Public speaking. Three moments when you should not forget about body language

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“Just do not take a tight grip of your two hands together and do not stand like this the whole speech” – these are the words I was telling myself during my first speeches in the public speaking club where I am trying to become a Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

All my knowledge about public speaking back then could be summarized in a couple of words: move on the stage and do not lock your hands.

Each speech in our club is evaluated by an evaluator who is appointed to your speech. I often hear from my evaluators that I need to use the entire space of the stage and move a bit from one side to another. But not just walk from one side to another as I did during my first speech, almost showing my back as I literally walked. But do it without losing contact with the audience.  Gradually you also learn not to close your hands and men learn not to put them into the pockets. And then, your hands are not locked, you keep them open and you start to do simple movements with them, which by itself is good, but becomes very repetitive similar and boring. So what to do? How to make your hand movements better? One of the tricks is to connect them with your story.



So you get it, the material is not good, otherwise, I would be able to come up with something. 

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My speech at the public speaking club Toastmasters, Utrecht, the Netherlands


My last speech was a eulogy, praise for a person who is usually dead. This type of speech wasn’t my own choice. At our club, we follow a kind of program and one of the projects of this program is Social Speeches. I had to do two speeches for 4 minutes. But they should be of different types. One was a toast and another one is a eulogy.

I checked famous people who died last year and chose the founder of Ikea, Ingvar Kamprad and devoted my speech to him.

…Buying Christmas presents at a sale after Christmas? Who does this? Well, one of the richest people in the world and one of the greatest businessmen in the world. We could even call it greed if we would not know that this was part of the philosophy and values of IKEA founder – Ingvar Kamprad.


I talked about how he is a billionaire still buys Christmas presents at an after-Christmas sale. How he was always focused on cost-cutting, even design of products was focused around cost-cutting, that he had dyslexia and this still did not stop him from opening his business at 17 years old. He also had alcoholism all his life and still, he managed to run the company till his very old age. And how once he was loading furniture into a car for a photoshoot and thought that it would be much easier if it would be without legs and he implemented the whole idea into a self-assembling approach for the furniture (yes, and we all now have an amazing experience of assembling Ikea furniture).


A person who evaluated my speech is much more experienced in public speaking at least and he saw the potential right away:

  • if you say, ‘I am going to tell three things’, then show three with your hands
  • if you are talking about a special design of a cup, show it with your hands. If you talk about furniture, table, cutting legs of the table, show this cutting movement with your hands.
  • if you mention an object, always use your hands to show size and shape.

It appeared that my speech was ideal for showing rich body language. Shapes, sizes, and numbers should be always supported by body language in addition to words and I missed this completely.

My first speech at public speaking club Toastmasters


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“How to get from NOW to WOW?” asked the speaker. After a pause, she added an extra line for the word NOW in order to get to WOW. That was the only moment from her eight-minute speech in the public speaking club Toastmasters that I remembered. I did not hear anything more and did not see anything as I was supposed to be the next speaker after her.

How to survive your first speech?

How quickly should you do a speech after you joined the club? I would recommend it as soon as possible but there are no hard rules. You can join meetings, pick up supportive roles during the evening (Timekeeper, Ah-counter, Grammarian, Table Topic Master, etc) and take your time.

The first speech is called Icebreaker and it is not that difficult as you have to tell about yourself whatever you want, explain why you decided to join the club if you want.


Do you need to write your speech in advance? 

Listen to your broccoli Toastmasters Public Speech

My draft of the first speech in the public speaking club Toastmasters

I have two answers:

  • You have to write your speech – A spontaneous speech also can be cool and interesting but the expectations for the speeches are quite high (there is even a special person who is counting filler words during the speeches). The audience expects a structure in the speech, transitions (well, don’t get scared, for the first speech the only thing that is expected is that you show up). In my view, it is useful to write the speech down in order to be able to look at it with someone’s else eyes. It also allows you easily switch points in order and check how does it change the emphasis. And as a result, your first sentence will change from “Today I would like to tell you about myself” to “I was wondering what should I tell you today so that you will never forget”.
  • Afterward through the written speech away – I decided not to be bothered to rehearse all the time from the fully written speech and not to come on stage with a paper in my hands. I condensed my written draft into a handful of ten bullet points and forgot that at some point I had a full-blown draft.
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Five minutes before the speech. The bullet points.

