Be yourself, have your own style, play to your strengths

Here’s my opening speech at 29th April meeting.

Let’s do a quick survey, among the members of this club, including those absent today,  whose public speaking style would you like to adopt, and what is it about the style that you like about?

Let me write down your reasons.

Most of you have a member in mind, whose style that you’d like to adopt.

A Toastmaster told me he’s not trying to be as good as Jun and the rest, he just aims to speak what he wants to say comfortably.

He’s right in one sense – he wants to be comfortable. But he’s not exactly correct, in my opinion, to use jun and others as benchmark.


I used to watch a lot of Hong Kong dramas and they were always peppered with punchy lines.  One of the lines that has stuck with me is “If you want others to be like you, unless there were two of you”. However, not even twins are totally identical, so it’s pointless for us to take on another person’s style because we’ll never be like them or  even beat him at it.

For me, it’s myself. I’m not narcissistic. In fact, I’m far from it, one of my greatest weaknesses is the lack of self confidence.

Yet I would like to be myself, find my own style, one that I play to my strengths and be comfortable with.

Therefore, I would suggest that, instead of trying to emulate that member, or adopt his/her style, think of the strengths or traits of his or her style and tweak them to suit your personality and abilities.

So instead of saying you would like to be like Pradeep or Jun, you might say, I’d like to be polished, confident, structured.

My message this afternoon is:

Be yourself. Have a style that plays to your strengths and that you’re comfortable with.


29th April 2017

I could feel myself buckling under the demands of work and Toastmasters. I have been so forgetful that I suspect I might just forget myself one day.

Past week has been busy, with the hours as usually long, and I could feel myself falling sick. Luckily I was to stand in for a colleague in high court on Thursday, providing me a much needed breather from the hectic state courts.

Despite resting on Friday as I took leave to take advantage of the long weekend to have a better and well deserved break, my mind was apparently not well rested.

I forgot to bring Toastmaster manual in spite of reminding my members to do so, and I also left home without Jeremy’s script with annotations on it for evaluation.

It was no better at the meeting. It’s hard to juggle a few appointment roles at the same time. I was the Word of the Day, evaluator of Jeremy’s speech and timer all rolled into one.

Did I say I was the photographer too?

We were stretched, only 11 of us excluding the three guests turned up and some of us took on more than one role.

I didn’t play any role well as a result. Except Kate, Lynn and Jean, no one else used the Word of the Day – spring – in their speeches.

Neither did I excel in evaluating Jeremy’s speech. There was no structure nor conclusion. The fact that I forgot to bring his script made it harder for me.

I was also struggling with tracking the time in between taking photographs using the same handphone.

The chapter meeting started with Toastmaster of the Day, Lynn, testing our memory in the icebreaker. What a game when my memory is apparently failing. But I wasn’t the one who lost the game.

We had five speakers doing their projects with Kate being the new kid on the block talking about herself as an avid traveller and a coffee lover. Jeremy who won the best speaker title for his Ice Breaker project clinched it again with his project speech on Tibetan Dream Yoga. Let’s see if he would have a hat trick. It was a tie with Edwin who researched on Time Travel and talked about paradox when one travelled to the past and it would affect one’s fate in the future as a result of meddling with one’s past. He’s composed. Like Ajoy said, Edwin had a conversational tone.

Steven shed light on High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT in short, and this form of exercise is convenient because it doesn’t require equipment, takes up only 30 minutes per session and it can be done anywhere. Except that this isn’t for those who are not fitness buffs…like me.

Ajoy talked about Agile system in his technical presentation. It was not technical for non-IT practitioners like us and I think he had succeeded in this except that he busted the time limit. After hearing him speak, I noticed that Ajoy has a strong command of English and he was a few rare ones who pronounced the word “overarching” correctly by being silent on “h” and ending with “king” instead of “ching”.

We would meet on 13th May but already a few Toastmasters have told us they would be absent. Taichi would be running for a charity event, Steven would be burying himself in books for a financial exam while Venetia is attending her brother-in-law’s wedding.



Pit against the best…

Pradeep impressed the judges at the area contest on 15 April, with his composed speech on table topic “When you pursue your passion, you feel pain and fulfillment”.  He would now represent the area (and Kampong Ubi Toastmasters) to clinch the division championship.

It was Jamie’s maiden contest.  Feeling nervous was understandable but she gave her best.  She looked so drained after the contest.  While she didn’t bag any award, it was a fruitful experience for her, I think.

Being the photographer, I was busy clicking the shutter with nary a moment resting my bum.  I would say I was one of the most hardworking appointment holders.  I was almost late, after going to the wrong venue, Queensway Secondary School, and had a problem after that finding my way to Queenstown Secondary School.

Queenstown Secondary School v Queensway Secondary School, could you tell the difference, especially when the latter is just two bus stops away from Queenstown Primary School.  It’s misleading.

Probably it’s my last appearance at Toastmasters contest. Being President of KUTMC, I must discharge my duty to support my members and look out for their interest at contest.  But when I am just an ordinary member, I would support them… mentally, but unlikely to make my way to the west and burn several precious hours on a weekend.

