I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

Jamie who participated in International Speech and Table Topics contests won in both, being the victor and second runner-up respectively.

She touched the hearts of the judges with her speech entitled “Quit”.  Unlike conventional speeches that exalt the merits of persisting, she took on a different tag – quitting sometimes is necessary when the route doesn’t turn out to be what you had imagined.

I like Taichi’s Personal Best. It was peppered with humour, and the subject on besting ourselves in public speaking and other aspects struck a chord with me. Lynn thought he would win. But his non ra-ra style might have been under-appreciated.

Both Anthon and Tricia spoke on their personal tribulations, but they had different messages.  Anthon’s was about wedding lasts only a day but a marriage lasts a lifetime, and it won’t be a Disney’s story that always has a happy ending.  Tricia wanted us to volunteer ourselves and it might not be in a big way – as trivial as holding the door for someone whose hands might not be free.

Regardless of who won the contest, I appreciate their efforts.  They have helped me avert going down the history of Kampong Ubi Toastmasters as the president whose term saw no contest or contestants.

Thank you very much.

As for Table Topic contest, I selected the quote by Thomas Edison “I’ve not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”.

Suhas who has been with Toastmasters barely two months, emerged the first runner-up.  During the interview while the chief judge was tabulating the results, I asked Suhas who he thought would be the winner.  This young man was very honest and without much thinking said “Pradeep”. I told him, he should give a politically correct reply – Everyone’s a winner.

Pradeep, whom Suhas has considered to be the winner, came in victorious.

The results for the contests were as follows:

International Speech:

  1. Jamie
  2. Tricia

Table Topic Speech:

  1. Pradeep
  2. Suhas
  3. Jamie

In closing, I delivered this speech weaving in the titles of the four International Speech contestants and the Table Topic.

The contestants have made our day with their fabulous speeches, giving their personal best, though not every story was a Disney’s story.  While quitting is sometimes necessary, I hope all of you won’t quit public speaking, won’t quit contesting.

We’d try even if we have not won.

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.


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!


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


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.


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

Express to Impress…NOT.

Perhaps I am not a persuasive speaker. Or I am not one yet.

I have delivered a persuasive speech but I did not manage to persuade the project evaluator Jacky and general evaluator Pradeep that I made it.

Jacky recommended that I use myself as an example of how having read the book that I was sharing with members would make the speech more persuasive.  That’s the Before-After effect to enhance persuasion.

And instead of talking about the book, I should share the benefits of reading the book, that is the why.

Lastly, he said that I should adopt more open gestures with wide-stretched arms in my delivery.

Pradeep bluntly said that I did not meet the project objectives, as the speech should be about my viewpoint and opinion, not the author’s.  He added that selling is not allowed and that I sounded like a publicist or agent for the author.

I note their points…but I’m confused by their comments.

Just like to explain how and why I crafted my speech this way.

I read the book only a week ago and have not had the opportunity to put the techniques into practice.  Therefore, there’s no Before-After effect to talk about.

While I used the contents of the book as illustration, this is to show the benefits of reading it. Perhaps I wasn’t direct or explicit in drawing the link between reading the book and the benefits. How does one know what benefits a product offers without knowing the features of the product?  Eg, if the customer wants a car, you would sell on the features including speed, safety and price. No?

As for the comments by Pradeep, with respect, I wonder if they were valid.

I wasn’t selling the book. In fact, I didn’t even buy my copy, it’s from the library. I don’t know the author personally either.

And I am not sure if selling is prohibited by Toastmasters International.  Though I must categorically deny that I was selling.

While the tips I shared in my speech were from the book, they were, in my opinion, helpful and relevant to the members.

You may think I am being defensive or sore about the criticisms. I am not.

I accept the point about the gestures or the lack of Before-After effect. In fact, not only these, I feel I might have looked stiff – I need to relax a bit more.

