Delicate Balance

An Exco member said she couldn’t sustain and she’d like to quit.  Our term has barely begun.  Upon checking if I was the problem – giving her too much pressure and breathing down her neck, she told me frankly that I was micromanaging.

This reminded me of what a colleague said about me – being a busybody – and another phrase she uses at times “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

I thought I was helping out to lighten the heavy workload but I didn’t expect it to be seen as micromanaging.  It’s very me to always offer a hand without others asking for it, and this has prompted my colleague to make the forementioned comment.

Perhaps like what Jun said, I was overly enthusiastic.

Lesson learnt.  I’ll take a hands-off approach from now on.

When she said she wanted to quit, my first thought was I’d be the first president/president-elect in the club’s decades of history to drive an exco member to resign even before the term has started.

I couldn’t help but feeling down and teary-eyed because of this episode and an incident of whether we should host the contests which prompted Edward to raise his concern.  Jun has said Edward wouldn’t speak up unless the matter is serious.

I didn’t expect him to have an issue so early in my term (strictly speaking my reign hasn’t even begun).

How I wish I had not accepted the post. I was naive when I did it.

I’m sure they will remember me as the president who gives them trouble.







Sharpening the Knife

Seven new members broke the ice at the 25th June meeting. Among them, there were a few whose speeches provided food for thought.

Richard spoke about how he tried and tried to get employment in Singapore. As he said, it’s “five years in the making”. His perseverance is admirable. Lai, his girlfriend, who is also a newbie here, ended her speech saying “The fear we don’t face becomes our limits”.

Pradeep as general evaluator advised us on the protocol to address the attendees: Club President XXX, District Director YYY, Division U Director ZZZ, U3 Director AAA, members and guests. On subsequent mention, it will be “as before, members and guests”.

He also said we should keep applauding from the moment a speaker starts walking to the lectern till he/she speaks.

When the language evaluator went through our errors, he said we can’t conquer the fear of public speaking but we overcome the nervousness. Conceptually I’m not certain about this. No one is able to deliver a speech without feeling anxiety, not even a consummate speaker or politician?

As for the metaphor he used for the appropriate length of the speech – he employed the analogy of the length of the skirt – which I think some might find it sexist and if my memory serves me well, this was an example in a book on public speaking of sensitivities to take note of.

But the language evaluator provided some advice I agreed with. He said a speaker is like a knife, getting blunt over time, he needs to be sharpened. That’s why we are here.

He also suggested that we try our best in coining our own analogies for our speeches. In addition, use a variety of words and not just repeating the same word “good”, for example, pleasant, fantastic, fabulous and marvellous.

He reminded us to quote the source when we mention a quote so that audience would not mistake us as the originator, or say “I once heard…”.

Lastly, this blog shall end with the values of Toastmasters, as embodied in the acronym RISE: Respect, Integrity, Service and Excellence.


Focus on the Toastmasters and care for them, and your key performance indicators (KPIs) will fall into place,  the KPIs are the means to the end, not the end itself.

Pradeep, whom I mentioned in my first blog on my public speaking learning journey, gave me the abovementioned advice (to that effect) as he wrapped up his evaluation of the chapter meeting on 25th June.

Just before the chapter meeting and installation of the executive committee, I had a brief word with Pradeep. I told him I had to meet the key performance indicators (KPIs) to earn the Distinguished Club status for our club.  Before I was elected as an executive committee officer, I didn’t know there were KPIs and the president with his/her deputies would work together to earn the recognition by satisfying some requirements including having X number of members completing their manuals. No wonder Michelle had been urging me to do my projects and yet I was taking my own sweet time as I’d not like to rush through things.

Frankly speaking, I wouldn’t care whether or not the club has the Distinguished Club status because I’m a person who puts substance over form but I have to put interest of the club before my own preference. Pradeep on hearing my concerns to meet KPIs, advised me instead to focus on caring for the members and this would in turn help the club gain its status.

