Toastmaster Manish delivered his personal best speech to date last Saturday for his project 10.  He was generous to share his script with me, and here it is:

How many of you felt an anxiety when you were told to go on a stage and speak…

You are not the only one, I am an old member of this club.

Some of you will relate to this boy – Bright, knows his stuff, full of ideas but never raises the hand to volunteer to answer, in fact it’s the other way round.

I can really relate to this during my school days! A bit nervous on a big stage but great in an informal set-up.

I am not very close to you and I don’t know your motivations but going by the project ask, I am supposed to inspire you. Have to think about one common theme that binds all of us . What is that? Yes, all of us are here to get better in public speaking.

I am going to share with you some stories about me and hopefully you will relate to them.

1st story – setting is early year 2004, Citibank regional head office in London. After successful implementation of strategically very important project, I was chosen amongst the top officers to undergo senior level project management training in London. Towards the end, I was supposed to come forward and debrief the seniors and colleagues about my learning and accomplishment.

I stumbled, fumbled, mumbled….and just about managed to complete it (pause) to the dismay of people watching me. This happened when I was well into 8-9 years of my already successful career. I was posted to Dubai then. When I returned, my boss who was a Distinguished Toastmaster told me that I have the talent and potential, however my ability or inability to communicate on a big stage can be a blocker. He suggested that I join Toastmasters. I went, signed as a guest couple of times, fumbled in one the table topics and then never signed up. What you see, so many guests and new members here…they don’t come back. I did the same, this was an easy route – ESCAPE!

2nd Story –Singapore incident. Fast forward to June 2014, I was given a charge to head a big portfolio across multiple geographies – UK, India and Singapore. It so happened that one of the directors quit in Singapore and I was told to take over from him. He was heading a team of 30 people and he introduced me to the team and then looked at me to say a few words. I started confidently but suddenly felt a rush of blood and anxiety as I looked at so many eyes staring at me. I felt like a deer caught in the headlights – paralyzed with fear…and guess what – I blanked out. My colleague rushed and got a glass of water for me. That was one of the most embarrassing moments for me. I regained my composure and spoke coherently and confidently for 10 minutes about number of things. But I thought the damage was done. It took me some time to recover from the trauma and then I thought about my boss’s advice 10 years back – Toastmasters. I realized no matter how much I dislike public speaking, there is no escape from it. I will have to get comfortable with the associated discomfort and conquer the fear. So, I joined toastmasters in Nov 2014.

3rd Story – Toastmaster project 3.
I gave an ice breaker speech in Jan 2015, followed it up with project 2 in Feb. I made a good start and then in Mar 2015, during my project 3, half way down I blanked out. It was the exactly the same feeling…I did regain my composure and completed the speech after 15 minutes. I went back home scarred, wounded and disappointed and wondering why this experience keeps coming back and haunts me. Let me tell you by this time I could pull off most of the presentations with relative ease in the office environment which was a positive development.
Fast forward to 25-Apr this year, which was very recent. I met my new boss in India, he is British and group CIO for an important technology vertical. He called me over for a dinner, we had couple of drinks and we got along well. He suddenly looked at me and said, we have a town hall tomorrow and we have to address the entire offshore team, you are joining me on the stage and we will jointly address the crowd.

I could immediately see that my happy state of mind as a result of 2 pints was overtaken by the performance anxiety. I had never addressed a crowd of close to 120 people standing on a stage. He could sense my unease and he asked me if I was up for it. One side of me said, said no and wriggle out of the situation…I also knew that I will lose both – great opportunity and my boss’s confidence by saying no. I said yes…I will do it. I was quite nervous and got up at 5:00 in the morning and could not sleep after that.

However, as I came close to addressing the crowd, I was surprisingly calm. I had prepared in my mind what I had to say and told to myself, I have finished 9 projects in TM, I know how to do it. Just apply those principles. I spoke with full confidence, no nervousness and it was a huge moment for me, I felt so light. It was like exorcising the demons that have been badgering me for many years.

I thought today is the right occasion to share these stories and my test would be, if I am able to share these stories in coherent and confident manner, it should be an inspiration to some of you. From the stories main messages are – start early, persist and practise. I would like to close the session with this inspirational slide – Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

 

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Toastmaster Manish delivered a perfect 10 Project 10 to a rapt audience.

