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.

Last Chapter Meeting During Our Term

24th June 2017

Unlike last year’s installation ceremony which was attended by the who’s who in the local Toastmasters scene, it was a no fanfare but cozy event this year that saw the attendance of only senior members and an invited guest from another club.

I didn’t know what the incoming committee thought about the lack of heavyweights but I preferred it this way. After all, this was an important event to the club, it’s great to keep it to those who matter and those the club matters to.

Besides the installation ceremony, there was the usual chapter meeting. Suhas who was supposed to be the Toastmaster of the Day was mobilised last minute for national day parade rehearsal on the day we had the meeting. Fortunately, Kate saved the day by agreeing to stand in for Suhas at such short notice. Credit must be given to Suhas as well because when he was notified about the unexpected army deployment, he has had his script written out – in detail. It really helped Kate, who had never been the host of the chapter meeting.

Generally the meeting went well. Where there were hiccups, Kate reacted fast enough to turn things around. Being TMD trains one’s responsiveness and affords one room for creativity. That’s why I relish being a TMD.

It’s heartening to see members taking on responsibilities, and they learned and improved in the process.

I ended the session with a brief closing speech:

Thank you for your participation, especially thanks to EGG,  Edward Ma, Gideon and George, as well as guests who joined us in this special occasion.

That is the end of today’s meeting.

With this, my executive committee has completed our term. We wish Puspita and her team a successful term in leading the club to greater heights. And you a fruitful toastmasters journey in the coming term.

Parting Words

It was the second last opening speech for me as president, and I wanted to share something more personal and cosy.

It wasn’t perfect, and the ending was a bit abrupt. I could have ended the speech better. Here’s my heartfelt speech:

Good afternoon. 
What shall I say as my term as President draws to an end?  
Let’s see this club report and you would know how Kampong Ubi Toastmasters performed in the past year.  (*Slide)
The club has barely passed, with only five out of 10 goals met. We lack the advanced communicator awards and grossly short of leadership awards.
With just five goals achieved, it’s historic low for kampong ubi toastmasters. (*slide)
I must say I am responsible and it’s due to my poor planning, otherwise the club should have produced at least a competent leader. 
I should have let Taichi be either the organising or contest chair in March, otherwise he wouldn’t be just one role shy of the award of competent leader.
My apologies to Taichi and all of you.
I hope the club’s performance in the coming term would improve under the new leadership and with your contributions.
Serious stuff aside, how do you improve your public speaking learning journey? 
Toastmaster Jeremy, what do you do besides preparing your speeches, taking in the pointers from evaluation?
For me, I blog.
I blog about the toastmasters journey and experiences. For example, how I felt when I was delivering my maiden speech. (* slide)
I reviewed my speeches in my blog, to see what I could do to improve. (*slides)

I blog about the thought-provoking and inspiring messages from the meetings.(*slide)

I blog about you. (*slide)
For example, our marathon runner Taichi who confessed that he has not 1, not 3 but 11 pairs of running shoes.
Jamie’s first words after the contest.
Chen Kuang and Hesperus took part in contest though they had just joined.

I blog about the fun we had.
I blog about your milestones.
I blog about your victories.
I blog about your magic.
I blog about your best.
Thank you for everything.

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We had fun!

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.

Why?

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.

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.

In love with public speaking

Here’s my opening speech as President for the meeting on 11 February 2017

I was at a function a few days ago. About 40 of us were standing around.

The leader of the host organisation clutched the script in his left hand and his right was holding a microphone.

I was standing on his right, less than a metre away. From where I was, I could see there were only two paragraphs on his script.

Shortfly after he started delivering his speech, he placed his script on a table, tucked his left hand into the back of his trousers. Then he passed the microphone to his left hand, freeing his right hand to rest it in his pocket.

From time to time, he read from the script and moved from side to side. Then his left hand in the back of his trousers again, followed by his right hand in the trousers pocket.

I didn’t hear much about what he’s saying because his body was busy talking to me instead.

Unknown to him, his fidgety body language had betrayed his nervousness.

At that moment, I thought to myself, thank goodness I’ve joined Toastmasters. While I am still a long way from being a consummate public speaker, at least it is work in progress. And I’ve been consistently practising giving a speech to manage the nerves.

Along the way in my Toastmasters journey, I have developed a love for public speaking. From reading books and watching YouTube clips. I came to appreciate that public speaking is more than speech delivery and taming the butterflies in your stomach.

I am fascinated by how harnessing the power of words and injection of humour, can bring a speech alive and make a speaker charming.

What about you, have you fallen in love with public speaking?

Don’t miss our dates with public speaking every second Saturday and last Saturday of the month.

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.