrey Pfeffer (link to IESE Library Catalog)
  • SMN-676-E Creating and Nurturing your Social Network: The Art of Building Long-term Mutually Beneficial Relationships, Ferraro & Neill
Video Resources

How to Put People at Ease

How do you get someone who doesn’t know you to feel comfortable talking?  How do you create a welcoming impression?

How another person perceives you is determined by a number of things you do before you speak. I have taken this list of steps from Keith Ferrazzi.

  • Smile. It says, “I’m approachable.”
  • Good eye contact. You don’t need to stare, but studying the carpet is a real put off.
  • Unfold your arms. Crossing your arms makes you appear defensive and signals tension.
  • Nod your head and lean in.  Show that you’re engaged and interested.
  • Physical contact. Touching is a powerful act. Most people convey their friendly intentions by shaking hands; some go further by shaking with two hands. Keith Ferrazzi, author of “Who’s Got Your Back” suggests breaking through the distance between you and the person you’re trying to establish a bond with by touching the other person’s elbow. It conveys just the right amount of intimacy, and as such, is a favorite of politicians. It’s not too close to the chest, which we protect, but it’s slightly more personal than a hand.
  • Be Interested. The real core of all connecting is to care about people.  Seth Godin talks about being Interested rather than Interesting.  It is a pleasure to engage with people who are interested in me.  It doesn’t get boring.  It is fun to meet an interesting person, but it gets boring once they’ve told their story.  
If you care about other people, these habits naturally start to flow.

Networking in Seven Simple Steps

This post was originally published at IESE Insight Business Knowledge Portal and is based on the longer technical note “Creating and Nurturing your Social Network: The Art of Building Long-term Mutually Beneficial Relationships” written by Fabrizio Ferraro and myself last year.

Networking is like brushing your teeth.

Networking is like brushing your teeth. Does it feel natural or enjoyable? Not really. Is it enough to just brush when a toothache occurs? Regrettably no.

In the same way, networking requires constant and careful attention over a prolonged period of time.

In their technical note, “Creating and Nurturing Your Social Network: The Art of Building Long-term Mutually Beneficial Relationships,” IESE’s Fabrizio Ferraro and Conor Neill draw a distinction between what networking is and what it is not.

They suggest that the familiar scramble for assistance when something urgent is needed – a job, some advice or a charitable donation – is not actually networking, but rather, part of the “sales” process.

In fact, most of your useful networking relationships will be developed long before you actually need them. What’s more, the longer you work on your investment, the greater the return can be.

Start Small

Networking does not come naturally to most people. A bountiful garden is not created overnight. The plants are selected with careful deliberation and nurtured over time. Unwanted weeds are slowly identified and removed.

If you want to grow a garden, the question may well be, “How do I begin?” The answer is easy. “Start today and take small steps.”


Ask lots of questions and show an interest in the passions of the people you meet. If you need a favor early on, then don’t ask too much. Simple requests for advice or contact suggestions make it easy for others to help you. You need to make a deposit in the relationship bank before asking for a large withdrawal.


Always let people know you appreciate their help. A written thank-you note or a thoughtful act stands out in a world where e-mail reigns supreme.


It doesn’t hurt to make a list every now and then. Who do you know? Even more important, who do you want to know?

Seven Steps to Success

Here are some practical considerations to help you master the art of building long-term mutually beneficial relationships.

  1. Interdependence. Our teamwork ability and relationship management skills are every bit as important as the projects we undertake. It pays to acknowledge the value of the networking process and make space for it.
  2. Longevity. Good things take time and you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince. The key is to start building your network long before you need it.
  3. Reciprocity. Networking is not all about what others can do for you. Think about what you can bring to the table. Sometimes it begins with a simple compliment about a presentation or project. If you offer someone help, then be sure to follow through. Trust and reputation depend on reliability.
  4. Similarity. While it’s easier to befriend people who are like you, it’s always possible to find some middle ground with others, no matter how different they might appear at first. Step outside your comfort zone and learn from people with diverse backgrounds, objectives and incentives. Bill Gates once said in an interview that he prefers to read an entire magazine, not only the parts that interest him. That way, you always learn something new.
  5. Proximity. Most social relationships are born out of proximity. However, being close won’t help you if you don’t try to get actively involved.
  6. Cross-fertilization. Successful leaders influence contacts from one network to another. Think about the people in your contact list. Who needs attention? Who is owed favors or needs your help? You can begin thinking of your network as a lifetime journey, rather than a one-off effort.
  7. Sociability. If you do not enjoy meeting new people, it is unlikely that they will enjoy spending time with you. Therefore, it is key to find venues and situations where you actually enjoy networking, rather than forcing yourself to schmooze in uncomfortable settings. Meeting new people can be fun as long as you find out what works best for you and don’t approach it as a chore.