How did I choose to tell about myself?

My first idea was to tell a couple of my life stories that demonstrate my personality. Maybe about 6-7 stories (now I know that cannot even fit in a 6 minutes speech). And then I realized – stories from my life? How can it be interesting for people that are not even familiar with me? They do not know where I come from? Who would be interested in my complicated stories and there is no wish and curiosity yet? Should not this interest be first created? They are not my friends or colleagues who might be interested to know me better. They are just unfamiliar random people and I am random to them.

That’s why I decided to go for simplicity. If I would meet these people in real life, what basic things they would want to know about me? So I chose three basic questions that I expected I would need to answer during the first acquaintance with someone. As a result, my speech was called “Three Questions”.

How to finish your speech in time?

A standard Toastmaster speech in the club is about 6-8 minutes (for the first one it is 4-6 minutes). I was staring at the text and thinking how much it is? Is it enough? And still, when I rehearsed in front of my bed, the speech took ten minutes (!), second-time rehearsal took eight minutes. On the day itself, the speech took 5:45 minutes.

What was the most difficult?

The last half an hour before your speech. The closer you get to the speech, the less interesting and more silly your speech seems to be. The last minutes and seconds before the speech are full of these types of thoughts – would I be able to open my mouth? And I have to mention this very friendly atmosphere in the club. What it will be if it will not be that friendly?

What other difficulties did I experience?

Hands! There is no place for them. I think someone should write a thesis on this topic “Where should put my hands during my speech?”. Maybe it is written already. Anyhow that’s a good topic for a new speech – what to do with the hands during the speech.

How my speech was evaluated?

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Feedback from the club members

I am a very not confident person and not very easy with the critical feedback, but the whole process of the evaluation and feedback and set up in such a positive way, that I did not experience my issues.

After the speeches for the evening are finished, especially assigned people start the process of evaluation. An evaluator gives feedback about a specific speech that is centered around advantages and disadvantages. This was feedback for me:

  • Do not walk and talk
  • Don’t move with your side to the audience
  • Don’t hold your hands in a closed position

Additionally, everyone in the room can write their own feedback about what they liked or what could be better next time. These small papers are handed to the speaker at the end of the evening. I got about 25 little papers with feedback.

What’s next?

The next is a long way from NOW to WOW to me, an amazing speaker. The way that I continue to describe here under the toastmasters tag.


Public speaking club Toastmasters

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A small room above Florin bar in the center of the Dutch city Utrecht. I am visiting a very lively public speaking club which is a part of an International organization called ‘Toastmasters‘. Just in a couple of months I will become a member of the club and will deliver my first speech.

This happens quite often – you have no idea about some phenomena, then you see a small advertisement printed on a piece of paper and pinned on the wall next to the coffee machine in your office and this phenomenon starts to jump on you from all the sides: a lot of people you know are members already, you see people mentioning it in the internet all over the place, coaches recommend you to go to Toastmasters. And just like that you are already sitting, trembling and waiting to come out on the stage to give your first speech.

What is Toastmasters?

Toastmasters public speaking club was founded in the US about one hundred years ago and today there are clubs all over the world (about 10 in Russia and Ukraine and since 2019 there is a club in Belarus).

Toastmasters is all about the practice of public speaking. If to put it in a couple of words you do a speech, club members give you feedback and next time you try to be better.

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The magazine of Toastmasters public speaking club 


If to detail it a bit more, every meeting of the club is organized by several people who pick up different roles. There is also an online platform with some guidelines, competitions (also international), a printed magazine, club events, between club events and different options for participation. Next to the prepared speeches, there is something called ‘Table Topics”. These are unprepared, short speeches (1-3 minutes) for a topic that is given to you right there on the stage. The overall meeting takes about 2.5 hours (but this, of course, differs by the club).

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The agenda of the meeting. Everything is planned up to a minute. 