I joined the club just one year but I was fortunate to have met people very kind to me.  Pradeep and Garry, despite being very senior in Toastmasters, always give me brotherly advice.

Pradeep messaged in the club’s chat group, saying he would be attending the chapter meeting for me and he’s behind our executive committee.  Touched by his camaraderie.

Garry encouraged me with his analogy of how a newbie wouldn’t decline an assignment from his/her employer just because he/she is new to the job. He has a point. That’s right, being a rookie doesn’t mean I would not be able to discharge the duties of president well. I think my concern is I find the heavy responsibility daunting and the fact that I’m not very familiar with Toastmasters system and the club.

After I delivered my inaugural speech as president, and as I took my seat, Taichi extended his hand over and congratulated me on my speech.  I was grateful because it’s an assuring gesture as i had just discharged my first duty as president.

Later, during the break for refreshments, Taichi said he liked my speech.  He felt I was sincere and I had in my speech gave recognition to everyone who has contributed.  I was heartened to hear this from Taichi.

Initially when I heard him paying compliments to my speech,  my immediate response was he liked my speech because I had recognised his contribution.  On reflection, I thought it was so mean of me. I was ashamed of myself.  It seems, I am not that sincere,  after all.  To redeem myself, I whatsapp-ed him that night to thank him for liking my speech and I appreciate his feedback, just like I appreciate what he’s been doing for the club. I added that his contribution hasn’t gone unnoticed.

I admired him for working quietly behind the scenes and therefore paid homage to him along  with other executive committee officers. While some play their role in full public view, others labour equally hard in the background.  There is no difference in their contribution, only in their roles. Leader, undoubtedly, plays an important role but that doesn’t mean that other roles can be trivialised and you need someone to play these other roles.

The meeting had incorporated an installation of executive committee officers and induction of new members. The event was graced by pioneer members and high ranking Toastmasters from the district, division and area levels. It was a who’s who gathering. And it was after the meeting, while trying to find out more about Toastmasters from Jun and Anthonius that I learned that the humble and unassuming Pradeep is a very senior officer and he used to be in charge of Toastmasters Singapore and Thailand. Wow. Talk about modesty.


I have not become Vice President Education.

Nor have I become sergeant-at-arms or secretary.

I am now president of the club.  Yes, I had a fast-track progression because the original President-elect Angela had to withdraw from the post as a result of last-minute overseas assignments.

Here’s my speech at the installation – which from drafting to delivery took only eight days and broke my record.  I was fortunate that I was given the assignment when I was on leave from work and therefore I had time to craft, rewrite and practise (perhaps 30 times before I delivered to a packed room).

Hesperus, you are a new member here, what made you join toastmasters?

Lai, what about you?

Garry, you’ve been here for some time, why would you prefer to be here to, say, having a nap, playing computer games at home or watching a movie?

Just like Hesperus, Garry and Lai, and most of us here, I joined Toastmasters to develop my public speaking skills and conquer the fear of speaking in front of people.

When I joined the club one year ago, I knew nothing about appointments for meetings or executive committee.

But soon I became a timer, an ah-counter, a table topic master and a Toastmaster of the Day, the truth is I have been slow in doing my projects, so I wanted to redeem myself and be active during meetings.

I took on appointments pretty often, it was perhaps enough to give Michelle some ideas.

Some months ago, she checked with me if I would like to be the next sergeant at arms, I said I might not be able to come much earlier to set up the room.

How about secretary,  I counter proposed.  How often does the executive committee meet, I asked Michelle.

Once a quarter, she replied.

Wow, that suits me.

I’m a free-spirited person, as far as possible I like to avoid commitments.  But I can’t just benefit from the club without contributing.

So, I was to be the next secretary.

Weeks later, Jun said he would like me to be the VPE, together with Michelle, sharing her heavy workload. Michelle being a responsible and experienced VPE gave me confidence that I would be fine.

So I agreed.

When we had the election,  my supposed role hadn’t changed but I became the 1st VPE with Tricia the 2nd VPE.  Tricia, to me, seems to be a very steady person and is always on top of the situation.  I knew I would be in good hands.