Beyond Professional Success

Make time to lead a well-rounded life outside of work. It can be a powerful and rewarding experience to share time with people who value you, not for what you do or what you bring them. These relationships are a valuable source of energy and self-confidence.

In all aspects of life, networking doesn’t come down to the basic question, “How will this benefit me?” Rather, it makes more sense to ask, “How can I add to this situation?”

You will be rewarded in time as your garden grows.

Can you help me?

How do you “network”?  Can you network in an authentic fashion?  Are some people good and some people hopeless at networking?  Is it a learnt skill?  I am preparing a series of seminars on networking at IESE Business School for the incoming MBA class.  What should I share with them?  How can they best connect out to companies, leaders, potential mentors and advisors?  Please share your thoughts (in the blog comments, on facebook, in LinkedInor through email blog[at] )

Increasing connections is easy. Increasing connectedness is hard.

Just because you can measure it doesn’t mean it is more important.

Quantity or Quality?

More connections does not mean more connected.  Connected is a factor of quality and regularity over sheer quantity.  However, I do believe that there are ways that online can be a powerful amplified of connection.

The danger is that humans have some inbuilt senses of “progress” or not “progress” and it doesn’t fully work with some of the new tools.  When we are sat watching TV, most of us know that we are not being productive.  Even a young kid knows that they are skipping out on doing their homework.  However, I have a tendency to feel that most stuff on a computer is “progress” – even though I know writing a blog post is far better use of my time than scanning and poorly responding to 100 emails.

Increasing connections is easy.  Increasing connectedness is hard.

Increase connectedness rather than number of connections.

How do you define connectedness?

8 Disciplines of Leadership

I read Conversations on Leadership by Lan Liu when I was sitting in the IESE library recently.  He interviews some of the big thinkers and identifies 8 core disciplines of leadership.
  1. Connecting with People
  2. Learning from Failure
  3. Reflecting on Experience
  4. Thinking Deeply
  5. Storytelling
  6. Being a Teacher
  7. Knowing Yourself
  8. Becoming Yourself
Further reading
Lan Liu is a rising star in Chinese leadership studies.  Lan Liu wrote a HBR blog post recently titled “Beyond the American Model of Leadership

Upcoming Webinar: The 3 Networks of Successful Leaders

EO Core Value #4: Cool

The Entrepreneurs’ Organisation (EO) will be hosting my webinar “The 3 Networks of Successful Leaders” on the 14th of October.

Successful leaders build 3 carefully nurtured networks (Operational, Personal, and Strategic).  In these 30 minutes I will provide 7 simple tools to accelerate the building of your three networks.

Dial in and web access information:

EO Inside Track Call
Date: Thursday 
14 October 2010
Time: 2pm EST (my time?)
Who: Conor Neill
Topic: The 3 Networks of Success

Web Log on
Passcode: 57200505

Dial in
Passcode: 57200505#
US: 1-877-643-6951
Canada: 1-877-722-6536
Mexico: 001-800-514-9841
New Zealand 0-800-450-879
Panama: 00-800-226-9841
Int’l: 1-302-607-2017
France 0-800-913-839
Germany 0-800-184-4851
Netherlands 0-800-022-6452
South Africa 0-800-982-556 
Switzerland 0-800-563-397
United Arab Emirates 800-017-0663 
United Kingdom 0-808-101-7575 

Following are Mobile Restricted
Portugal 800-819-694 
Russia 810-800-268-51012
Spain 900-937-889
Sweden 10-20797384 

EO Members – more event information available here on EO Network.  I would love to have you join the session.

Any questions – in comments, facebook or twitter.  My post from last year on Networking 101 is a good introduction, but this seminar will cover new material and insights.

Get your customers to do your best marketing for you Part 1 of 4: Nobody talks about boring businesses

I recently listened to John Jantsch speak about his new book “The referral engine: Teaching your Business to Market itself“. This post is part of a series of 4 that provide the valuable insights that I drew from his words.

The power of word of mouth
John spends a lot of time out talking to small business owners and found that in contrast to large corporates, most small businesses and entrepreneurial start-ups say the bulk of their customers come from word of mouth.  They come because of another customer’s recommendation.

If you run a small business or are an entrepreneur, this then is key.  How do you make a business highly referable?  How can you create a system so that referrals happen consistently?

John outlines 6 “realities” of the world that we can use to build our referral system:

  1. People make referrals because they need to.  We are wired this way.  It builds my social capital if I can share valuable, useful services with friends that need them.
  2. Referral is a big risk– a referral means that I am loaning trust to your organisation.  This level of trust is more important with doctor or lawyer than with a decent local restaurant.  Companies can reduce perceived referral risk through consistency of service delivery.
  3. Nobody talks about boring businesses.  Will I talk about your service, people or company at a party or over lunch? What is unique? What is special?
  4. Consistency builds trust.  Steps: 1) Know a person 2) Like the person 3) Trust the person. I have to get to know you, then to like you before I begin to trust you.  Any surprises along the path and I will not reach “trust”.
  5. Marketing is a system.  Digital interactivity is at the center of marketing.  It is not alone, but cannot be avoided in today’s Web 2.0 world.  The marketing concept of the customer funnel is broken and needs replacement.
Key insight:  Nobody talks about boring businesses.