I have delivered nine projects with one more to go before completing the manual. While I am somewhat more steady and confident in speaking, I feel my skill still sucks. I don’t agree with Pradeep’s assessment that I have improved – from a kindergarten student to an A-level 3 (Is there A-level 3? Perhaps he meant pre-university year 3). I still have a very long way to go to being a consummate speaker.

This project has dealt a dent to my confidence.  I am not certain if I could handle project 10 on inspirational speech, especially when I am never a ra-ra person.

Perhaps it’s good to have a break after doing 10 projects.  It’s been taxing and draining since I took over as president. And I think I am merely running the club without leading it.

Time to take stock after I step down.  Looking forward to it.

Stepping down will take a load off my shoulders.


Good afternoon, Toastmasters and guests.

Among prepared  speeches, table topics and evaluation,WHICH segments of Toastmasters meeting do you find  the most DAUNTING?

Toastmaster Taichi, why?

Like Toastmaster Taichi, I find table topics nerve-racking as well. You know I do, if you have noticed I would look away during appropriate times during Table Topics, or look at Table Topics King Taichi and signal to him to volunteer himself.

Toastmaster Jean, when you were about to make your first attempt at project evaluation,  you asked me if there’s a template for it.  Remember?

Like Toastmaster Jean, when I first tried my hand at speech evaluation, I wondered what I should look out for.

So, every time I need an answer, be it on how to make Table Topics less of a menace or how to structure a project evaluation, I would do what some if not most of you would do – Google.

But, recently I stumbled upon a book and it provides most of the answers I need.

It’s entitled Express to Impress[prop] . And I STRONGLY RECOMMEND you read it.[prop]

Why SHOULD you read Express to Impress?

Because it offers a WEALTH of TIPS , STRATEGIES and TECHNIQUES.

Look at the contents page of the book, there are 11 chapters.

The author touched on a VARIETY of topics, ranging from the myths of public speaking to understanding different genres of speech, to tickling the audience with humour.

Therefore, Express to Impress introduces you to different aspects of public speaking.

Some of you might say, even if the book has a LOT of information if it’s not HELPFUL, not USEFUL, then it’s not MEANINGFUL.

That brings me to the OTHER reason why you SHOULD read Express to Impress.

Because the materials are PRACTICAL and HIGHLY RELEVANT to us.

Express to Impress was written by someone like YOU AND ME – a Toastmaster.  Author DARREN TAY is from Punggol Toastmasters Club.

He shared in the book his TRIED-AND-TESTED public speaking techniques, strategies and tips.

Darren is the 2016 World Champion of Public Speaking. He is the first Singaporean to have clinched the coveted title.

Toastmaster Taichi, Express to Impress says you can prepare for table topics, would you like to know how.

Preparing for table topics is akin to preparing for job interviews. We go to a job interview with prepared answers to expected questions like why should we hire you.

According to Express to Impress, we can prepare for Table Topics too, by practising topics of various genres

Eg, Darren prepared at least 10 stories and practised for months before a  contest, with each of his story having more than one message. The message that he would deliver at the contest then depends on the Table Topic he is given.

There you go, while Table Topics requires you to deliver an impromptu speech, it DOESN’T mean it CAN’T be prepared.

Toastmaster Jean, Express to Impress has tips on PROJECT EVALUATION, keen to find out?

Darren, in Express to Impress, recommended the use of several techniques for project evaluation. I’ll share with you two of the techniques here.

Technique #1. Be specific.

Don’t just say your speech was good, but elaborate on what made the speech good.

Technique #2 Be creative.  Eg,  your speech title is LOVE, let me then use the acronym LOVE to evaluate your speech.
L for Logical flow, O for organisational structure, V for Vigour of your delivery and E for Enhancement.

As for me, using a tip from the book, I have started building a bank of phrases and contents for use in future speeches.  Eg, I hardly paid attention to advertising slogan. But the advertising slogan of isotonic drink 100 plus is now in my bank of phrases.  The drink uses the power of three in its advertising slogan -rehydrate, refresh and re-energise.

