Toastmaster Manish delivered his personal best speech to date last Saturday for his project 10.  He was generous to share his script with me, and here it is (unedited):

How many of you felt an anxiety when you were told to go on a stage and speak…

You are not the only one, I am an old member of this club.

Some of you will relate to this boy – Bright, knows his stuff, full of ideas but never raises the hand to volunteer to answer, in fact it’s the other way round.

I can really relate to this during my school days! A bit nervous on a big stage but great in an informal set-up.

I am not very close to you and I don’t know your motivations but going by the project, I am supposed to inspire you. Have to think about one common theme that binds all of us . What is that? Yes, all of us are here to get better in public speaking.

I am going to share with you some stories about me and hopefully you will relate to them.

1st story – setting is early year 2004, Citibank regional head office in London. After successful implementation of strategically very important project, I was chosen amongst the top officers to undergo senior level project management training in London. Towards the end, I was supposed to come forward and debrief the seniors and colleagues about my learning and accomplishment.

I stumbled, fumbled, mumbled….and just about managed to complete it (pause) to the dismay of people watching me. This happened when I was well into 8-9 years of my already successful career. I was posted to Dubai then. When I returned, my boss who was a Distinguished Toastmaster told me that I have the talent and potential, however my ability or inability to communicate on a big stage can be a blocker. He suggested that I join Toastmasters. I went, signed as a guest couple of times, fumbled in one the table topics and then never signed up. What you see, so many guests and new members here…they don’t come back. I did the same, this was an easy route – ESCAPE!

2nd Story –Singapore incident. Fast forward to June 2014, I was given a charge to head a big portfolio across multiple geographies – UK, India and Singapore. It so happened that one of the directors quit in Singapore and I was told to take over from him. He was heading a team of 30 people and he introduced me to the team and then looked at me to say a few words. I started confidently but suddenly felt a rush of blood and anxiety as I looked at so many eyes staring at me. I felt like a deer caught in the headlights – paralyzed with fear…and guess what – I blanked out. My colleague rushed and got a glass of water for me. That was one of the most embarrassing moments for me. I regained my composure and spoke coherently and confidently for 10 minutes about number of things. But I thought the damage was done. It took me some time to recover from the trauma and then I thought about my boss’s advice 10 years back – Toastmasters. I realized no matter how much I dislike public speaking, there is no escape from it. I will have to get comfortable with the associated discomfort and conquer the fear. So, I joined toastmasters in Nov 2014.

3rd Story – Toastmaster project 3.
I gave an ice breaker speech in Jan 2015, followed it up with project 2 in Feb. I made a good start and then in Mar 2015, during my project 3, half way down I blanked out. It was the exactly the same feeling…I did regain my composure and completed the speech after 15 minutes. I went back home scarred, wounded and disappointed and wondering why this experience keeps coming back and haunts me. Let me tell you by this time I could pull off most of the presentations with relative ease in the office environment which was a positive development.
Fast forward to 25-Apr this year, which was very recent. I met my new boss in India, he is British and group CIO for an important technology vertical. He called me over for a dinner, we had couple of drinks and we got along well. He suddenly looked at me and said, we have a town hall tomorrow and we have to address the entire offshore team, you are joining me on the stage and we will jointly address the crowd.

I could immediately see that my happy state of mind as a result of 2 pints was overtaken by the performance anxiety. I had never addressed a crowd of close to 120 people standing on a stage. He could sense my unease and he asked me if I was up for it. One side of me said, said no and wriggle out of the situation…I also knew that I will lose both – great opportunity and my boss’s confidence by saying no. I said yes…I will do it. I was quite nervous and got up at 5:00 in the morning and could not sleep after that.

However, as I came close to addressing the crowd, I was surprisingly calm. I had prepared in my mind what I had to say and told to myself, I have finished 9 projects in TM, I know how to do it. Just apply those principles. I spoke with full confidence, no nervousness and it was a huge moment for me, I felt so light. It was like exorcising the demons that have been badgering me for many years.

