Time for the Curtain Falls

24th June 2017

I pondered what to talk about for my last speech as President and I only scripted my speech in the wee hours of the day we had meeting.

Though I had placed my tablet before me as a psychological crutch, I didn’t use it, thankfully.

Those of you who were here for last year’s installation ceremony would probably remember that I said I was an accidental President and a reluctant one.

Angela was designated for the President role while I was the Vice-President Education-elect. A week before the executive committee was installed, Angela was given a project at work that required her to travel often. Being a responsible person, she decided that she couldn’t hold on to the post of president without being around most of the time. They scrambled to find her replacement but it was tough.

When approached, I declined to be the president initially. As a free spirit, I don’t want to be responsible for others. That’s why I hadn’t been a leader after secondary school.

But, I was told that everything was ready for the installation ceremony which just a week away, and several members had turned down to be president. I accepted the post under such circumstances.

That’s how I became the accidental and reluctant President and Angela’s scapegoat.

What most of you didn’t know was my challenge started even before my presidency began. Just a week after installation and before the term kicked off, the then-VPE said she’d like to quit.

Upon checking if I was the problem, she told me frankly that I was micromanaging. I thought I was helping out to lighten the heavy workload but I didn’t expect it to be seen as micromanaging.

This reminded me of what a colleague said, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

Perhaps I was overly enthusiastic, the immediate past president Jun said.

I managed to persuade the then-VPE to stay on, assuring her I would take a hands-off approach.

I did. Nonetheless, two months into the term, she resigned.

It was a challenge to fill this second-in-command position.

Thank goodness, there was Jean, who must have been sent by my fairy godmother.

Then, she’s only a three-month-old Toastmaster. But experience isn’t a perfect yardstick of capabilities, skills, attitude and character.

Jean is the most capable right-hand assistant any leader could dream of. She was instrumental in helping some 40 of us track and achieve our public speaking and leadership projects and goals.

She did this while juggling the demanding roles of a daughter, daughter-in-law, full-time worker, wife and mother of two teenagers.

She deserves an applause from us.

Other exco members, most of whom are unable to make it today – a rare occurrence – have contributed behind the scenes as well.

So it wasn’t just me doing the work. It was a team effort. I salute all of them for giving their time and effort selflessly.

Edward said that it’s a thankless job. I could say with confidence that none of us who took up exco post was looking for this. We just wanted to help because all of us have a stake in Kampong Ubi toastmasters club.

But I must say, we have been receiving words of appreciation from members.

To the non-exco members, you’ve your reasons for not taking up the posts. I respect your decision but I urge you to help in other areas and render your support to the incoming exco.

Lastly, I would like to thank the incoming exco members for willing to contribute.

In particular, I have great respect for Puspita. She accepted the post of President despite knowing there were difficulties completing the team. She roped in her husband and fellow Toastmaster Ajoy last minute to fill the last role on the committee, in effect doubling the contributions this couple would make to the club.

Let’s give Puspita and her team a show of support. Thank you.

President

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

YOU NEVER WALK ALONE

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.

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.

Thought-provoking Speeches

28 February 2016

Garry in opening address reminded us why we joined the Toastmasters’ club. He said the club has about 120 members but there would only be about 20 attendees every session.

It was a timely reminder – at least to me – because the thought of quitting fleeted across my mind when I was preparing my present project. I found this time- consuming. It took me roughly two weeks to draft and practise a speech.  I am impressed by Taichi who has consistently been delivering a prepared speech every month and his projects were not short of research for the subject.

Newcomer Sheila did her maiden speech and kudos to her, her performance was good and she was calm. Her speech titled “Searching for my place in the sun” has a lesson for me as well. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I was once. Currently I am lost and stuck in a rut, in dire need to find “my place in the sun”.

Taichi reflected on his relationship with his parents and how it improved after he learned to appreciate kinship while living in India for four years. As usual, this speaker was methodical/scientific, he estimated he would have a total of only 25 days in the next decade with his elderly father. I reckon that he will probably go back to Japan soon to spend more time with his parents. We’ll miss this Toastmaster.

Angela was table topics master and the topics that surfaced in this session included your most memorable experience, something about you that surprises others and your dream job.

These reminded me of oral exam questions and among the topics, “dream job” was the one that I think I could tickle a funny bone or two. I would say playing Santa Claus would be my dream job. It’s simple and it works only one day in a year and it is a popular personality.

I was glad Angela “picked” me – she was looking at me when inviting speakers for the table topics.  I wanted to buck up after reflecting on my performance at the Toastmasters in recent months and had felt that I had not been speaking enough.  I talked about my flat feet as something that would surprise others.  Perhaps it wasn’t surprising as none of the fellow Toastmasters looked amazed.  I did not come up with a structure before I spoke.   There should be an opening, body and closing.  I need improvement in impromptu speaking and lots of practice to achieve thinking and speaking on the feet.

