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:

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 ask, 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.

 

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

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!

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.

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.

Pit against the best…

Pradeep impressed the judges at the area contest on 15 April, with his composed speech on table topic “When you pursue your passion, you feel pain and fulfillment”.  He would now represent the area (and Kampong Ubi Toastmasters) to clinch the division championship.

It was Jamie’s maiden contest.  Feeling nervous was understandable but she gave her best.  She looked so drained after the contest.  While she didn’t bag any award, it was a fruitful experience for her, I think.

Being the photographer, I was busy clicking the shutter with nary a moment resting my bum.  I would say I was one of the most hardworking appointment holders.  I was almost late, after going to the wrong venue, Queensway Secondary School, and had a problem after that finding my way to Queenstown Secondary School.

Queenstown Secondary School v Queensway Secondary School, could you tell the difference, especially when the latter is just two bus stops away from Queenstown Primary School.  It’s misleading.

Probably it’s my last appearance at Toastmasters contest. Being President of KUTMC, I must discharge my duty to support my members and look out for their interest at contest.  But when I am just an ordinary member, I would support them… mentally, but unlikely to make my way to the west and burn several precious hours on a weekend.

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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Challenge the Way You Think

I completed the Toastmasters Competent Communicator manual on 8th April 2017, with the following project 10 speech entitled “Challenge the Way You Think”.  I was inspired by a highly-intelligent professor for my master’s programme.  Though it’s been a few years since I completed the programme, I remember his refrain to challenge the way we think.

Here’s my speech:

Jim was a newly minted fireman and he had just reported for work.  When he had barely entered the office, the landline rang.  Seeing his firefighting colleagues were at a corner playing cards, he answered the phone.  After he hung up, he went to the corner, walked up to one of the firefighters and relayed the phone message.

When my professor told us this story,  he had this question for us: “Jim had just reported for work and didn’t know anyone, how did he know which of the three firefighters the phone message was for?”

Any guess?

The answer to the riddle is: the caller had asked for Jane, the only woman among the 3 firefighters.

Some people didn’t guess it because they had assumed that all firefighters are men or must be male.

Assumptions we make like this or long-held beliefs constrain our thinking. As a result we don’t think of or question if there are other possibilities.

What’s the moral of the story?

Challenge the way you think.

Have you ever been a prisoner of your own beliefs or thinking?

I have.

I go to Aljunied every day to pay respects to my late grandaunt.  For many years, I would take bus 67, that would bring me directly to Geylang Lorong 34 where I would need to cross 2 roads and also walk another 2 stretches to reach the temple.  When I was in a rush and bus 67 was nowhere in sight, I would take bus 28 first, and then transfer to another bus to bring me to Geylang Lorong 34.

I never thought of changing this route, because it had served me well. Or so I thought.

Then, came a day when I was too engrossed in reading on bus 28 and I missed the bus stop to transfer. I alighted from bus 28 at a bus stop I thought was the nearest to the temple.

After alighting from the bus, I cut across a muddy field and in 5 minutes’ time, I reached the temple.

That journey turned out to be not only a shorter distance but also a cheaper bus ride.

So, it was a blessing in disguise when I missed the bus stop and found a route better than my preferred one.

Would I have thought of other routes besides my preferred one? Maybe, if I had explored, if I had challenged my set thinking.

What’s the moral of the story?

Challenge the way you think.

But apparently it’s not just me.

Have you heard of the elephant-and-rope story?

A man was walking past an elephant, he suddenly stopped, puzzled by how the huge creature would be held by only a small rope tied to one of its front legs.

[Slide]

No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephant could break away any time from the rope but it did not.

The man saw a trainer nearby and asked why the elephant had made no attempt to get away.

“Well,” the trainer said, [vocal variety] “when elephants are very young and much smaller, we use a small rope to tie them and, at that age, it was enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”

Baby elephants are traditionally trained by tying one of their front legs to a stake in the ground.  Because the elephants are small, only a thin rope is required. They’ll struggle and pull at first, but eventually they realize that they can’t break the rope and they’ll give up.

Elephants grow fast. Before long, those cute babies become lumbering giants. But here’s the thing: that same thin rope is all that’s needed to keep them secured. They think the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free. In the end, you’ve got a giant held back by just a thin rope and a wooden stake. Freedom would be as easy as a little tug but the poor elephant never thinks of trying.

What’s the moral of the story?

Challenge the way you think.

 

Like the elephants, how many of us go through life hanging onto a belief, mindset or an assumption?

Just take today for example, how many of you came exactly by the same way you do for every meeting?  Have you thought of using another route?  If you have not, try thinking.

Try another route next time, think of a way to disrupt your routine, disrupt your habit.

The way you think is a habit, a habit first taught to you, then refined and defined over time by you.

Just because you’ve always done something one way, it doesn’t mean you should continue to do so.

Sometimes, we reach a conclusion based on a specific set of conditions, then forget or do not revisit our decisions even when conditions or circumstances have changed.

Rather than fully and clearly seeing the way things are or can be, we’re locked into how things used to be. The result? Could be missed opportunities, self-imposed blockers and wasted potential.

So if you’re struggling to come up with ideas, techniques, possibilities and options, it’s worth considering: what are you unable to see as a result of your set thinking?

Albert Einstein said we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”.

If you change the way you think, the way you think will change.

Challenge the way you think. 

Let’s break our habit now, those who have been occupying the same seat, please move to the opposite side of the table, those who have been taking up the back seats, please sit at the front, and vice versa.  Changing your perspective could be the first step towards challenging the way your think.

P.S. The italicised portion was to be read out if I had not passed the minimum eight-minute mark. This was not done in the end.