World Speech Day Brussels, 15 March 2017



Brussels has a story to tell, and you are just the one to tell it. Our recent history of terrorism & resilience, of political upheaval & community action, was summed up by Greenpeace’s #BridgesNotWalls banner at The Women’s March. We would like to talk about the aspirations and possibilities that are now being born.


To clarify our ideas on these complex and multifaceted issues, we will move from reflection to conversation to sharing. The process will offer space to see other sides of our shared story while letting us each express our views.


We will make a 5 minute film out of the group conversations and individuals insights. The film will be posted on the World Speech Day platform to mingle with the #unexpectedvoices from every time zone. You will be able to find & share it at #WSDBrussels17

Conversation host: Jeffer London
Collaborative film-maker: Simon Koolwijk

This evening is a mash-up of multiple groups:
International Association of Facilitators
World Speech Day
Sprout to be Brussels

Wednesday 15 March 2017
18:00 Optional drinks and dinner
19.00 Welcome words
19:15 Your ideas, our film, Brussels’ speech
19:30 Small group discussion
20:00 Mix & deepen points-of-view
20:15 Consolidating & refining sound-bytes
20:30 Filming volunteers
21:00 Reflecting, sharing & editing
22:00 Posting the film

Download programme

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Artfully Improvising

​Meeting of Wednesday, 8 February 2017
Start: 19:30
Venue: Het Goudblommeke In Papier / La Fleur en Papier Doré
Pre-meeting dinner starting 18:00

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The improvised storytelling challenge

aoimprovSkillfull orators are masterful storytellers. They know how to capture the audience’s imagination both with their content and with their delivery. But how do you know when you’re really having an impact, and what can you do to flex your storytelling muscles?

AO member Jo Ann Broger and Kelly Agathos will break these skills down for you in a series of fun and entertaining games, from the world of improvisational theatre!

Want to know more about our special quest co-leading the AO Special?

Kelly AgathosKelly was introduced to improvisational theatre in 2010 and was instantly hooked. Today, she is the driving force behind ATC Improv, Brussels’ first Anglophone improvisation society, for which she performs, hosts, teaches and organises workshops with internationally acclaimed guest improvisers. She is also a founding member and the artistic director of The Ghost Sheep, with whom she performs regularly both in Brussels and abroad. Since 2014, Kelly has branched out to the corporate world, delivering the benefits of improvisation through trainings and teambuilding sessions and performances for company events. Kelly is passionate about using improvisation as a tool to foster greater self-awareness, confidence, collaboration, communication and leadership qualities in individuals and teams.

Join Kelly, Jo Ann and other Artful Orators for the Artfully Improvising Meeting on 8 February!

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Debating, storytelling and critical thinking

A Blog post by our founding member, Manie Conradie before he sets off on new adventures back to South Africa.

As always, a night at the Artful Orators did not disappoint: the theme was debating.

The meeting was kicked off with a session about debating, a very useful and undervalued skill at times. Colm lead into the evening by giving us tips and a few exercises of how to be better debaters. He also showed us some of the pitfalls to avoid that are easily exploited by an opposing debater.

I picked up how important it is to listen intentionally to be able to deliver a good rebuttal. Colm also pointed out that in a true debate situation, being able to clearly and unambiguously break down an argument, is as powerful as building one.

As an interlude Sabine brought history to life with her last project #5 in the Storytelling manual. As she vividly recounted Austria’s history,we learnt more about Maria Theresa, empress of the great Austrian empire. It is not easy to make facts interesting, especially if it happened that long ago. However Sabine managed to connect historical dots and events and show how Maria Theresa was at the centre of major European events.

Who knew that Marie Antoinette was the daughter of the Austrian empress? I certainly didn’t.

We closed off the evening with a panel session on Critical Thinking from the Facilitating Discussion manual, lead by an invited guest from the Armada Club, Maya Marcheva. Maya managed to bring together a panel of people with varying backgrounds and opinions to give a very interesting view of how critical thinking is interpreted by different people. All across the spectrum starting off in the hard sciences, through education and the social aspects of critical thinking.

My fellow panellists were well prepared, and it was a fun experience to be on a panel. It was a very different experience compared to standing in front and give a one way speech.

