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.

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.

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.

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).

 

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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.

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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!

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

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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.

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

There were only Suhas and Titus for the induction. But it was enough for us to feel the impact. Jean commented that she had been rejuvenated by the energies of these two young members. Taichi was transported to the time when he was inducted. It’s useful to remind ourselves from time to time why we joined Toastmasters.

Strangely, I don’t recall a single thing about my induction. If I ever had one. As you have seen, I documented the highlights of Toastmasters chapter meetings. However, I had not blogged about the time I was inducted. I might have been left out at a time when several of us joined together.

Celebratory mood set the tone of the meeting today after we gave Jun a mini birthday celebration. He had not intended to attend. After he said he would give it a miss, I told him we had wanted to celebrate his birthday. He decided to come in the end.

Why did I remember Jun’s birthday? Last year, there was a birthday wish for Jun in our WhatsApp chat group. Then I knew that Jun wasn’t born in June, but January.

He turns 38 tomorrow.

Little did we know that there was another birthday member among us. It’s Tricia. During the break, she let on that hers is on 17th January. Happy belated birthday, Tricia.

Besides Jun’s birthday celebration, the induction ceremony was conducted by Lynn. She did a good job by prefacing the induction with a meaningful tale. It’s about three men working on the same task but each had a different vision of what each was doing. We are all Toastmasters but how we make out of our journey depends on us.

Titus delivered his Ice Breaker project. This Taurus has a wealth of talent – he sketches, he bakes and he knows IT. A very humble young man who stands up to greet everyone walking into the room. Very impressive. As a fellow Taurus, I could see a shade of myself in him – reserved and uptight.

Suhas did his Ice Breaker as well and he was very candid about his shortcomings, including smiling even when he was scolded. But he said it depends on how you see the attribute as it could be a shortcoming to one but a strength to others.

Tricia had put off her prepared speech for the longest time. But she decided that no more procrastination and went ahead despite the lack of preparation. She told me that she wouldn’t have done the project today if not for me and also because her evaluator was Distinguished Toastmaster Pradeep.

That’s not the first time a member said she did something if not for me. Jean had told me that she would have resigned from Vice-President Education if not for me as my passion had moved her.

That reminds me of the news maker I interviewed recently and the “Walking Capital” he brought up during the interview. Walking Capital is the freedom to leave a job and not be restrained by finances or feel beholden to anyone.

Oops, I digressed.

It wasn’t Edwin’s first time as Table Topics master.  But he put some thoughts into it by scaling his topics in ascending order of difficulty. It worked in encouraging active participation.

Joyce is the most effective language evaluator any Toastmaster club could probably have. She highlighted some of our mistakes in pronunciation:

  1. “object”, “contest”, “project” have the stress in the beginning when these words are used as nouns.
  2. “opportunity” has its stress in the third syllabus.

Taichi was sharp. He pointed out that Pradeep managed to end his evaluation two seconds before the time limit. This manifested Pradeep’s skill.

And we shall use the title “Toastmaster” in addressing one another out of respect.

All in all, we had a decent meeting.

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Titus and Suhas are now officially members of our club. Welcome aboard.

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Birthday Boy

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