Be My Valentine

There were not many times when Table Topics would evoke love and smiles.  But Table Topics master Joyce did a lovely job at the meeting on 11 February 2017.  She got every one of us draw a chocolate from a jar and those who drew one with a number hidden inside will get to…speak on Table Topics.

With the theme of Be My Valentine, there are no prizes for guessing what the Table Topics were about – LOVE, of course.  Unconditional love, justified love, endless love, love has got to do with it, love takes time…

As fate would have it – that’s the subject Chen Kuang talked about coincidently (known as Amor Fati – love of fate), Edwin drew a chocolate with a number and it’s not just any number.  It was significant that the number was “1” – it aptly signified his maiden attempt at Table Topics and him emerging the best/number one Table Topics speaker.  Hopefully, it won’t be his one and only Table Topic speech ever.

This episode led me to think that Edwin is one who wants to keep a low profile about his strengths, and of course, he doesn’t want to put in too much effort either.  That’s why he has never done a project evaluation as it is somewhat an impromptu speech as well.

Edwin talked about four lovers one would likely to have, namely first love, the one he/she loves more than the person loves him/her, the person loves him/her more, and the person one is married to.  He sounded like a love guru.

I don’t know which is better – you love the person more than he/she loves you or the other way round. Never been in a romantic relationship, not qualified to give my two-cents’ worth.  But I think love should be unconditional.  If I love a person, I would hope the best for him, even if my love is unrequited.

Jean’s Table Topic was “the Greatest Love of All”, and she said that would be her family.  But she didn’t limit her family to only her family members but extended that to us as well. I was touched. She once told me that she had probably put in too much feelings into the club.

Pradeep commended Taichi on the ice-breaker as it had helped attendees to warm up.  Indeed, ice-breaker is useful in livening up the atmosphere and helped members to ease into the meeting on a Saturday afternoon.  Taichi asked us five questions and we would write the most-likely popular answer on a piece of paper.  Each of us would then reveal our answer and participants whose answer was the most popular would score a point for that answer.  Jamie and Edwin scored the highest points, and they were rewarded with a chocolate by Taichi.

Taichi shared that Japan chocolatiers make half of their annual revenue on Valentine’s Day.  Wow! That’s amazing.  And the ladies would present a gift to the men they like on Valentine’s Day, and be reciprocated a month later if the love is requited.

Shanmugam talked about himself, including the joy when he first saw his two-month old baby boy after he returned from his work overseas to his hometown in India.  He was beaming with joy when he spoke and I could feel his fatherly love for his boy.

It’s been quite some time since Chen Kuang attended meeting.  He did his project three and he waxed lyrical about love of fate or Amor Fati in Latin.  He clinched the best speaker title for it.  Well done!

Lu Bin’s speech “Bet or Not” was timely, given that there was a lottery just the day before, and four winning tickets split the prize winnings of a whopping $12m. Bet or not bet, that’s the question.  Lu Bin had made a correct observation that many punters are elderly.  Indeed, I have seen not an insignificant number of grey-haired in the snaking queue at a betting centre.  One of them was holding a $50 note.  Joyce who evaluated Lu Bin’s speech cleverly married his topic with the theme of the meeting – love’s a gamble.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Both Edwin and Jean had a number hidden in their chocolates.


Joyce did a lovely job as a Table Topics Master. She gave us a brief history of Valentine’s Day and used billboard hits as topic titles.


Amor Fati won Chen Kuang the Best Speaker award, keep it up!


Express to Impress…NOT.

Perhaps I am not a persuasive speaker. Or I am not one yet.

I have delivered a persuasive speech but I did not manage to persuade the project evaluator Jacky and general evaluator Pradeep that I made it.

Jacky recommended that I use myself as an example of how having read the book that I was sharing with members would make the speech more persuasive.  That’s the Before-After effect to enhance persuasion.

And instead of talking about the book, I should share the benefits of reading the book, that is the why.

Lastly, he said that I should adopt more open gestures with wide-stretched arms in my delivery.

Pradeep bluntly said that I did not meet the project objectives, as the speech should be about my viewpoint and opinion, not the author’s.  He added that selling is not allowed and that I sounded like a publicist or agent for the author.

I note their points…but I’m confused by their comments.

Just like to explain how and why I crafted my speech this way.

I read the book only a week ago and have not had the opportunity to put the techniques into practice.  Therefore, there’s no Before-After effect to talk about.

While I used the contents of the book as illustration, this is to show the benefits of reading it. Perhaps I wasn’t direct or explicit in drawing the link between reading the book and the benefits. How does one know what benefits a product offers without knowing the features of the product?  Eg, if the customer wants a car, you would sell on the features including speed, safety and price. No?

As for the comments by Pradeep, with respect, I wonder if they were valid.

I wasn’t selling the book. In fact, I didn’t even buy my copy, it’s from the library. I don’t know the author personally either.

And I am not sure if selling is prohibited by Toastmasters International.  Though I must categorically deny that I was selling.

While the tips I shared in my speech were from the book, they were, in my opinion, helpful and relevant to the members.

You may think I am being defensive or sore about the criticisms. I am not.

I accept the point about the gestures or the lack of Before-After effect. In fact, not only these, I feel I might have looked stiff – I need to relax a bit more.

I have delivered nine projects with one more to go before completing the manual. While I am somewhat more steady and confident in speaking, I feel my skill still sucks. I don’t agree with Pradeep’s assessment that I have improved – from a kindergarten student to an A-level 3 (Is there A-level 3? Perhaps he meant pre-university year 3). I still have a very long way to go to being a consummate speaker.