Having shared snippets from Express to Impress, it’s not hard to see why you should read Express to Impress[prop]. And I urge you to read it.

Express to Impress[prop]offers YOU a wealth of practical and highly relevant public speaking tips.

By tapping Darren’s rich experiences crystallised in the book[prop], we could cut short our learning curve.

Express to Impress[prop]will EXPRESS your Toastmasters journey, leaving you IMPRESSED

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.


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


Birthday Boy


Lessons learnt

Afternoon, toastmasters and guests.

How to not win when one is clearly the best?  When rule’s been breached, yet one proceeds to take part in the contest.

We had the humorous and evaluation contests last Saturday for the area level. It’s not only managing one’s nerves and scripting a winning speech that I learned, but also other lessons.

When I saw the position of the timing device, I told the division director it’s hard for contestants to take note of the timing device located at the extreme end of the speaking space.

He said that judges were not supposed to take into account the timing in their  evaluation so the timing device had to be out of sight of the judges.

Jun aired his concern when contest chair mentioned at the beginning of the contest position of the timing device.

Pradeep had an issue with the position of the timing device as well.

Despite these, the contest carried on without the timing device repositioned.

Pradeep clearly was the best contestant in speech evaluation but he was disqualified as a result of busting the time limit.

I read the rulebook after that and it is stated “The signalling device must be in full view of each contestant”  and timing signals shall be clearly visible to the speakers but not obvious to the audience.

Apparently, the organising committee breached this rule. But because we did not take further action despite taking issue with the position of the timing device and Pradeep went on to take part, we were at fault as well.

What are the lessons learned here?

1. Don’t compromise if you have a legitimate issue, even if it means you give up the opportunity. As president of this club, I would support and respect your decision.

2. Familiarise yourself with the rules and refer to the rulebook when in doubt.  I should have done this when I brought up the issue before the contest started but I trusted others instead.

Michael Phelps said nobody is happy to lose but he was very gracious when he lost to Joseph Schooling.

To me, taking part in contests, the means to the end is that matters.

It might be easy for me to say this because I wasn’t a contestant. But i  think the ultimate question is, have you done your best. If the answer is “yes”, you are a winner no matter what.

Vocal Variety…or lack thereof

I wasted an interesting subject for my Project 6 (Vocal Variety) with an indiscernible tone for two of the characters in my speech entitled “This is DHL”.

Evaluator Pradeep thought that I was monotonous in my pitch and did not step out of my comfort zone to give the two scammers in my story a different voice.  Furthermore, I was soft when I was giving the speech.

Months ago when the DHL phone scam was prevalent, I decided I would find out more about the modus operandi to get the offenders apprehended and as a subject for my Project 6 on vocal variety.

I would say it was an interesting and suitable material for vocal variety, as you would read my script here at the bottom.

However, I had wasted the story with not enough vocal variety injected into it.  On the point of monotony, I need to read up on what exactly pitch is about.  I have to confess that I have not read the supplement to this project which I have downloaded.  Was I being complacent, lazy and put off by the pretty wordy supplement?  Yeah.

I think the lack of practice with movements had affected my delivery.  Being busy shouldn’t be an excuse because I was scheduled to speak two weeks ago but the evaluator last minute couldn’t turn up and I was still jetlagged, my project was postponed to today.

But I think fatigue did play a part in my poor performance.  I was very sleepy and had skipped breakfast. So when I spoke, at past 2pm, I had not had my first meal of the day.  I was not soft, usually.  Therefore, I was pretty surprised when Pradeep commented that I was soft.

Besides these, I think to handle two speeches – opening address and prepared speech – did take a toll on me, coupled with the last-minute script for the opening address.

Lastly, I should not have made this mistake.  While I knew I wasn’t well practised, I should just deliver without having my tablet on the lectern as a psychological crutch. I thought the tablet would make it easier for me to refer to my script if I had momentary memory lapse, it ended up impeding my performance. My insufficient practice had caused my confidence to suffer, this in turn had led me to be insecure psychologically, relying unnecessarily on the tablet.