I will continue this series next week with part 2: “Get your customers to do your best marketing for you Part 2: The marketing funnel is broken“.

A Recipe for Luck in Life

Are some people born lucky?

Richard Wiseman, author of Quirkology, describes a number of psychological experiements that he has conducted to understand the role and roots of luck in people’s lives.  In each case, people were asked to self-evaluate their level of luck prior to the experiments, allowing Richard to create 2 groups – the self selected “unlucky people” and the self selected “lucky people”.

In your face
In the first experiment subjects were shown into a room and handed a newspaper.  They were shown a couple of photos of faces and asked to look through the newspaper to see whether these people appeared in any of the photos in the newspaper.

Mid-way through the newspaper there was a half-page advertisement with the words “Mention to the Experimenter that you have seen this Advert to receive €100”.  A whole half page. Big letters.

Most of the self selected “unlucky people” failed to see the advert in their focus on the search for the faces.

Pass the parcel
In another experiment, 100 people registered to participate in an experiment to test the 6 degrees of separation theory.  Each was sent a parcel.  Their task – to get the parcel to a specific person in Coventry, but they were only allowed to send the parcel on to somebody that they knew on first name terms.  The average number of degrees of separation for the parcels to reach our friend in Coventry was 4 (of the parcels that made it).

However, about 30 of the 100 people who actually took the time to register did not even send the parcel on once.  Rather strange – you would go to the effort of applying to participate, and then not even sending the parcel on to anybody.  And, yes, these people who didn’t know who they could send the parcel on to had self selected themselves into the “unlucky people” group.

So, are some people born lucky?

Luck, no; but maybe some people are born with better peripheral vision and greater extroversion.

A Recipe for luck: 

  1. Look up and around you once in a while
  2. Get to know a few more people

How to pitch a brilliant idea

The conclusion: it doesn’t matter how good the idea, it matters what the “buyer” thinks of you as a person in the first few seconds of your pitch.

I have just read “How to Pitch a Brilliant idea” by Kimberly Elsbach in the Harvard Business Review.  In 150 miliseconds a “buyer” will have categorized you in one of seven stereotypes – only three of which will allow you to have a chance of selling them on your brilliant idea.

Kimberly has looked at the film industry, venture capital and entrepreneurs and within the corporate world.  In these environments only 1-3% of ideas make it beyond the initial pitch. What does it take for somebody with a brilliant idea to get it noticed, financed and implemented?

“When a person we don’t know pitches an idea to us, we search for visual and verbal matches with those implicit models, remembering only the characteristics that identify the pitcher as one type or another.  We subconciously award points to people we can easily identify as having creative traits; we subtract points from those who are hard to assess or who fit negative stereotypes.” Kimberly Elsbach.

The seven stereotypes that Kimberly developed that are relevant in the pitch of an idea to a “buyer” who has not met us before are:

  • The three positive stereotypes
    • Showrunner: Looks the part, comes with a successful track record, delivers the idea with a great interactive performance that engages the “buyer” in the idea.
    • Artist: Displays single minded passion but not as polished as the showrunner, tend to be shy or socially awkward (a sense that they are living in their own internal world)
    • Neophyte: The opposite of showrunners – they know they need help and present themselves as eager learners (never looking desperate).
  • The four negative stereotypes
    • Pushover: Look like they are trying to “unload” an idea rather than own it and run with it.
    • Robot: Presents sticking to a formulaic script as if it had been memorized from a how-to book.
    • Used-car salesman: Argumentative and slightly obnoxious (standard issue from the consulting world or large corporate sales department). Fails to treat the “buyer” as a partner, to turn the sale into a collaborative process. Arrogant.
    • Charity case: Needy. As soon as he senses rejection begins pleading with the “buyer” that he really needs just one small sale. In reality is not selling an idea but looking for a job.

The only stereotypes which have a chance of the “buyer” engaging are showrunner, artist and neophyte.  If you manage to present the visual, audible, dress clues that lead a potential buyer to categorize you outside of these three categories, you will not sell your idea.

One key to the three successful stereotypes is a positive, proactive engagement of the buyer in the development of the idea during the pitch process. 

What stereotype do you get categorized into by people on the first impression?  It is unlikely to be showrunner (there are really very few of these types out there).  So are you a pushover?  Are you a used-car salesman?  The only thing that you cannot be is nothing…  You will be categorized.