Besides speeches that caused one to do some introspection, a speech by visiting Toastmaster from Buona Vista, was greatly entertaining and his delivery was almost perfect.  Joyce was as entertaining as Tushar in her evaluation of his speech and she was clever in the play of words, eg both dead fish and dead-end job stink but he’s the largest catch in the tank. Excellent!

 

 

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Unsatisfactory performance

Perhaps it was because I was not as well prepared as my maiden speech. Perhaps it was because I was still gripped by nervousness. Perhaps it was because I was speaking in front of a guest speaker and was feeling acute anxiety as a result.

I think it was a confluence of factors though being not well prepared and getting stage fright, to me, were the main contributing factors. I had been toying with the idea of postponing this speech as I have been extremely busy at work. In fact I only finalised the script of my speech two days before Saturday and I worked on the slides till 2am, and then woke up before 7am to go to work. If not for the one-hour practice with the slides just hours before my speech, my performance would have been worse. I hadn’t had time to practise in front of an imaginary roomful of Toastmasters either, unlike what I did for my earlier speech.

What I learned from this lesson – don’t give a speech if I’m not ready or well prepared.

But what floored me today was NERVOUSNESS. My shaky voice and unclear diction betrayed my nervousness. During break, a Toastmaster from another club said he would still feel nervous even having delivered several speeches and what one can do is to manage it. Indeed, but the question is how.

Here are what others and myself evaluated my performance:

Guest speaker Mr Glenn Lim: He had only positive comments for me. I think he was kind not to put me down.
◇ good structure – using a question to open

◇ use of metaphor – a picture is worth a thousand words

◇ oratorical – cut out connecting words; eg photography, painting, graphics… Instead of saying for photography, for painting…

◇ effective transition – use of “in closing” etc as signposts

◇ something about “nuggets” of information (didn’t catch it what about the word)

◇ personification – stamps and postmark tell stories

Appreciate Angela and Anthonius’ opinions.
Angela, my evaluator:
◆ Could have taken more time with introduction – talking more slowly would have more impact
◆ Could have chosen a specific topic, ie, Singapore stamps
◇ That used slides very good in project 2
◇ Good transition
◇ Nice phrases “a picture is worth a thousand words” and “stamp is the best ambassador of a nation”.

Antonius, my mentor:
◆ Opening and closing imbalance – top heavy bottom light; opening 50 sec but closing only 30 sec.
◆ Too many slides – should flash per slide for 3 sec
◆ rigid and lop-sided posture

◇ strong vocal variety

Myself
◆ Nervousness, nervousness and nervousness (my heart was pounding just before the speech)
◆ Not well prepared
◆ Too many slides (should slides  even be used for project 2?)
◆ Script did not relate to some slides directly, eg when I talked about a place, the slide should show a place)
◆ Hard to think of a subject to talk about and spent three weeks on research and less time on scripting and practising

Toastmasters

I skipped the Toastmasters’ meeting on the day after Polling Day. It was the first and hopefully the only that I missed.

I was working throughout the night after poll results were out and filing stories against time. By the time I left office, it was past 5 in the morning. I sent Jun a message, apologising for my absence from the day’s meeting.

From the photos Jun sent to all of us in the chat group on that day, they seemed to have had a lot of fun. And I have not seen Angela and Lyn for some time.

However, days after, I had an unpleasant message exchange with a fellow Toastmaster. He said he was unhappy that his photo was published and that the story went to print without first allowing him to vet.

His language was abrasive. I was a bit offended but nonetheless tried to jog his memory, reminding him that he had actually offered me a photograph of his when the interview was done. However, since I could only use photos that I personally take, I rejected his offer on the spot. In my message, it was explained to him that news articles are not sent for review beforehand, not even when the interviewee is the Prime Minister.

Jun sent an image of the story to all of us in the chat group the following day, hoping that one of us could translate the story into English for him. Most members were happy about the publicity for Toastmasters’ Club. However, the interviewee himself made it plain that he “did not like” the contents, without any elaboration.

Jun saved the day when he posted this in the chat group: “Let’s focus on what we like instead of what we don’t. We are happy to have someone like you who is interested in personal development. Let’s tap on that energy and inspire others who are still afraid to come out.”

Privately, I messaged Jun to thank him for this message.

I have attended Toastmasters’ meetings for only a while but I have discovered several strengths of Jun:

– He’s sincere and polite. After having apologised to me in sms for not updating me that a meeting had been postponed and thereby resulting in me turning up for nothing, he extended his apologies in person at the next meeting.

– He’s empathetic. Michelle delivered a sad speech at a meeting and I saw Jun discreetly wiping his tears away.

– He’s positive and has high emotional quotient.  His message to defuse the tension in the chat group yet not embarrasing anyone was very tactful.