A heartwarming session

Manish’s “Exorcising the Demons” was one of the most inspiring speeches and his personal best to date, I think.  He recounted how he sucked at public speaking at first, especially with so many eyes on him when he made a public speech over a decade ago.  He, at the suggestion of his then-superior, joined Toastmasters in 2004.  But he did not persist and dropped out half-way.

He knew he had to do it when he rejoined in 2014.  He told us he blanked out when he was doing his project 3. However, that didn’t deter him.  By April this year, when he was told by his boss over drinks that they would go on stage the following day to address an audience, he was frightful yet it was a different Manish this time.

Having done a few projects by then, he was no longer the Manish he was a decade ago nor the Manish when he was delivering his project 3.

The words that he used for this speech were so vivid that I could feel what he was going through – the nervousness that gripped him when 30 pairs of eyes were on him.  He described the state as deer in the headlights.

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Manish delivered his P10 speech and it won him the Best Speaker title.

Manish had a message for us – it’s not late to join Toastmasters. It was the quote Manish used that left me a deeper impression. It was Neale Donald Walsch’s Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

Besides Manish, there was Toastmaster Edwin who completed his project 10 as well. In accordance with the tradition, there was a cake to celebrate the completion of P10.

However, there was another reason for celebration – it’s Taichi’s birthday on 17th.  We celebrated his birthday in advance.  It was heartwarming to see three grown-up men of different age groups, nationalities and races to blow out candles together.  Toastmasters brought us together.

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Toastmasters brought these three men of different age groups, nationalities and races together for celebration.

I still sucked at Table Topics. I confess I haven’t put in much effort on this impromptu speaking. The most I have done is to tackle a topic every meeting. It isn’t enough as I would only be blabbering nonsense without a structure. I would work on it if I continue with Toastmasters after my break.

It was my fourth attempt at Toastmaster of the Day. After it was set that I would be the TMD, I brainstormed for an icebreaker and I was pretty delighted with my ideas “Bonding over bonds”, with members divide themselves into two teams with the same number of participants. The first would read a written message and then pass the message on to the second, with the latter whispering to the third. This was to be done out of the earshot of others as both teams got the same messages – to be fair.

While I studies bonds, I wanted to make it fun for most of the members who might not have much knowledge over the fixed income product type. What I did was to use terms with the word “bond” such as vagabond, James Bond and vanilla bond.

The other message was about the different types of bonds associate with countries. The catch was they were not obvious. Bulldog, Panda, Merlion and Kangaroo, which do you think was non-existent?

Lastly, there was dim sum bond, kimchi bond, sushi bond and Tom Yum bond, the last was a figment of my imagination. Hey, but didn’t it sound real as all these were signatures of the places where the bonds were sold – Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan respectively. I had wanted to use Laksa bond but this dish was available in Malaysia and Singapore whereas Tom Yum seems to be a national dish of Thailand, and this would put it on par with dim sum, kimchi and sushi.

After the meeting, when I went to get the badges from Taichi for the installation ceremony (he would not be present on 24th), he said he likes Jean and I very much. I remember Edward has said this is a thankless job, and I never expect to be thanked. Despite that, knowing that your efforts have not gone unnoticed was rewarding.

I told him I won’t be seeing him, since both of us would be taking a break from Toastmasters. As what I told Jean later, putting in too much feelings isn’t good for me and it’s perhaps time to step away.

After all, I am a free spirit.

Jean and Lynn were very sweet, they each got me gifts, including a plush toy of my favourite character Doraemon.  Jeremy, after learning that I would be stepping down and taking a break, offered to treat me to a meal.

These gestures melt my heart.

Gifts from my Toastmasters and they touched my heart.

Parting Words

It was the second last opening speech for me as president, and I wanted to share something more personal and cosy.

