Toastmasters. Singing during the speech

Блог Listen to your broccoli | Клуб Тоастмастерс Утрехт кафе Флорин

Florin cafe, where on the second floor the meetings are held

I started to sing. My singing sounded very unsure and I did not follow the tune, I think. When I had been practicing at home, it all had sounded much nicer. Now I was really scared and uncomfortable while looking the audience in the eyes and singing.

My green heart is filled with apples 

Your dark face is filled with stars

I am the one that you’ve forgotten

You are the one my heart desires

Dance when you think of me

Sing to remember me

Sing till your heart can see

Who we are

Речь в клубе Тоастмастерс

Я нервно начинаю речь на встрече клуба

This is my third speech at Toastmasters, an international public speaking club. The divisions of the club are spread all over the world (there are several in Russia, Ukraine and there is a prospective club in Belarus). I joined Utrecht Toastmasters club several months ago. My main goal is to overcome this disgusting fear of any stage and any talking of an audience which is more than two people. I have already described how my second speech went. 

My speech titled ‘Who we are’ is my third one. And I had great expectations for it. I thought that my initial intense fear and clumsiness are gone and I can concentrate on content, movement on stage and body language.

Topic for the speech

The story was about how my friend during the teenage times criticized my ear for singing and voice and said that it’s better not to sing for me. Later I realized that this episode influenced me more than I thought. I never sing in public, never sing drunk, never sing in the shower and hate karaoke nights out with colleagues. I recalled this story during Julia Cameron training and decided that this can be a topic for a speech.

We were sitting at a school desk, waiting for the next class to start. We were probably thirteen years olds. My classmate, a girl, was attending a music school next to our normal secondary school. She told me that she can detect whether I have an ear for singing if I will sing her any song. I thought I should use this opportunity to know. Maybe I have talent? It should not be lost. I sang a song.

It’s horrible. Don’t do it again. My advice. My musical classmate said.

I had an idea that right in the middle of the speech I can start singing a song and demonstrate in such a way that we all can overcome our fears (well, my original idea was even to encourage the audience to sing).

Then my mentor advised starting with the signing from the very beginning in order to shock the audience. Well, I think I managed to shock. I saw that a couple of people sitting on the first row stopped making notes (probably they were still writing down their feedback for the previous speaker and started to watch me without attentively).

The attention of the audience was focused on me, but I could not use it to my advantage: I stared at the floor a couple of times, forgot the next sentence at some point, uttered about ten ahas-sos and other useless sounds, did not make a pause after saying a rhetorical question(When is the right time? The right time is always now!).

My main conclusion was that not every speech that is ideal on paper, will become ideal on stage, but definitely, something that was not ideal on paper will never become ideal on stage. Next time I really want to bring my speech on paper to impeccable level, to ideal structure and clearness that would make me happy with the speech before I start talking on stage.

Follow my progress in Toastmasters club using ‘toastmasters’ tag.



Блог Listen to your broccoli | Клуб Тоастмастерс Утрехт Обратная связь

Feeback from the club members



Блог Listen to your broccoli | Клуб Тоастмастерс Утрехт
Блог Listen to your broccoli | Клуб Тоастмастерс Утрехт

Warm Apple Juice

I am sitting in the lobby of the cultural center of a small Dutch town. In the concert hall, a fest is being held by a Russian school in the Netherlands. A Dutch father is also playing with his daughter in the lobby. Apparently, an older child together with a Russian speaking mother are at the concert and the younger girl is just not interested.

At a certain moment, the father turns to the lady selling drinks in a cafeteria ‘Can we have apple juice? But only not from the fridge?

At that moment the ‘movie’ should stop and the voice-over should explain. A typical Dutch man is a tall healthy sportive guy two meters tall. He was probably brought up in a quite rigid and strict environment: a lot of time outside, little attention to physical comfort, walking without hats in winter, visiting a doctor only if you are sure you are dying, twenty kilometers cycling to school one way. And all of this is just normal.

And now a voice-over for those who are not familiar with a standard Soviet childhood: you really have to keep your ears, nose, and throat warm, otherwise you will get a cold. Immediately.

…The lady looks at the father surprised and with a ‘Are you crazy?’ impression on her face. But she replied calmly ‘No, everything is in the fridge’. The father does not give up (apparently this is not his first time). ‘Could you please warm it up in the microwave?’ I will not describe the lady’s shocked face. I want to share my thoughts – I was thinking, this is the real intercultural connection. Not sure what you should tell a Dutch man in order to convince him of the necessity of warm apple juice. I think this is just love in its essence.