This project has dealt a dent to my confidence.  I am not certain if I could handle project 10 on inspirational speech, especially when I am never a ra-ra person.

Perhaps it’s good to have a break after doing 10 projects.  It’s been taxing and draining since I took over as president. And I think I am merely running the club without leading it.

Time to take stock after I step down.  Looking forward to it.

Stepping down will take a load off my shoulders.


Good afternoon, Toastmasters and guests.

Among prepared  speeches, table topics and evaluation,WHICH segments of Toastmasters meeting do you find  the most DAUNTING?

Toastmaster Taichi, why?

Like Toastmaster Taichi, I find table topics nerve-racking as well. You know I do, if you have noticed I would look away during appropriate times during Table Topics, or look at Table Topics King Taichi and signal to him to volunteer himself.

Toastmaster Jean, when you were about to make your first attempt at project evaluation,  you asked me if there’s a template for it.  Remember?

Like Toastmaster Jean, when I first tried my hand at speech evaluation, I wondered what I should look out for.

So, every time I need an answer, be it on how to make Table Topics less of a menace or how to structure a project evaluation, I would do what some if not most of you would do – Google.

But, recently I stumbled upon a book and it provides most of the answers I need.

It’s entitled Express to Impress[prop] . And I STRONGLY RECOMMEND you read it.[prop]

Why SHOULD you read Express to Impress?

Because it offers a WEALTH of TIPS , STRATEGIES and TECHNIQUES.

Look at the contents page of the book, there are 11 chapters.

The author touched on a VARIETY of topics, ranging from the myths of public speaking to understanding different genres of speech, to tickling the audience with humour.

Therefore, Express to Impress introduces you to different aspects of public speaking.

Some of you might say, even if the book has a LOT of information if it’s not HELPFUL, not USEFUL, then it’s not MEANINGFUL.

That brings me to the OTHER reason why you SHOULD read Express to Impress.

Because the materials are PRACTICAL and HIGHLY RELEVANT to us.

Express to Impress was written by someone like YOU AND ME – a Toastmaster.  Author DARREN TAY is from Punggol Toastmasters Club.

He shared in the book his TRIED-AND-TESTED public speaking techniques, strategies and tips.

Darren is the 2016 World Champion of Public Speaking. He is the first Singaporean to have clinched the coveted title.

Toastmaster Taichi, Express to Impress says you can prepare for table topics, would you like to know how.

Preparing for table topics is akin to preparing for job interviews. We go to a job interview with prepared answers to expected questions like why should we hire you.

According to Express to Impress, we can prepare for Table Topics too, by practising topics of various genres

Eg, Darren prepared at least 10 stories and practised for months before a  contest, with each of his story having more than one message. The message that he would deliver at the contest then depends on the Table Topic he is given.

There you go, while Table Topics requires you to deliver an impromptu speech, it DOESN’T mean it CAN’T be prepared.

Toastmaster Jean, Express to Impress has tips on PROJECT EVALUATION, keen to find out?

Darren, in Express to Impress, recommended the use of several techniques for project evaluation. I’ll share with you two of the techniques here.

Technique #1. Be specific.

Don’t just say your speech was good, but elaborate on what made the speech good.

Technique #2 Be creative.  Eg,  your speech title is LOVE, let me then use the acronym LOVE to evaluate your speech.
L for Logical flow, O for organisational structure, V for Vigour of your delivery and E for Enhancement.

As for me, using a tip from the book, I have started building a bank of phrases and contents for use in future speeches.  Eg, I hardly paid attention to advertising slogan. But the advertising slogan of isotonic drink 100 plus is now in my bank of phrases.  The drink uses the power of three in its advertising slogan -rehydrate, refresh and re-energise.

Having shared snippets from Express to Impress, it’s not hard to see why you should read Express to Impress[prop]. And I urge you to read it.

Express to Impress[prop]offers YOU a wealth of practical and highly relevant public speaking tips.

By tapping Darren’s rich experiences crystallised in the book[prop], we could cut short our learning curve.

Express to Impress[prop]will EXPRESS your Toastmasters journey, leaving you IMPRESSED

In love with public speaking

Here’s my opening speech as President for the meeting on 11 February 2017

I was at a function a few days ago. About 40 of us were standing around.

The leader of the host organisation clutched the script in his left hand and his right was holding a microphone.

I was standing on his right, less than a metre away. From where I was, I could see there were only two paragraphs on his script.

Shortfly after he started delivering his speech, he placed his script on a table, tucked his left hand into the back of his trousers. Then he passed the microphone to his left hand, freeing his right hand to rest it in his pocket.

From time to time, he read from the script and moved from side to side. Then his left hand in the back of his trousers again, followed by his right hand in the trousers pocket.

I didn’t hear much about what he’s saying because his body was busy talking to me instead.

Unknown to him, his fidgety body language had betrayed his nervousness.

At that moment, I thought to myself, thank goodness I’ve joined Toastmasters. While I am still a long way from being a consummate public speaker, at least it is work in progress. And I’ve been consistently practising giving a speech to manage the nerves.

Along the way in my Toastmasters journey, I have developed a love for public speaking. From reading books and watching YouTube clips. I came to appreciate that public speaking is more than speech delivery and taming the butterflies in your stomach.

I am fascinated by how harnessing the power of words and injection of humour, can bring a speech alive and make a speaker charming.

What about you, have you fallen in love with public speaking?

Don’t miss our dates with public speaking every second Saturday and last Saturday of the month.