In summary, I:

  1. shouldn’t rely on my tablet as a psychological crutch;
  2. should practise well;
  3. should read up on the supplement diligently; and
  4. go study on pitch


This is DHL, you have a parcel not picked up, to find out more, please press 9, the recorded message instructed.

If you now get a call like this, what would you do?

Afternoon, Toastmasters.

Some of you would have read about the DHL phone scam, on the pretext of catching you sending through DHL illegal materials overseas and then demanding a sum of money from you to help settle the offence.

Or you might have received such calls.

How does one be vigilant to such phone scam, given that phone scams are so prevalent nowadays? Let me share my recent experience with you.

I received a call purportedly from DHL some time ago.

I did not cut the line off, I followed the instruction and pressed 9 instead.

What do you want? The man on the other end of the line asked in Mandarin with a mainland Chinese accent.

Oh, I’ve been told I have a parcel.

What’s your name, he asked.

Huh? You called me but you don’t know my name?

This is DHL Singapore Changi South Street 2 warehouse, he said, and that i must have had a parcel sent through this.

I plucked a name out of the air and said “Tong Sharon” .

He “checked” the system using this name and said I had sent a parcel to Shanghai and the customs there had discovered that the parcel contained illicit materials, to be specific, there were 28 credit cards.

28 cards? I’m not a bank, why would I have so many cards? You must have made a mistake.

He checked with me if I had sent a parcel on 27 June and when I vehemently denied, he provided me with some background information so that I could make a police report.

He “kindly” offered to put me through to Shanghai international police.

My colleague had been listening to my conversation with the scammer.

I winked at her, trying to show her I was going to outwit the scammer, and get him and his accomplices arrested.

I googled for the number to text the Singapore police about the scam. I sms the police, saying “I received a scam call from “DHL”, and I am still talking to the scammer on landline xxxxxxxx, can you trace the call?

Trying to prolong the call, I asked the fraudster seemingly valid questions.

“Must I pay for the long distance call?”, I asked, “I don’t want to incur any charges.”

While he was putting me through to the Shanghai bogus police, reply from the real police came through sms “kindly provide us with your name, location and nature of emergency so that we can respond to you”.

Despite texting the police several messages, all I got was the same automated message reply.

Meanwhile, I was chatting with the Shanghai bogus police officer. He asked me for my particulars. I just gave him a fictional profile and when asked for occupation, I lied that I was jobless, he said “you’re in between jobs”.

“Economy is not doing well, huh?

“It’s okay, when god closed a door, he opens a window for you”.

I was indignant. This scammer had the cheek to preach when he’s trying to scam me of my hard-earned money, as he’s done to others.

I cupped the phone, while whispering to my colleague, “Selina, would you please call the police? Tell them I’m on the phone with the “DHL” scammer.

In the meantime, I continued to engage the scammer. “How do I address you? Mr Chen.”

He rattled off some information but as I was waiting for my colleague who was talking to the Singapore police, I told the bogus police officer, Mr Chen, “I’m feeling very nervous now for being accused of a serious international crime, could you slow down a bit?”

While I knew it was just a charade that I was putting up, my hands couldn’t help feeling cold.

My colleague, meanwhile, had talked to the police. She whispered, “they said they can’t trace the call without prearrangement with the telco, they advised you to hang up and not to waste your time.”

Having heard this and having spent 30 minutes on the phone with the scammer during lunch time, I decided that’s it.

Mr Chen was still going on with his spiel, totally oblivious to what I was up to.

“Mr Chen,” my tone changed from nervous to a cold one but he kept talking on and on without giving me an opportunity to interject. “Mr Chen, Mr Chen, Mr Chen, this is the Supreme Court, stop calling, stop scamming people, if you still have a conscience. ”

I hanged up.

The next time I receive a call purportedly from DHL, I’m going to reply I’m from FedEx.

Thank you.