Guess what?

That’s not the end of the story, of how my supposed exco role evolved,  from SAA to secretary to 2nd vpe to the official vpe.

Last Friday, Jun said the president-elect Angela had been assigned a new project that would require her to be away often and the position of the president had as a result been vacated.

Jun said he had got everything ready for the installation, except the President.

So that’s how I ended up being the president.  How I wish I had such fast track progression at work.

Jun told me to do a speech for this installation, something inspiring.

On this, I would like to share something very honest.

A few months after I joined toastmasters, the thought of quitting fleeted across my mind.

I found myself spending much more time than expected on toastmasters.

I would read the manual for each project before embarking on the research for my speech. Just gathering information for my draft could take me the whole month. And I would watch YouTube for ideas and tips.

Furthermore, after each chapter meeting, I would blog about it, on what transpired, what I should have done and how I should improve.  Blogging takes about 2-3 hours.

But the thought of quitting was quickly extinguished at the following meeting,  when Garry the Toastmaster of the day, reminded us why YOU and I walked through THAT door in the first place.

Yes. That’s right.

Why?  We’re here to hone our public speaking skills.

For you to have walked through that door and are STILL here today, you deserve a round of applause.

Now, give the toastmasters next to you a pat on the back, as well.

As the slogan of Liverpool football club says


Your public speaking learning journey in the past year would NOT have been possible without this GREAT team.

We were privileged to have Jun for the past 2 years,  as the President, who has set the bar too high for me; VPE Michelle who had to fill whatever appointments not taken up at meetings.

Working equally hard behind the scene were VPM Tricia, VPPR Garry and SAA Taichi.

Eg, we have this room ready for use, the projector flashing our ideas and even the Styrofoam cups that we drink from, it’s all thanks to the SAA, Taichi.

Taichi would arrive earlier than us but be the last to leave,  to set up the room before meetings and clean up the place after meetings.

Without them, their selfless contribution, their effective facilitation, we’d not have been able to sharpen our skills here and let the butterflies in our stomach fly in formation.

Please give them a round of applause.

*Next, a lady who deserves our recognition as well. She would have been here addressing you if not for her work engagements, let’s show our appreciation for Angela.*

As for the term ahead,  please give YOUR utmost support to YOUR vpe sheila,  YOUR vpm lynn, YOUR vppr Michelle, YOUR SAAs Jamie and Taichi, as well as me.

We would, to the best of our abilities, make your learning journey as fruitful as possible .

Before I wrap up this speech, let’s remind ourselves why we are here – let’s shout it out.

Let’s REMEMBER this.

Thank you.

** Was not delivered because Angela was absent.



My project speech research was going nowhere – despite almost a month of racking my brain and googling for ideas.

The next best thing I thought I should do is to tackle the Table Topics and so I did. While it wasn’t the first time I did an impromptu speech, I decided I should read up on how I should structure this think-and-speak-on-your-feet speech. I won’t improve if I keep committing the same mistakes and I feel my speeches aren’t structured.

According to the tips available online, one can use PREP format: Point, Reason, Example and Point. Alternatively, it’s the 1H and 5Ws structure.

I understood.

When the Table Topics segment began, I wrote the PREP structure on the back of the programme sheet.

Alas! When I was at the lectern, I just blurted out whatever came to my mind, throwing PREP to the wind.

Today’s topics are toasting to the subject one drew on.  My subject was Jun and I should have first introduced him for the benefit of the guests who were late and didn’t hear the opening address by Jun.

I commended him on being a great leader, using some of the contents of his opening address – better communicator, leader and collaborator.

I related the incident when I was left out in the group chat, resulting in me turning up when there was no meeting.  Jun apologised to me at the following meeting.

Before attending today’s meeting, I decided I would speak during the Table Topics segment. Though I somewhat wavered when the segment began, I was glad I didn’t back out.