P.S. One more post, if you want to know about Dutch childcare. 

The Crown. 5 best scenes that impressed me

The Crown Blog Listen to your broccoli

Can you imagine this – sitting in front of the tv and watch a tv series about yourself? Looking at the actress playing you and think – do they really think I look like her? What about watching a moment in the episode where ‘you’ find a photo of another woman in your husbands stiff and knowing that half of the country is seeing this (and maybe even half of the world in the end)? And there is this one person in the world who is doing it – Elizabeth II, the queen, is watching a tv series about herself ‘The Crown’.

And I am also watching what an interesting life she had. Her father, the king, was one of the two brothers who was not supposed to be a king (there is another movie based on his story ‘King’s Speech’).  She, the queen, is one of the two sisters who did not want to be a center of attention and who got more attention and spotlight than any other person in the world.


Margeret, Elizabeth’s sister, as portrayed by Vanessa Kirby (taken from взято из

Most memorable scenes

This tv series has a lot of memorable moments, but we often remember not more prominent things but something that resonates with our own feelings and thoughts. My mind more than once came back to the following scenes:

  • When the father of Elizabeth dies and within one moment she becomes a queen and the next moment her sister has to make a curtsy in front of her, everyone is moving around like in a well-known dance of traditions and customs and she is watching them, lost, and thinking ‘How do they all know what to do?’ I recall myself in a similar situation when joining a new company or moving to a new country when I thought I am not up to the bar. But having the whole world watching you during these moments?


  • A scene when Elizabeth says ‘sorry’ to her husband for the fact that she became queen so quickly and abruptly. This will change their lives forever and their relationship will become a state matter. A whole bunch of advisors will be discussing and deciding what they should do, which events join and how to spend time together. I was thinking how difficult this must be – put your private life in a box, that is left after all ceremonial events, duties and social life. Even to have an argument in private you have to wait till the evening and maybe even longer.


  • A moment when the queen needs to have a  prick in her cheek so that she can still continue smiling after days of touring around different countries with an official visit. Her presence is so meaningful and important that even driving in a car and waving to people has an important meaning.


  • During the first season, she has to decide whether she should allow her sister to marry a divorced man whom she loves. The moment of informing Margaret, her sister is very prominent. What kind of job is it to have a duty to decide whom your sister should marry or not marry?


  • A scene when the queen chooses a dress for the day when she meets Jackie Kennedy. The queen has to sparkle and compete in elegance and beauty. The type and color of her dress are of state importance.

Scenes with children and especially Charles were mostly upsetting. I even remembered footage of a real queen coming back from some months of official visits. She is arriving by train and her mother and 4-year-old Charles are waiting to greet her. The two women greet each other, talk, kiss and Charles is somewhere down there waiting for his turn to finally get some minimal attention. It seems she learned to sacrifice a lot in order to portray a perfect queen. It becomes more clear why she could not understand other family members who were trying to make decisions based on feelings.

Watching experience

Сериал Корона

From  “thethrillist“: Claire Foy performing Elizabeth II and Jodi Balfour as Jackie Kennedy and then the real photo of the event. 

Apparently, this is the second most expensive Netflix series. Funny enough it was described as a series that consists of endless dialogues in overdecorated rooms. But I think money was spent wisely:)

Сериал Корона

Looking at some example photos of how it was and how it was filmed the creators did invest in the credibility of the movie. They did a good job of finding a balance in ‘this is a movie about the queen’ and ‘people should not be bored with glamour story’.

Someone might consider the tv series too calm, and it is so, it is very British. A raised brow depending on the curve of it at that moment can mean a lot of different things – anger, astonishment, contempt. And yes, in any critical situation they do drink tea.

Dutch Childcare. Eating bread with bread and sleeping outside


“We ordered outside beds for sleeping. Soon they will be delivered and then babies will be able to sleep outside during the day.” This was my first encounter with Dutch childcare. I had no idea how a childcare establishment for children from zero to four years old could possibly be organized. I was shocked by the pure idea of sending a six-month-old child there. And now already I have to deal with a notion of outside beds and children without hats in autumn when I am already hearing one.

I barely have time to form my attitude to the outside beds, I cannot even imagine how they look like, but I have to go on with the excursion around the childcare with one of the carers. While I am listening my eyes are on a ten-month-old child sitting in a high chair and being fed by a three-year-old which looks more like covering his face with pureed food.

