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.

Public speaking club Toastmasters

Блог Listen to your broccoli | Toastmasters

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.

Блог Listen to your broccoli | Toastmasters

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.


Utrecht. What to see


Утрехт, каналы | Блог Listen to your broccoli

“The worst is when they are throwing up in our flowerpots”, “It became a second Venice, city stolen by tourists” – these are just a couple of headlines about issues with tourists in Amsterdam. I have been hearing about this problem for a couple of years. There is no way to hide from tourists in Amsterdam. Also for tourists. What should they do in order to see the Netherlands? Maybe go to Utrecht?:)

If I would be visiting Utrecht as a tourist, this would be my advice to myself:

  • Leave the station and do not get stuck in the shops. Utrecht train station extended itself into a big shopping mall. High ceilings, popular brands, and chains.


  • Visit Olivier Cafe. A secret and at the same time popular place. This is a Belgian bar in the premises which were a church previously (schuilkerk  – a church that is situated in a normal house and does not look like a church from outside. Such types of churches existed in Europe for different branches of the Christian church. It is peculiar that though it is a very well-known place, it is still not overwhelmed by tourists, office workers still come here for drinks after work.



  •  Utrecht canals are also very special and different from the Amsterdam ones. You can walk following them or take about. 


  • Visit a district with the most expensive houses (Wittevrouwen) and check out how inconvenient the entrances and stairs can look like in the houses for such prices.


  • Eat Mario sandwich (the most famous street sandwich in Utrecht) or Ben sandwich (street lunch place that has a selection of about 40 types of sandwiches).
Утрехт, бутерброд Марио | Блог Listen to your broccoli
Утрехт, бутерброд Бен | Блог Listen to your broccoli

And if you want to become part of the city life, you can join one of Utrecht festivals and events as there are plenty of those: theatre festival, student festival (students rooms become podiums for a day),  medival music festival and many others.

Utrecht what to see


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.