It wasn’t perfect, and the ending was a bit abrupt. I could have ended the speech better. Here’s my heartfelt speech:

Good afternoon. 
What shall I say as my term as President draws to an end?  
Let’s see this club report and you would know how Kampong Ubi Toastmasters performed in the past year.  (*Slide)
The club has barely passed, with only five out of 10 goals met. We lack the advanced communicator awards and grossly short of leadership awards.
With just five goals achieved, it’s historic low for kampong ubi toastmasters. (*slide)
I must say I am responsible and it’s due to my poor planning, otherwise the club should have produced at least a competent leader. 
I should have let Taichi be either the organising or contest chair in March, otherwise he wouldn’t be just one role shy of the award of competent leader.
My apologies to Taichi and all of you.
I hope the club’s performance in the coming term would improve under the new leadership and with your contributions.
Serious stuff aside, how do you improve your public speaking learning journey? 
Toastmaster Jeremy, what do you do besides preparing your speeches, taking in the pointers from evaluation?
For me, I blog.
I blog about the toastmasters journey and experiences. For example, how I felt when I was delivering my maiden speech. (* slide)
I reviewed my speeches in my blog, to see what I could do to improve. (*slides)

I blog about the thought-provoking and inspiring messages from the meetings.(*slide)

I blog about you. (*slide)
For example, our marathon runner Taichi who confessed that he has not 1, not 3 but 11 pairs of running shoes.
Jamie’s first words after the contest.
Chen Kuang and Hesperus took part in contest though they had just joined.

I blog about the fun we had.
I blog about your milestones.
I blog about your victories.
I blog about your magic.
I blog about your best.
Thank you for everything.

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We had fun!

Super Heroes…Not Everyone Wants to be One

27 May 2017

There were meant to be four prepared speeches but by Friday afternoon, only two left.  By then, I had already printed out the programme sheet and I didn’t want to waste trees equivalent of 20 sheets of paper to reprint.

Suhas couldn’t make it as well as he was assigned on Wednesday to take part in army open house held on that weekend.  I became the Table Topics master with the theme of Super Heroes set by Toastmaster of the Day, Jamie.

As I thought through the topics, I was wondering there might be people who would not wish to be a super hero.  A guest said he doesn’t want to be one because super heroes are subject to scrutiny and public opinions while Taichi would prefer to earn the super powers himself to having them bestowed on him.

Edwin’s prepared speech Never Try Never Know encouraged us to listen to our heart and not head/logic to take on risks at times.  When I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, that was my attitude.  But as I age, it seems too much is at stake, I lost the courage.

I wish I had vigour as well.  That’s the Word of the Day selected by Taichi, who recorded the number of times we vigorously used the word or its variants.

I was what E Hueen described in his The Three Seconds as I tend to think too much.  Three seconds isn’t enough to rest my racing mind and arrest my wild thoughts.

E Hueen is awaiting his national service enlistment.  He was a Toastmaster when he was studying at Temasek Polytechnic.  We didn’t know that former Toastmasters did not need to pay the one-time registration when they renew membership.  I wrote in to Toastmasters International to appeal for a waiver and we were told it wasn’t chargeable for former Toastmasters.

He clinched the Best Table Topics title at this meeting and the last.  Would there be a hat trick for this affable teen?

Saddiqi was a bit under the weather but he delivered his promise and conducted a workshop on rhetorical devices.  It was a shame that the turnout was small and just 12 of us benefited from the educational session.

Puspita, who left the club for a year for charity work, has not lost her public speaking skills.  She was a super mum and speaker, bagging the Best Table Topics Speaker title – a tie with E Hueen – and an effective project evaluator.

After the meeting, I ran through with her the duties of President and she was very quick to grasp, especially the importance of Personal Data Protection.  It made my handover easy.

After the meeting, a guest called Naveen signed up.  But another, who visited us in mid-May and had informed me before this meeting started that he was going to make payment, didn’t. Perhaps he has been turned off by my serious message in opening speech.  Jean had an explanation on why Naveen hasn’t been bothered by my opening speech – he didn’t understand what I was saying.

Yeah, Jean could be right!

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You don’t see me here because I was the photographer but actually I don’t like to take photographs.  I had asked why we must take photographs every session but I can’t remember the reason(s) now.

Toastmasters companion

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Toastmasters International has mailed my advanced project manuals to me.  I chose Speaking to Inform and Communicating on Video.  These are relevant to my job and most of the speeches are of moderate length – not too short nor long.

But I wonder when and if I would do these projects at all, given that I am taking a break.  Perhaps an indefinite one.  Nonetheless, I have had them wrapped.

Robot VPE, the only solution?

27 May 2017

With nobody willing to take on the role of Vice President Education (VPE) for the first half of next term, I delivered this opening speech in exasperation:

Some of you might be wondering why there’s no programme sheet, why wasn’t it sent out as usual.