Dutch Childcare Blog Listen to your broccoli

An outside bed at a Dutch childcare


I could not make up my mind – did I like it there and I would be happier if his childcare looked more like mine? I am trying to recall mine, but I only remember pastel colored little wardrobes and overall atmosphere of unhappiness.

However, all these questions about liking or not are irrelevant. In two weeks I am coming back to work and my son has to go to the childcare (not sure about using “go” in relation to a six-month-old child).

Our Dutch childcare that we have chosen consists of a couple of rooms on the ground floor of a block of apartments, of two tiny bedrooms where a temperature of 18 degrees is maintained (“This is healthier for sleeping” the carer tells us proudly), small hall, small outside backyard.

As our childcare was very small, just two groups, all children were of mixed ages from zero to four.

Such spread of ages is supposed to simulate an idea of a “family” when children of different ages are living together and older ones are helping younger ones.

I felt rather uncomfortable already when the carer shook me up by asking a new question: “What is his character?” I twisted in the chair. It seems very quickly we moved from pacifiers and bottles to habits and character. After a pause, she asked again “Is he a happy child?” “Probably,” I said. I was quite upset that I was not sure whether my child is happy.

So my son started at the childcare and I still could not decide – do I like or not?

From one side they were really flexible to adjust to the personal timetable of Konstantin. They were asking us how much he is sleeping, and what the latest time we wish he was fed. They would also always call us in case of doubt: whether he should get an additional sleep because he is too tired or he has a fever.

Open and trustful communication with parents. Each child had an individual copybook where they would write down something about a child (how much he ate, slept, what was his spirit, what did he do). After a couple of years, the copy-book was replaced by a phone app and we started to receive almost daily photos. The ‘transfer’ of the child to the parent is always accompanied by a short conversation with a parent. They are even taught to do this conversation in the most efficient and informative manner. I learned about that when a trainee asked the main carer whether she can do the ‘transfer’ of our son herself in order to practice it for her studies.

Freedom: children are allowed to do what they want (sing, scream, dance, make a mess all day long) if they stay within certain borders (do not pull hair out of each other).

From the other side when the time will come for the solid food, we will be asked: how many pieces of bread Konstantin is eating at home and what he puts on it. We were mumbling something, unsure whether we can say that we had no intention to give bread, we were so very busy with broccolis and marrows. And then he would be taught at the childcare to eat bread and bread. So that he will able to eat an essential Dutch dish for lunch called a sandwich. That was not so surprising as I already saw my Dutch colleagues, big big man eating two pieces of bread with something very thin between (foreigner call this eating ‘bread with bread”:).

Warm food, such an important part of life in our understanding is a rare thing in Dutch childcare.

Once I received the following information in the newsletter of the childcare of my daughter: “parents ask us more and more often about the possibility of warm food. We are investigating this question. We want to let you know that Dutch ‘some-institution-of-food’ concluded that eating warm food twice a day is not bad (they mean that children will anyhow eat warm dinner at home and if they also eat warm at the childcare it is not bad). Well, good they checked this.

And each time when I saw the dirty floor I was thinking: is it that hard to clean it? Children are crawling on it. Well, probably there is no point anyhow, everyone is wearing street shoes.

Finally, I made up my mind about Dutch childcare years later when came back to Minsk for a visit.

I had to pick up my nephews. I was impressed by cleanness, high ceilings, pot flowers, separate big bedroom with made up beds, white linen and pillows like beautiful boats on these beds. Everything looked so different, so ideal. Till a moment when the carer said to a girl who picked up a toy car in order to play with it: “Maria, what are you doing? You cannot play with it here, you should go on the carpet, otherwise, you will spoil the floor”.

And in a second dirty floor, bread with bread and freedom won over cleanness and impeccable floor.


Блог Listen to your broccoli | Toastmasters

International Toastmasters club also has an paper magazine

“You have to answer a question “Why”. Why are you delivering this speech?” That’s what I hear from a Malaysian girl and then she continues: If you do not have your “why”, there is no point to come with a speech on the stage. You have to know what do you want people to walk away with that evening. What do you want them to remember.”

I was staring at her a bit confused. Could I say that I just want to move one to the next step in the Toastmasters program? Or that I want to look like Marvellous Ms Maisel on stage? So I thought said: of course, of course, I understand.