Here I was, out of my own volition – as was every Toastmaster – forgoing our Saturday afternoon where we could be at the beach – putting in effort to hone public speaking skill, I’d better seize every opportunity.

Jun cited the example of Taichi, who wanted so much to improve his skill that he has the honour of being the Table Topics King.  And he speaks clearly with confidence nowadays. Not forgetting that he has been consistently delivering his prepared speeches, completing ten of them in a year. I shall look up to him and strive to be the Table Topics Queen, at least.

During the 1 minute 48 second impromptu speech, I had several pause -fillers (three Ahs, one Um, two Rights and one OK) and I think this is unacceptable given that it was a short speech. But I don’t know how I can remove these fillers.

This is where I hope Toastmaster, meetings would help shed some light. As I have written, we will not improve despite numerous practices because we don’t know how to do it. So, one must complement one’s attendance at the meetings with reading and watching YouTube on the techniques one can learn and employ.

Besides remembering to use a structure for my Table Topic speech, I must remind myself to greet the attendees. I didn’t realise I had forgotten to do it until visiting Toastmaster, Gideon, spoke as a General Evaluator though he didn’t mention my oversight.

We had a couple from South Korea among the guests and the man who introduced himself as BK started the Table Topics speeches rolling by being the first to volunteer a speech. His passion and courage to speak in front of strangers were admirable. Perhaps when I am overseas, I would visit a local club to see how things are done.

Gideon didn’t beat about the bush when it came to general evaluation and there was a lot of room for improvement, going by his evaluation, which Jun said we must have become blindsided over time.

The areas for improvement:

* start on time; we can have a 10-minute buffer but having 2pm-2.10pm for Registration & Fellowship

* tidy up the room

* use black/blue ink instead of red because words written in the latter aren’t visible to the people seated at the back

* proper attire – no singlets or slippers

* when Toastmasters or guests are speaking, others shouldn’t move around so that they will not distract the speakers

On the point of starting the meeting on time, when we were having exco meeting, Jun shared that he once asked why Taichi always turns up at 1pm, a whole hour before the meeting and Taichi’s reply was “I’m Japanese”. Kudos to the Japanese for respecting other people’s time and Taichi for exemplifying this Japanese strength, just like the public transport precise schedule, and not do as the Romans or for that matter Singaporeans do. I don’t like to be late either because I would get flustered and stressed out.

There were only Jamie and Tricia delivering prepared speeches. Tricia shared the defect her son has and talked about cleft lip for her project seven. I have been resisting talking about my own experience as I feel naked if people know too much about me. In fact, I had wanted to be low key about my occupation initially.

Jun when evaluating Tricia’s speech, reminded her to use genderneutral term such as parent and not mother because there were males among us. For me, this is a point to bear in mind for future speeches.


BK, guest Table Topics speaker, from South Korea.

Vice President Education

Our club elected the executive committee for 2016-2017.  Strictly speaking, there was no election but we were invited by the President,  Jun, and we agreed to it. Voila, we were then appointed/elected.

Angela is the President-elect while I would take over the mantle of Vice President Education (VPE) from Michelle, with present VP  Membership Tricia as the second VPE.

Actually, I don’t like commitments because I am not sure whether I would be able to deliver given how busy I am at work,  and I don’t want to disappoint.  Just like I bought insurance only when I turned 30 and not earlier as I wasn’t sure about the financial commitment.

Nonetheless I decided to give it a shot and cross the bridge when we come to it.

The problem with me is I tend to think too much and this hampers my development and progress.  A case in point is buying property – I’ve reservation about the huge and long-term financial commitment, especially worried about the means to service the mortgage loan in an economic downturn.

Oops, I have digressed.

After Jun proposed that I take up the office of VPE, I googled the role and responsibilities when I was researching for my project five speech.  It seems like a pretty heavy role but I will do my best while delivering my project speeches.

I’d probably blog about my experience as VPE – the behind-the-scenes work to put the chapter meetings going – in this new learning journey.

Stay tuned.