What stood out though from the panel was Maya’s interest to find out if people can be trained to think critically. So, do you think that people can be trained to be better at critically thinking? Is our education system properly preparing our children in this regard?

As Sandra mentioned, she had forgotten what a great manual Facilitating Discussion is, and was delighted Maya had chosen to do this project at the Artful Orators. Yet another reason why the Artful Orators is a great club: not only is it a place where we can experiment with all things relating to verbal communication, but it is also a place where sessions that don’t necessarily fit into the traditional Toastmasters club meeting agenda can be presented and explored.

This was a pleasant evening for me, and an encouraging way to say good bye to what Martin and I started two and half years ago. I can go to South Africa knowing that the club is in good hands.

Thanks Artful Orators, I hope to visit again real soon!

Life goes on, and the next Artful Orators gathering will be hosted by the very capable Jo Ann Broger with guest improv’ master Kelly Agathos from The Ghost Sheep (
As always we encourage all to sign up for speeches and roles via the usual channel: The date of the next meeting is 8 February.

Improv’ Yourself!

Come Improv’ yourself on Wednesday 8 February, at La Fleur En Papier D’Ore.

We’re thrilled Kelly Agathos will be with us on stage with Jo Ann hosting an Improv’ AO session.  Kelly is a member of Brussels’ American Theater Club’s resident improv’ troupe, The Ghost Sheep. Have a peak at their recent performance at Mount Olymprov!


The Art of Debating

​Meeting of Wednesday, 11 January 2017
Start: 19:30
Venue: Het Goudblommeke In Papier / La Fleur en Papier Doré
Pre-meeting dinner starting 18:00

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There are many ways to start a new year… why not by honing your debating skills?

Our AO Special on the Art of Debating, led by Colm, will prepare you to lead bigger and smaller debating battles in your life… And Maya’s panel discussion on the importance of critical thinking skills for being an active and well-informed citizen of the world will let you exercise speaking your mind with clarity, at the same time offering space to practice debating skills. Preparation and practice — as Toastmasters we know that this formula works!

You want more details?

The AO special will focus on the main type of reasoning used in debates — inductive reasoning — with specific focus on forming analogies, providing examples and using authority. We will also look at this from the other side — attacking analogies, check example for extremity and checking the validity of authority. We will finish by looking at true and false dillemmas and how we can use dilemmmas for persuasive value.

Sounds intriguing? Come and learn how to put your debating armour on!

Strictly Come Speaking: a night for coaching mixed with a touch of glamour

by Owen Stafford




Jeffer London may point, but clearly it’s Kirsten Ujvari who runs the show!

The Artful Orators’ Glam Shower of Coaching event was the perfect excuse to get out the glad rags and attend the famous La Fleur en Papier Doré, just outside the exquisite Sablon area of Brussels, for Strictly Come Speaking came to one of the Belgian’s capital most historic and prestigious venues, on Wednesday, 2 November.

Brussels’ advanced Toastmasters presented their own unique version of the legendary UK dance TV show Strictly Come Dancing with two multi-talented, lively and supreme hosts that could give Tess Daly and Bruce Forsyth a run for their money – the dynamic and glamorous Kirsten Ujvari and the dapper and “cool as a breeze” Jeffer London, who entertained us with their sublime charisma all evening.


Martine Reyners and Diane Weller, who better to whisper in your ear!


Graham Vincent and Hilary Peden, do you dare get their advice?

However, the Glam Shower of Coaching was not just about dressing up and strutting one’s stuff, nor was it about dancing like the show on which it modelled itself. It was a fun and entertaining way of addressing the serious business of preparing for the upcoming Toastmasters district contest in Madrid. Along the lines of our favourite dance programme’s format, both contestants and audience were able to receive expert advice on public speaking from the evening’s judges: speech evaluation champion Hilary Peden; stage and TV actress Diane Weller, familiar with viewers of BBC’s Casualty; opera soprano Martine Reyners; and Shakespearean actor Graham Vincent.

And some strong messages were to be emphasised throughout to the evening’s speakers: eye contact, body movement and voice optimisation were just three of the themes that both speakers and audience took away to ponder on from the event.


Sydney getting the Shower of Coaching.