Estee is my mentor in Toastmasters club (international organization of public speaking. I am a member of Utrecht club in the Netherlands). This is our first meeting face-to-face for mentoring, Estee will be supporting me in preparation for my three speeches. Estee shared her experience of starting her Toastmasters journey three years ago and she told me how she was a mentee. During her first meetings at Toastmasters she saw an Indian girl performing on stage and she thought: I want to be like her. This is how Estee found her mentor.


Блог Listen to your broccoli | Toastmasters

How to choose a topic for your Toastmasters speech is one of the first questions that I get when I talk about Toastmasters. I asked it myself to my colleague from whom I learned about existence of Toastmasters. And he told me: about anything, it does not matter. My last speech was “Why everyone needs to have a six pack”. Ok, indeed about anything – that were my thoughts. 

As a person who delivered two speeches so far, I can definitely share my approach of choosing topics:).

And the approach is any topic about which I had thoughts in my head for more than ten minutes is a candidate for a speech. Very often I get these thoughts on the way to somewhere. The most important thing is to write them down.


I don’t know. But it helped to discuss the topic of my speech in the circle of my friends.

My second speech has a title Arranged Marriage. When I showed draft of my speech to my mentor, she said the start is not really captivating, you know. And the end, mmm, there is not real end. And I had thought that my speech is already ready, just a matter of rehearsing:(. 

I told my friends about speech that I have to deliver soon and during our relaxed conversation they told me story that I could have used in my speech and that actually became the captivating beginning of the speech. This is how it looked like:

I came up to the stage, looked at the audience and without any greeting said: “Is there anyone here who wants to marry me?” And that was not a cheap trick, it was a phrase that actually opens up a story: 

Is there anyone here who wants to marry me? — that was a question shouted out on a crowded bus stop by a man 20 years ago. He was upset by a relationship with his girlfriend that they broke off…

The participants of the club will call this start of the speech brilliant and as per ‘text book’ and I also considered that to be a very spectacular way of starting a speech (after the delivery, before – I had been having doubts).


Блог Listen to your broccoli | Toastmasters

My second speech at Toastmasters (Utrecht, the Netherlands). The speech title is Arranged Marriage.

What followed after the brilliant start? Unfortunately failing ending.

My speech did not have complicated content. It was about understanding and perceptions of traditional Eastern arranged marriages. In my speech I am in a dialogue with my India colleague, who himself had an arranged marriage.

Actually, this is a real person and a real dialogue (I did not even have to embellish it). I had a feeling that it is quite clear whose “voice” is talking during the speech (mine or my colleagues’s), but based on feedback that I got from the club members what I did was not enough. The advice was to emphasise more “who” is talking using space of the stage (be on one side when I am talking and on the other when my colleague is taking), use meta-words like “he said, I said”.

I did not manage to come up with a good conclusion for my speech. It was obvious weeks before the day I had to deliver my speech that the ending is very weak. My mentor said the same and the same was said by the evaluator, a club member who evaluates the speech by actually delivering a mini speech about my speech:). He actually did not leave a rag on my speech (and it was fair!) by saying that I had all components for a special and brilliant speech but I did not manage to do it. I completely agreed with this especially after I ran from the stage at the end of the speech in a very clumsy manner:). Also many people mentioned in their little feedback papers that my speech ended very unexpectedly.

When I was preparing my speech I could not come up with a good ending and it seemed to be impossible. I could say that arranged marriages were bad or good, right?

I was quite disappointed after the speech, I felt I missed a chance to be brilliant and it was not so much that I had to do to be (in that case).

Блог Listen to your broccoli | Toastmasters

Club members write their feedback for speeches on small pieces of paper and give them to the speakers in the end of the evening. This is additional to the official feedback that is delivered by the evaluator.


One of the club members approached me after that speech and said that he really like the speech and he understands that such topic can lead to difficulties with choosing the right tone and conclusion for the ending. He gave me a very good tip (which sounds like a solution for almost every speech). If you do not know how to end your speech, find a suitable quote of a famous person and use it for the ending. Such luxury like Google should be there for nothing? Immediately I thought how right he is.

So this is what I am going to do, finish this post with a quote:

Making mistakes is what everyone does. Learning from them is not.


* Toastmasters is a title that was chosen by a founder of the club hundred of years ago. Toastmaster is a person who is responsible for toasts and speeches at banquets and meetings. 

** Evaluator – each speaker gets an evaluator assigned. Evaluator is a person who makes a short speech about the speaker’s speech pointing out its positive things and suggesting things for improvement.