Better Evaluation Now

After Pradeep attended a Toastmaster meeting at another club, he passed us a contact whom he was impressed with.  He’s Benjamin.  Jean invited him to share his tips on project evaluation at the 8th April meeting.

Though he has been with Toastmasters for only two years – that’s about the duration Jamie and I have been with the public speaking interest group – Benjamin is much more polished in his delivery.

He speaks like a DJ, and indeed he is one.  And he’s only 24 and still studying.  Wow!

Does the speaker’s personality have to do with his flair?  Being an introvert, I would probably have no problem striking up conversation or making small talks – at times, I don’t think I would have a style as open as Benjamin or any extrovert.

Benjamin shared that he likes to use his name BEN to evaluate a speech; B for Bravo, E for encouragement and N for non-desirable.

When I handed him a token of appreciation (sponsored by the beautiful VPE Jean, as usual) after the 45-minute workshop, I told members that with Benjamin’s tips, we could have BEN (Better Evaluation Now).



Jamie, Tricia and I completed our Competent Communicator manual when we did our project 10.  The club is short of another project 10 completion to earn two points towards Distinguished Club status.

While I have completed the manual with 10 speeches delivered, I don’t find myself a competent speaker.  More steady and less nervous?  Yes.  Polished?  Still far from it.  I remember the time I did my icebreaker and I was a bundle of nerves.  When I delivered my project 10 speech, I could still feel the nerves.

I am not doing any projects before I fade out as I intend to put all my effort and time on enriching the meetings.  Nonetheless, I opted for these two advanced manuals, Communication on Video and Speak to Inform.  Maybe after my break, I would tackle the speeches in these manuals.


Challenge the Way You Think

I completed the Toastmasters Competent Communicator manual on 8th April 2017, with the following project 10 speech entitled “Challenge the Way You Think”.  I was inspired by a highly-intelligent professor for my master’s programme.  Though it’s been a few years since I completed the programme, I remember his refrain to challenge the way we think.

Here’s my speech:

Jim was a newly minted fireman and he had just reported for work.  When he had barely entered the office, the landline rang.  Seeing his firefighting colleagues were at a corner playing cards, he answered the phone.  After he hung up, he went to the corner, walked up to one of the firefighters and relayed the phone message.

When my professor told us this story,  he had this question for us: “Jim had just reported for work and didn’t know anyone, how did he know which of the three firefighters the phone message was for?”

Any guess?

The answer to the riddle is: the caller had asked for Jane, the only woman among the 3 firefighters.

Some people didn’t guess it because they had assumed that all firefighters are men or must be male.

Assumptions we make like this or long-held beliefs constrain our thinking. As a result we don’t think of or question if there are other possibilities.

What’s the moral of the story?

Challenge the way you think.

Have you ever been a prisoner of your own beliefs or thinking?

I have.

I go to Aljunied every day to pay respects to my late grandaunt.  For many years, I would take bus 67, that would bring me directly to Geylang Lorong 34 where I would need to cross 2 roads and also walk another 2 stretches to reach the temple.  When I was in a rush and bus 67 was nowhere in sight, I would take bus 28 first, and then transfer to another bus to bring me to Geylang Lorong 34.

I never thought of changing this route, because it had served me well. Or so I thought.

Then, came a day when I was too engrossed in reading on bus 28 and I missed the bus stop to transfer. I alighted from bus 28 at a bus stop I thought was the nearest to the temple.

After alighting from the bus, I cut across a muddy field and in 5 minutes’ time, I reached the temple.

That journey turned out to be not only a shorter distance but also a cheaper bus ride.

So, it was a blessing in disguise when I missed the bus stop and found a route better than my preferred one.

Would I have thought of other routes besides my preferred one? Maybe, if I had explored, if I had challenged my set thinking.

What’s the moral of the story?

Challenge the way you think.

But apparently it’s not just me.

Have you heard of the elephant-and-rope story?

A man was walking past an elephant, he suddenly stopped, puzzled by how the huge creature would be held by only a small rope tied to one of its front legs.


No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephant could break away any time from the rope but it did not.

The man saw a trainer nearby and asked why the elephant had made no attempt to get away.

“Well,” the trainer said, [vocal variety] “when elephants are very young and much smaller, we use a small rope to tie them and, at that age, it was enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”

Baby elephants are traditionally trained by tying one of their front legs to a stake in the ground.  Because the elephants are small, only a thin rope is required. They’ll struggle and pull at first, but eventually they realize that they can’t break the rope and they’ll give up.

Elephants grow fast. Before long, those cute babies become lumbering giants. But here’s the thing: that same thin rope is all that’s needed to keep them secured. They think the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free. In the end, you’ve got a giant held back by just a thin rope and a wooden stake. Freedom would be as easy as a little tug but the poor elephant never thinks of trying.

What’s the moral of the story?

Challenge the way you think.


Like the elephants, how many of us go through life hanging onto a belief, mindset or an assumption?

Just take today for example, how many of you came exactly by the same way you do for every meeting?  Have you thought of using another route?  If you have not, try thinking.