Sydney, a bit upset at what he hears…

The first half of the show was devoted to impromptu speaking. Table Topics master Marzena Gawenda, provided subjects to keep speakers on their toes. Artful Orator Sydney Schreiber, who was all set to compete at the Toastmasters district contest in Madrid, had to choose between A Beauty Sleep or Sleeping Beauty. “We must integrate the conscious and the unconscious – welcome and embrace that sleep and connect with the other side,” he advised. The judges were suitably impressed, but constructive advice on optimisation was the name of the game.

Despite a strong performance, Sydney needed to know the best time to pause, said Hilary – preferably somewhere in the middle of his contribution. Graham advised Sydney to “push the thought rather than follow it.” “Just be yourself and don’t act” was Mr Vincent’s message.

Diane would have preferred less movement on stage, advising him to get the audience’s attention immediately before moving around. “Fill the space with your voice rather than your body – stillness is power, draw people in with this as movement can be a distraction”, Diane stressed. She added that some people try to put too much emphasis on body language, which could be unnecessary. She also complimented him highly on his vocal levels. Strong praise also came from Martine, who appreciated the energy behind Sydney’s performance, and was captivated by his story.

Other speakers in this section included Sandra Lizioli, Paulina Murrath, Jo Anne Broger and Carsten Wendt, for whom valuable advice was forthcoming from the judges. On the topic of Shakespeare or Shake It, Sandra Lizioli was told by judges she dealt very well with a difficult topic and used great body movement to convey her points. However, she was advised not to introduce new content towards the end of a short table topic.

Next up, surprise contestant Carsten Wendt was given the unenviable and broad topic of Salt, but displayed remarkable calmness and positivity, despite being put on the spot, which was the main theme throughout his contribution. The Judges thought his speech was funny, philosophical and well-structured. However, he needs to take his time to suck in the audience more to his message and make more eye contact.

Paulina Murrath was given another difficult topic, to choose between A Cocktail or Foxtail. She painted a picture of having to choose between lying on a sunny beach with a cocktail or dealing with someone who “lies”. She was resolute in her choice of a cocktail. When dealing with a hard topic, Paulina was advised to be herself, not play someone else, as well as not to panic. “Go with one option if you don’t know much about the other”, said Hilary, given her tips on dealing with difficult topics. “Keep it simple and go with what you know”, she advised.

For Joanne Broger, another surprise contestant, she received the cheeky topic of choosing between Tapas or Topless! “Why not have both?” she asked, advocating the formation of a special committee to look into the matter. Following her amusing contribution, judges complimented her on her structure, humour and body language. She was advised to slow down the pace and beware of in-jokes, should the audience consist of non-Toastmasters.

For the second half of proceedings came the main speeches, including from district contestants – no better time and place to present, in front of such judges!


Laetitia, working her magic…


…and hearing what the wizards say!

Speaking in French, Laetitia Mampaka, discussed the issue of discovering different cultures in Belgium. The visiting member of the Shape Toastmasters club had even those not fluent in French hanging on her every word. Especially the judges, who all complimented her delivery and natural speaking ability. Nonetheless, constructive advice was on hand.

Martine loved Laetitia’s content and her stance on stage. However, she urged her to use the full range of her voice, which she stated was full of power and charisma, but was not doing it justice.

For Diane, a major issue she consistently repeated throughout the evening was the need for more eye contact: it would help better relate to the audience, she advised Laetitia, adding that she needed to slow down her pace so the audience could understand her better.

Graham was seemingly captivated by Laetitia’s performance, whereby her voice invited him into her space and aura. “You want to love everything, even if you can’t understand everything: it’s a rare skill to have an audience in your hands to that extent”, he enthused. Likewise, Hilary complimented Laetitia on her clear message and structure and including the topic’s title in both the beginning and end. “It was a classical organisation but wasn’t overdone”, she said.


Bruno swoops into action…


…and lands some important feedback.

The next speaker was Bruno Trounday from the Armada Toastmasters club, who spoke in Spanish about The Truth of Dr Bruce Banner, the shy, socially withdrawn physicist who in times of stress turned into comic superhero the incredible Hulk. This was as a result of Dr Banner being exposed to Gamma radiation – which Bruno stated was “ridiculous”. He was a Toastmaster whose superpower came from doing improvisations, he added. The message, illustrated by the example of a tomato changing from green to red, was that everything, while not perfect at first, does change for the better.

