The contests

“My mind was blank… I don’t know why I am here, ” said Jamie ruefully when interviewed by the contest chair Lynn while the judges were deliberating on the results for the evaluation contest.

Jamie, Jun, Pradeep and Anthonius took part in the evaluation contest held yesterday and the winner will represent the club in the area contest.

While I didn’t contest, I could feel Jamie’s exasperation, having been through some writing tests under pressure.

Though Jamie didn’t clinch the championship, her participation in itself was admirable.

Pradeep clinched the championship for the evaluation contest, with Jun and Anthonius the first and second runners-up respectively.

Jun clinched the championship for the humorous speech contest, with Anthonius and Taichi being the first and second runners-up respectively.

Jun spoke about his family members and girlfriend’s advice to him on being himself.  Anthonius’ was about his first love while Taichi made the Japanese food natto the subject of his speech.

Hesperus and Ethan Chen Kuang, though rookies in public speaking, had made their maiden attempts in contest. Wasn’t it great to see these young people facing head on their fear of public speaking?

I should make it a goal in my public speaking journey to take part in contests to challenge myself as well.

Taichi has been doing very well in this aspect. While he said he was a timid person, he takes part in the sport that has a certain degree of danger, free diving. He claimed that speaking on the feet, that is delivering a Table Topic, is scarier than free diving.  Yet, he has the nickname of “Table Topics King”.  Because he pushes himself to face his fears and challenge his limits.

However, we might lose him should he not be able to get a job by the end of the month.  What a shame to lose someone who inspires us with his indomitable spirits.

But perhaps the time has come for him to go home to start a family and settle down, as well as near to his ageing parents in Nagano.

Whatever it is, we wish him all the best – though we would like him to be here in Singapore.

Briefing contestants before they started entertaining us with their humorous speeches.

Briefing contestants before they started entertaining us with their humorous speeches.

 

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Natto = Durians? Hmm…

 

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Pumping his fist, Anthonius says he was going to give it to the man who struck up a conversation with his sister.

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Shhh…Evaluation contestants were so serious as they prepared for their evaluation.

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Chief Judge Yen clearly enjoying the speeches.

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Congratulations to the contestants who emerged winners and runners-up, what a feat!

 

 

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Encouragements

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.

Guests Outnumber Members

We had a Toastmaster’s session today and guess what, the number of guests exceeded that of members.

There were only seven members while there were at least 12 guests either from other clubs or they were Anthonious’ friends.  But Tricia’s effort was commendable, despite losing her voice, she attended and participated.

It reminded me of Garry’s reminder- why we walked through that door in the first place – when I noticed that members were outnumbered by guests.  Not that I minded because it was a different experience to have many guests among us.  They offered their perspectives, their advice and their experience.

Among the guests, there was Angela Lansbury from UK, Marshall from a local club Star Millennium, and a couple with their three kids (and maid) in tow.  Wasn’t that lovely?

Michelle doubled as Toastmaster of the Day in addition to being the evaluator for the speech by guest speaker Harsh.  She cleverly used master, expert and guru to avoid over-using one of these terms.  A pointer I must remind myself.

I did my project 4 today.  I was grateful to Pradeep (my evaluator) as well as Gerald and Anthonius (the last two volunteered their suggestions) for their evaluations.  Besides their evaluation, I would perform my own review, as usual.

While I did much more rehearsals than I did for my project 3, I still did not manage to perform to what I had planned it to be.  I reckoned this was due to public speaking anxiety.  I think that I was very inhibited and not open, after seeing how Harsh delivered his speech.  This is a weakness I must work on too.

And I forgot to read the Evaluation Guide on the last page of the project to see what is expected of me, on top of the objectives for this project.

In addition, I never know how I should stand or pace around the podium.  If permitted, I would like to remove my shoes and stand or walk barefooted to make myself as comfy as possible.  Anthonius has observed the way I placed my feet as he sat just next to me.  He also said I had blocked the slides. (Reminder: check the screen before I start my speech to ensure I won’t be in the way of audience’s view)

Here are Pradeep’s and Gerald’s learned evaluations of my speech:

Pradeep:

  • Make clear the objectives and lead the audience through a clear structure, eg, How many of you would like to fall in love (Oh, but my objective is just to inform audience what trigger the reactions when they see the persons they like)
  • Conclusion should summarise the essence of my speech in case some audience members had missed parts of it, and tie it in with the opening.

 

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Pradeep’s outline for his speech on evaluation of my Project 4.

Gerald:

  • The project is How To Say It, it’s not about informing the audience but to use rhetorical devices to help them conjure up images
  • Example of this project speech could be about an event – a walk in the park
  • Could learn forward when asking “Did you know”

 

 

Speech Contests

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The club organised its speech contests today and there were four contestants in both International Speech and Table Topics Speech.

I admire the contestants for their courage in participating and talking in front of not only members but visitors who helped to serve as judges.

Taichi spoke about a book he read on Hardest Problem Ever and it’s related to pythagoras theorem. This was so Taichi, his speech topics are always scientific/mathematical.

Pradeep took the inspiring route – I have observed this as a favourite genre of Toastmasters’ speeches – and recounted how he made it as a lawyer and urged us to scale the Mt. Everest in us in his speech entitled Right to Dream the Impossible Dream.  Pradeep has not only scaled the Everest in the pursuit of his legal studies but won the championship in this contest.

Lynn talked about a mother teaching her daughter to exhibit the traits of coffee beans in the face of adversities, turning the unfavourable situation into your favour.  I was the only one who admitted to being a carrot, weakening when encountered challenges.

Mentor  Anthonious’ speech Less is More won him first runner-up.

Table Topic: What’s your greatest fear?

I was impressed by Taichi and Jamie for being able to relate the topic to public speaking. What an apt subject to talk about.  I thought Taichi spoke well and would have won. What a shame but I saw the improvement in him.  And I admire his consistency in delivering his projects.

Congratulations, every participant,  whether you have won or not.  Your effort matters.

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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