Members of the club are people who pay the club fee. Guests or visitors (anyone who wants to learn about the club) can come several times before deciding to join the club. I visited one club in Amsterdam as a guest. Everything is the same, but everything is different. Members of the club do leave a mark on the entire atmosphere of course.

Why people join the Toastmasters club?

I heard many answers from different people and all of them have a lot in common: not to be afraid of public speaking, not to be standing there with a paper in the trembling hands, not to be experiencing a nervous break-down five minutes before coming to the stage. However, I have also heard answers that stood out: to become a stand-up comedian or to have drinks in a nice company on Friday evenings (you would wonder is it a realistic wish? Well, it is, because meetings take place right above the Florin bar and you can imagine where they end).

How quick to start giving speeches in the club after you joined?


How quickly should you start with speeches after you joined the club? I would recommend it as soon as possible, but there are no rules for this. You go at your own speed. You can join meetings, take facilitating meeting roles (Timekeeper, Ah-counter, Grammarian, Table Topic Master и так далее) or you can just join meetings for some time and do not take roles. 


How to create interest in your speech. My fourth speech at Toastmasters

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‘Feed the full-bellied’ that should be the motto for any speech which is focused on sharing information. Our environments are full of information, that just a wish to share something interesting is not good enough and would not capture attention by default. And that was my last assignment at international club of public speaker Toastmasters: perform an informational speech about any topic your researched:

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to learn or review basic research methods and present a well-organized, well-researched speech on any topic.

Overview: Select a topic that you are not already familiar with or that you wish to learn more about. Be sure your topic is narrow enough to be an effective 5- to 7-minute speech. Research the topic and begin organizing the information, as described in this project.

I chose ‘figure skating’ as a topic and titled my speech ‘A sport’. Here I think some explanation is needed. No one in the Netherlands has any interest in figure skating, really-really no one. Dutch sportsmen did not perform at a high level for a long time and awareness of the Dutch about this sport is minimal or even absent. Not even knowledge is missing, interest is completely missing. This way I had to prepare a speech for an absolutely ‘cold’ audience.

Challenges and solutions for my speech at Toastmasters  

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My speech and slide with a question about types of figure skating

My main challenges were:

  • Create interest in the topic and do it very quickly
  • Decide how much information I am going to share. What level of detail will benefit the audience? Talking about differences between types of figure skating for me was something as talking about types of public transportation. But I had to have my audience in mind. See below what I finally decided.

My solutions:

  • Start of the speech“Do you know a sport where strength, maths (I should have used a word ‘mathematics’ here as some could have heard ‘mass’) and make-up matters?” At that moment the attention is there and everyone wants to know what kind of sport is this? 
  • Create interest for the topic right during the speech: I wanted to talk about types of figure skating (the difference between pairs and ice dancing) and judging system. And that was my problem – why do the need it? Why people who never have watched any figure skating competition will be listening about types and judging? I decided to create interest by using provoking questions. The questions were formulated in a way as if they had an obvious answer, but in reality, the obvious answer was the wrong one.
    • For example, I showed pictures of two couples: one from pairs skating and one from ice dancing and asked whether the audience can tell by looking at the photos whether these two couples competed in the same time of the sport. Everyone started to nod there heads. And then I said that no, even by looking at the pictures I can say they compete in different types of sports. This created interest from nothing and I saw that the listeners wanted to know the answer.
  • Limited my speech to two points: I decided to focus on just two topics: types and judging. Originally I wanted to talk also about what type of competitions are there and where they can be watched. Finally, I dropped this part because I could not come up with a good introductory question for this. And this information is only useful if there is a need and desire to watch.

What went good 

  • the content and structure of the speech made an effect that I expected
  • slides with photos were well-received based on feedback

What was went not so good 

  • My speech was three minutes longer. The number of words was not more than I had in my previous speeches. I probably did not take into account slides and switching between slides and questions to the audience.
  • The conclusion of the speech was better than before but worse than that start of the speech. I am still good at holding the energy and attention of the audience and have to learn to finish speech on a high note.

With this speech, I finalized Level 1 of Presentation Mastery at international Toastmasters club and I still have to do four levels and about 14 speeches. Follow me on toastmasters tag.


Toastmasters. Singing during the speech

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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.



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Feeback from the club members



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