Hilary complimented Bruno’s structure and visualisation. She suggested that he bring in the nub of the story – that not everything is perfect the first time – earlier on.

Graham, however, advised that when giving a well-rehearsed speech, it has to sound as if it was “made up on the spur of the moment.” It needs to be delivered with spontaneity, freshness and sparkle. He said that body movement could detract from a story, adding if needed it should become a part of the story.

Diane concurred on the importance of body movement. While he had the perfect energy, she said that his moving around on stage did not help. However, she lauded him for his eye contact as well as his musical and colourful voice.

Martine was surprised about the “emotional potential” in his voice. However, there was not enough connection with the body. She advised him not to be “too forward” with the public. “Invite the public to come to you”, she suggested.


Alexander appeals to the judges…

…and the judges make their appeal.

Next up from the Toastmasters Fonske Leuven club was Alexander Pattyn, who asked the audience what makes a great speaker: someone who can convince people to agree with them, turn bankruptcy to success and insult an audience in style, to such a degree they agree even further. That person, according to Alexander, was none other than Donald Trump! “Communicating with power, arrogance and no message at all.” He advised the audience to copy Trump’s movements to be a successful speaker.

Despite loving the speech itself, Graham was not certain about the subject matter, which he felt sailed close to wind as regards topics that should not be discussed by Toastmasters, such as religion, sex and politics.

Diane again rammed home the need for eye contact. “Take a time to look at the people; you’re having a conversation with every person in the room”. The longer the eye contact the more power you have, she assured. She also stressed that there should be less movement for more impact. In order for words to be crisper, she advised speakers to do tongue exercises.

Martine, however, disagreed on the question of eye contact, saying that people could be uncomfortable if it lasted a long time and the speaker could risk losing control of the speech. She would prefer a speaker to look in a general direction rather than directly at someone. She also loved the speech and didn’t find it too “insulting”, although he could pause more. However, Diane then reiterated that eye contact was essential for public speaking, emphasising that getting over this fear was absolutely necessary.

Meanwhile, Hilary focused on the conclusion, stating that Alexander switched the message too quickly at the end, when he said that Trump had no valuable content in his speeches. She strongly advised him to stay on message throughout and not to confuse the audience.

Once the speeches were over, more advice, feedback and constructive criticism followed when speakers individually spoke with judges and fellow members on how to optimise their performances ahead of their moment in the spotlight.

It was a night for fun, glam and entertainment, but also with more serious undertones and consequences for us all. It was not just the speakers receiving an education that night. All of us in our daily work lives, especially those of us who need to give speeches and address audiences, be it for the public or our colleagues, can benefit hugely from events like these. So many thanks for the advice and feedback are merited – even more so as we received all this in the format of everyone’s favourite dance show, while dressed up in our best outfits. What more could you ask for?







The Sound of Musicals

Meeting of Wednesday, 14 December
Start: 19:30
Venue: Het Goudblommeke In Papier / La Fleur en Papier Doré
Pre-meeting dinner starting 18:00

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Breath. Voice. Song. Speech.

Did you ever wonder what makes the Musical genre so popular with audiences? Did you ever wonder what benefits an exploration of this question can provide to speech makers? Well, we think that it is the musical’s integration of story, meaning, voice and movement that is the secret of its success.

We also believe that these ingredients can help us become more effective speakers. Why? Because resonance with music and voice connects us to ourselves, to our very core.


We welcome you to attend the Artful Orators December Meeting “The Sound of Musicals” where we will play with breath, voice, song and speech. Our hope it that during this evening, you will experience and connect to your voice and body in a deeper way, which will have a positive effect on your speaking voice and the delivery of your message.

We invite you to join us for an experiential workshop that will raise your awareness of the links between breath, voice and hearing, feeling and meaning, song and speech.

Be ready to explore your voice and sing with the help one or two of the following songs:

Singing in the Rain (American in Paris)
— Gene Kelly: 

Somewhere over the rainbow (Wizard of Oz)
— Judy Garland: 

— Frank Sinatra: 

Ol’ Man River (Show Boat)
— Paul Robeson: 

Do Re Mi (Sound of Music)

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