Why I hate to talk about myself – Holding my Icebreaker speech

Every journey starts with the first step – and with Toastmasters International this first step is your Icebreaker speech. This speech aims to introduce yourself to your club members shortly and lightly using funny and amusing anecdotes.

I did go another road. I wanted to take a risk and challenge me from the beginning. Therefore, I chose to get real personal and share facts that might make others, and I feel uncomfortable. However, I also wanted to share a positive message through this radical openness. This was important to me as I firmly believe the things that I had to go through in life made me stronger and that sharing my experiences might make one of you feel a little better.

I followed the structure taught in the corresponding module in my ‘Effective Coach’ pathway: Interesting topic – opening – body – conclusion. I struggled the most with the end and worked with my mentor Keyla fine-tuning content and wording. I will have to work on how to best close a speech as I do not have a feeling for the right sweet spot. We all know these speeches that go on and on and on, and we wished the speaker would have finished an hour ago.

So here it is, my very first Toastmaster speech! Enjoy!


‘Your Icebreaker is about you – and that should be your favourite topic to talk about.

Dear fellow Toastmasters, guests and friends, actually I hate to talk about myself.

I grew up in a small German town, with two loving parents and a younger brother. For most of my childhood, my grandmother was around to help to raise us, as both my parents were working back then, We have been an average higher middle-class family with a house, pets and an annual summer holiday. My parents raised me both protestant and social democratic. Civic engagement, social justice, and cultural activities are high held values. After a smooth carrier, I went to university and aspired to become a teacher. In 2017, I moved to Brussels. Today, I have an indefinite, full-time contract in a job that generates enough income for me to give a decent living, here in the heart of Europe.

That brings me to tonight. As you might guess, my life has not been this average and easy rundown of geographical, personal, and educational cornerstones that I just shared with you. Nevertheless, they are all true.

Let me tell you another story about myself, which is equally true, but harder to share.

The school was never easy. I never had to redo a class, but I did not fit in. I was too tall – too lively – too curious – too polite – too whatever my classmates came up with that day. I was a victim of bullying and spend most of my years in school alone. At home, I was loved and supported and still also there things weren’t as easy as they looked. Most of my close family members struggle with sicknesses that do not just affect their path, but also our shared life. I had to start working at the age of 14. Due to these facts, I left school not just with the highest secondary school degree but also with my first burn out.

In university, my dreams about what it means to become a teacher did not match with the contemporary academic teachings and the educational reality. My fellow students and professors did not welcome my idealism. Due to my mother’s early retirement, I had to support myself – and in part my family too. Therefore, I was forced to combine classes with two jobs, which led to medical consequences I still face today. In 2016, after a severe operation, I dropped out of university without a degree. I moved to Brussels for a job aligned with my values and aims. I lost this job just a couple of month later when the leadership of the organisation changed.

Today, I am a chronic pain patient in a high-pressure job that negatively impacts my body and soul and barely covers my costs of living – and the payback of debts acquired during my time at university.

Dear fellow Toastmaster, at the beginning of the speech, I told you that I hate to talk about myself. If I am honest, I actually hate that every time someone asks me to say something about myself I have to choose between these two stories.

Do I tell the first one and confirm what was assumed by just looking at me? Or do I say the second story and risk scaring the person off or making myself vulnerable? Both, the story you see and the one that is hard to share, make me who I am today.

The truth about having these two stories is, that being able to tell the first story give e the safety to choose to say the second and give hope through how I became who I am.

Thank you.’


I got a lot of positive feedback from my club member and came second in the vote for the best speech of the night. Nevertheless, I did not manage to go back to the meeting since then and only logged into the online platform once but did not keep working on it. It’s hard for me to go back to a group after I skipped a couple of meeting. I feel guilty and that I let everybody down by not showing up. Next week is the last meeting of the year, and I want to use this post as motivation to go there. Fingers crossed…

What do you do when you fall off the track? Would you be interested in me delivering the speech on video? I would love to hear your feedback!

Love and appreciation,




What toast has to do with Public Speaking – Toastmasters Tuesday

On a hot and muggy May evening, I stumbled into an even hotter and muggier top floor of a co-working space in Brussels. I had signed up for a Communication and Leadership Training via a MeetUp group. The event was hosted by a Toastmasters club.

In my tired and sunburned brain, I was wondering what toast had to do with communication and leadership and how do you master a toast. . That’s when I discover that there is a global organisation dedicated to empowering individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders, called Toastmasters International.

So what is this Toastmaster International? According to their website, they are a world leader in communication and leadership development bringing together more ha bogomil-mihaylov-519207-unsplash357,000 members in local clubs all over the world. Their local clubs hold frequent meetings in which members can train their skills in impromptu speeches, the so-called table topic, or with prepared ones.

Just recently Toastmaster International launched a new educational programme called Pathways. In the programme, you can follow one of ten learning path which trains you up to 300 distinct competencies. Some of the different tracks are Dynamic Leadership, Motivational Strategies, Innovative Planning and Team Collaboration.

The club I joined is called Atomium Toastmasters of Brussels after the symbol of the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair and is  Dutch and English speaking. The members create a cosy and compassionate environment which is extremely welcoming and supportive.

I felt welcome and secure from the first meeting on. It feels more like a small bubbly family despite the necessary formality of the exercise. Never was a speaker let down or received a harsh and unjustified evaluation. Everyone values the efforts and development of the others. The speakers are cheered, and all new members are encouraged to get in touch with a more experienced speaker to be their mentor.

I was toying with the idea of joining a public speaking training for a while by then. Many people told me that I am a good speaker, but it all was more intuitive than planned. I was interested in systematising my approach and using it as an effective tool in my practice. Maybe even training people in public speaking myself down the road. Beyond that, I developed in recent years the longing to share my story with a broader audience. As trainer and facilitator, my role is more neutral and passive, but I also wanted to put myself out there and speak about topics that matter to me.antenna-503044-unsplash

So why I am sharing this with you here? As I mentioned in my last week’s post, I want to widen the scope of Affective Facilitation to give all my interest a home in it. Also, I believe Public Speaking is strongly connected with Facilitation as practice. We as facilitator stand in front of groups and speak all the time. To communicate effectively and efficiently is a crucial skill for us. We are not of any help to our participants when they can not understand the meaning and purpose of our input or questions.

Therefore, besides sharing the speeches that I will give at our Club meeting, I will share tips and tricks for public speaking, other fantastic speaker’s journey, and how to use public speaking in our facilitation work.

Are you fond of public speaking or do you prefer to be in the audience? What do you always wanted to know about public speaking? Leave me your answers in the comments below.

Love and appreciation!


Toastmaster Tuesday will be a bi-weekly instalment. So you can expect the next TT on Tuesday the 13th of November.