Try another route next time, think of a way to disrupt your routine, disrupt your habit.

The way you think is a habit, a habit first taught to you, then refined and defined over time by you.

Just because you’ve always done something one way, it doesn’t mean you should continue to do so.

Sometimes, we reach a conclusion based on a specific set of conditions, then forget or do not revisit our decisions even when conditions or circumstances have changed.

Rather than fully and clearly seeing the way things are or can be, we’re locked into how things used to be. The result? Could be missed opportunities, self-imposed blockers and wasted potential.

So if you’re struggling to come up with ideas, techniques, possibilities and options, it’s worth considering: what are you unable to see as a result of your set thinking?

Albert Einstein said we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”.

If you change the way you think, the way you think will change.

Challenge the way you think. 

Let’s break our habit now, those who have been occupying the same seat, please move to the opposite side of the table, those who have been taking up the back seats, please sit at the front, and vice versa.  Changing your perspective could be the first step towards challenging the way your think.

P.S. The italicised portion was to be read out if I had not passed the minimum eight-minute mark. This was not done in the end.


25th March 2017

Edwin broke the ice with demonstration of a trick, changing two cards from black to red and vice versa in the blink of an eye.  This was to go with the theme he set – the Magic of Believing. He was swift in movement and most of us did not catch his sleight of hand.

After his magic performance, there was a small  birthday celebration for Pradeep.  Taichi noted that I remembered the birthdays of fellow Toastmasters. But I merely gleaned the information from the club’s whatsapp chat group.  I hope the celebration would liven up meeting’s atmosphere while making the birthday boys/girls feel valued.


Edwin performing sleight of hand

There were a few speakers and some of them did not look nervous.  One of them was Shanmugam or affectionately known as Shan.  His smiles prompted Taichi’s query, upon which he revealed that he did feel the nerves.  See, that’s a way to mask one’s jitters and it is to smile 🙂

Suhas did his project two and he was as cool as a cucumber.  His evaluator Lu Bin wondered why he joined Toastmasters since his presentation skill was pretty good.  General evaluator Taichi commented that this 20-year-old would have a very bright future ahead of him.  Indeed but hope he would not let all these compliments go to his head and change this promising young man.

Titus, on the other hand, has a different personality.  He might not be extroverted but he has his strengths.  He preceded his speech with a note of thanks to Edwin for being the Toastmaster of the Day as well as a brief comment on Anantha’s speech. He just needs some time to open up, I think, and his personable character would endear him to strangers.

I delivered on my promise to Jean, whom I had requested to make sure I would tackle a Table Topic.  I talked about my adventure in San Francisco.  Time flies, it’s been 14 years and it was the number one activity on my bucket list then.

Lastly, I am certain that the time has come for me to take a break.  I can’t focus as well as I used to be able to, and I am running out of ideas to write this blog.  In fact, the programme sheet I was in charge of for last meeting had the mission statement truncated. Well, I supposed that’s a cue for me to exit…

Magic of Believing

25th March 2017

To coincide with the theme set by Toastmaster of the Day, Edwin – the Magic of Believing, I delivered the following opening speech.

What’s the magic of believing? Edwin talked about having a strong belief to achieve one’s goals.  I have a different take on this.  To me, it is believing that one day people or circumstances would change in your favour.

Edwin, when did you join Kampong Ubi Toastmasters? When was your maiden attempt at Toastmaster of the Day?

Did you know this Toastmaster told me he didn’t want to take on stressful roles like Table Topics speaker or Toastmaster of the Day, even though he’s more than capable of handling them.

Don’t you think he’s done a splendid job so far? Please give him a round of applause.

But his wish is to be the perpetual Table Topics master so that he would be able to avoid impromptu speaking.

I’m not a pushy person and Toastmasters is about fostering a relaxed learning environment.  Hence, I respect his decision. But deep in my heart, I hope he would change his mind one day.

Despite being adamant about it, Edwin gamely delivered his maiden Table Topics speech last month when he drew a sweet with a number. And he was the best table topics speaker for that meeting!

Last week, when he knew that I didn’t have enough evaluators for prepared speeches and was still short of Toastmaster of the Day, he offered to postpone his project and instead take on the role of Toastmaster of the Day.

It was very sweet of him, wasn’t it?

What’s this got to do with the magic of believing? To me, it’s believing that a day would come when people or circumstances would change in your favour.

If you have noticed, our whatsapp chat group includes a few former members who did not renew their membership this term because they have gone on to pursue other interests. I made a conscious decision not to remove them from the chat group because I believe their absence is temporary. I was heartened when I learned last week that two of them are keen to rejoin us.

It is not about boosting the membership of kutmc, which I could boast that we’ve no lack of new members.  It’s the fun and friendship that every one of you offers that we value.

So, even if you don’t want to do projects, don’t want to assume appointment roles, and don’t want to attend meetings, we would be here for you because we believe you would change your mind one day, because we believe your absence is only temporary, because we believe we’re too fun and friendly that you would miss us if you step away for too long.

Let’s have fun and get on with our meeting. Toastmaster of the Day.