I thought today is the right occasion to share these stories and my test would be, if I am able to share these stories in coherent and confident manner, it should be an inspiration to some of you. From the stories main messages are – start early, persist and practise. I would like to close the session with this inspirational slide – Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

 

20170610_150810

Toastmaster Manish delivered a perfect 10 Project 10 to a rapt audience.

Advertisements

A heartwarming session

Manish’s “Exorcising the Demons” was one of the most inspiring speeches and his personal best to date, I think.  He recounted how he sucked at public speaking at first, especially with so many eyes on him when he made a public speech over a decade ago.  He, at the suggestion of his then-superior, joined Toastmasters in 2004.  But he did not persist and dropped out half-way.

He knew he had to do it when he rejoined in 2014.  He told us he blanked out when he was doing his project 3. However, that didn’t deter him.  By April this year, when he was told by his boss over drinks that they would go on stage the following day to address an audience, though he was still frightful, it was a different Manish this time.

Having done a few projects by then, he was no longer the Manish he was a decade ago nor the Manish when he was delivering his project 3.

The words that he used for this speech were so vivid that I could feel what he was going through – the nervousness that gripped him when 30 pairs of eyes were on him.  He described the state as a deer in the headlights.

20170610_150926

Manish delivered his P10 speech and it won him the Best Speaker title.

Manish had a message for us – it’s not late to join Toastmasters. A quote that Manish used left me a deeper impression. It was Neale Donald Walsch’s Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

Besides Manish, there was Toastmaster Edwin who completed his project 10 as well. In accordance with the tradition, there was a cake to celebrate the completion of P10.

However, there was another reason for celebration – it’s Taichi’s birthday on 17th.  We celebrated his birthday in advance.  It was heartwarming to see three grown-up men of different age groups, nationalities and races to blow out candles together.  Toastmasters brought us together.

20170610_152429.jpg

Toastmasters brought these three men of different age groups, nationalities and races together for celebration.

I still sucked at Table Topics. I must confess I haven’t put in much effort on this impromptu speaking segment. The most I have done is to tackle a topic every meeting. It isn’t enough as I would only be blabbering nonsense without a structure. I would work on it if I continue with Toastmasters after my break.

It was my fourth attempt at Toastmaster of the Day. After it was set that I would be the TMD, I brainstormed for an icebreaker and I was pretty delighted with my ideas “Bonding over bonds”, with members divided into two teams with each team having the same number of participants. The first member would read a message and then softly pass the message to the second, with the latter whispering to the third. This was to be done out of the earshot of others as both teams got the same messages – to be fair.

The messages were about the financial instrument, bonds. I wanted to make it fun for most of the members who might not have much knowledge of the fixed income product type. What I did was to use terms with the word “bond” such as vagabond, James Bond and vanilla bond.

The other message was about the different types of bonds associated with various countries. The catch was they were not obvious. Bulldog, Panda, Merlion and Kangaroo, which do you think was non-existent?

Lastly, there were dim sum bond, kimchi bond, sushi bond and Tom Yum bond, the last was a figment of my imagination. Hey, but didn’t it sound real as all these bore the names of signature dishes of the places where the bonds were sold – Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan respectively. I had wanted to use Laksa bond but this dish was available in Malaysia and Singapore whereas Tom Yum is known to be a national dish of Thailand, and this would put it on par with dim sum, kimchi and sushi.

After the meeting, when I went to get the badges from Taichi for the installation ceremony (he would not be present on 24th), he said he likes Jean and me very much. I remember Edward has said this is a thankless job, and I never expect to be thanked. Despite that, knowing that your efforts have not gone unnoticed was rewarding.

I told him I won’t be seeing him, since both of us would be taking a break from Toastmasters. As what I told Jean later, putting in too much feelings isn’t good for me and it’s perhaps time to step away.

After all, I am a free spirit.

Jean and Lynn were very sweet, they each got me gifts, including a plush toy of my favourite character Doraemon.  Jeremy, after learning that I would be stepping down and taking a break, offered to treat me to a meal.

These gestures melt my heart.

Gifts from my Toastmasters and they touched my heart.