No, it’s not been taken by the super heroes, although today’s theme is super heroes.

Doing without programme sheet could be the new norm that you have to get used to.

Why? Because we don’t have a VPE for the first half of next term, that is, from July to December.

Some of you are on course, can’t spare the time; some of you who remain in Singapore on employment pass but your employment status is uncertain, some work on most Saturdays or spend half the year overseas. Others simply don’t want to assume the role.

Perhaps we should have an equivalent of the match-making app tinder to match make speakers, evaluators, and appointment holders, with functions to draw up programme sheets and update the Google sheet that tracks our progress. But until then, a human vpe is still required.

Toastmasters is a non-profit club with no full-time staff and everyone of us is working full-time.

Who isn’t busy here? Have a show of hands. No one.

All of us are stakeholders of the Toastmasters journey and we can’t do it alone. No doubt the executive committee roles take up time, someone has to do it. But if you think “let that not be me”, it would end up that we have no VPE, no Sergeant-at-Arms, no meetings.

For those who understand Chinese,  please look at the term on the whiteboard.  What does this term 舍得 mean? It means the willingness to part with. If you look at the two characters separately, 舍 means “giving up”, 得 means “gaining”. You give up one thing but you’ll gain something in return.

For those who are looking at practical returns, being in leadership position enhances your résumé.  Those who want to make sure you’d attend meetings – like what Taichi was after  – being on the executive committee pushes you to attend meetings regularly.

For me, I just kn0w I couldn’t simply take from the club, I have to give as well. In the process of giving, what did I get in return? Opportunities like this to make you hear me out, opportunities to network with other clubs’ leaders and stronger friendship from my fellow executive committee members.

Do we have a VPE next term, you decide.  Over to you,  Toastmaster of the Day.

Coincidentally, Jean took the day off and she joked that her rare absence might reinforce my message. However, it didn’t because two days after the meeting, KUTMC still doesn’t have a VPE (for July – December) and Sergeant-at-Arms.

Selling pens… and Toastmasters

13 May 2017

Suhas was innovative in his speech Selling Anything.  He talked about tips on pitching oneself using the example of selling pens.  He concluded his speech saying if he failed to sell the pens to us, at least we could use the pens to vote for him as the Best Speaker.  He successfully got the majority of us to support him.

Besides Suhas, there were five other full-time National Servicemen (NSFs) among us that meeting.  Youngsters nowadays equip themselves with skills and make constructive use of their spare time.  It’s admirable.  Though we welcome fresh blood, I was very frank with these five who were visiting to find out more, and told them that they should visit other clubs to check out the vibes.  They must be comfortable with the club members especially when Toastmasters isn’t compulsory.  In a way, I was not selling our club but I prefer that members join willingly, voluntarily and wholeheartedly.

KUTMC had the honour of having Toastmasters Tushar, Jacky, Vernon and Gerald visited us.  I was smart not to let this golden opportunity slip by without having Tushar, Jacky and Gerald share their Toastmasters journeys with us.

Gerald quipped that some toastmasters became DTMs – not Distinguished Toastmasters (highest level a Toastmaster would attain) but disappeared Toastmaster.

It was sheer coincidence when Tushar delivered his speech on Successful Club series, which is an outline of Toastmasters programme, helping the five NSFs understand better.

Vernon would be Jacky’s successor as the Area Director for our club next term.  He became Word of the Day unplanned when we realised that Ajoy did not know he’s scheduled to take on the appointment role.  Despite being an impromptu act, Vernon played the role effortlessly and he even offered valuable tips on rhetorical devices.

The theme of the meeting was Mothers’ Day and I was tasked with Table Topics.  But instead of coming up with topics related to a mother’s traits, I had a play on the words “mother” and “mum”.  Hence, the topics were “Mother Teresa”, “mother country”, “Mumbai”, “mummy” (a dead body that is prevented from decaying by being treated with special substances before being wrapped in cloth), “mother tongue” and “mother figure” etc.

Chen Kuang, being the Toastmaster of the Day, designed an icebreaker for us to act out the various scenarios of Tiger Mum.  Jean being the only mother among us started the ball rolling, of course.

*I didn’t deliver an opening speech but used the slot to have the visiting Toastmasters share their journeys with us.
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Suhas wasn’t only selling pens, but also clinched the Best Speaker title in the process.