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.

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Trivia

25th March 2017

Edwin broke the ice with demonstration of a trick, changing two cards from black to red and vice versa in the blink of an eye.  This was to go with the theme he set – the Magic of Believing. He was swift in movement and most of us did not catch his sleight of hand.

After his magic performance, there was a small  birthday celebration for Pradeep.  Taichi noted that I remembered the birthdays of fellow Toastmasters. But I merely gleaned the information from the club’s whatsapp chat group.  I hope the celebration would liven up meeting’s atmosphere while making the birthday boys/girls feel valued.

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Edwin performing sleight of hand

There were a few speakers and some of them did not look nervous.  One of them was Shanmugam or affectionately known as Shan.  His smiles prompted Taichi’s query, upon which he revealed that he did feel the nerves.  See, that’s a way to mask one’s jitters and it is to smile 🙂

Suhas did his project two and he was as cool as a cucumber.  His evaluator Lu Bin wondered why he joined Toastmasters since his presentation skill was pretty good.  General evaluator Taichi commented that this 20-year-old would have a very bright future ahead of him.  Indeed but hope he would not let all these compliments go to his head and change this promising young man.

Titus, on the other hand, has a different personality.  He might not be extroverted but he has his strengths.  He preceded his speech with a note of thanks to Edwin for being the Toastmaster of the Day as well as a brief comment on Anantha’s speech. He just needs some time to open up, I think, and his personable character would endear him to strangers.

I delivered on my promise to Jean, whom I had requested to make sure I would tackle a Table Topic.  I talked about my adventure in San Francisco.  Time flies, it’s been 14 years and it was the number one activity on my bucket list then.

Lastly, I am certain that the time has come for me to take a break.  I can’t focus as well as I used to be able to, and I am running out of ideas to write this blog.  In fact, the programme sheet I was in charge of for last meeting had the mission statement truncated. Well, I supposed that’s a cue for me to exit…

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!

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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!

100% results vs 50% commitment

Hesperus shared with us on how he has a body of a 17-year-old when he’s in fact 30 years old. The tip is exercising and for him, it means hitting the gym. He admitted that there were days when he didn’t feel like going to the gym but he JUST DO IT.  He also said, “How can you have 100% results when you only have 50% commitment.”

Well said. It doesn’t only apply to exercising but everything we do. My eight-year-old niece, as she was then, when asked by me as I was doing my master’s, if  I should stay at home (where I tended to take long naps) or go to the library for revision, her reply was as pithy as Nike’s slogan – do the right thing.

We all understand but it seems that we are simply not doing it. As what Hesperus said, it is all about your mental will.

Seeing only over 10 toastmasters turn up for these past two sessions – we’ve over 40 members – I rode on Hesperus’ speech and reminded attendees that while absence makes the heart grow fonder, their absence has been greatly felt.  And they must put in the commitment to see fruitful results.

But I am guilty of not putting in 100% effort lately. I almost forgot about the opening address to be delivered and didn’t practise enough. As a result, I had to refer to the script though it was a brief speech and I had omitted mentioning Edwin for his help in Taichi’s job-search.

But I singled him out in my closing speech to give him the recognition he deserves.

Lesson learned: don’t be lazy or complacent. Practice makes perfect and you would never be wrong for over practising.

Besides referring to script and omitted to credit Edwin, I also didn’t sound convincing in the opening address.

Neither did I exude confidence or sophistication in my closing speech.  Though my speech to wrap up the meeting drew on what Hesperus had said – encourage members to attend meetings regularly and stay fully committed, my delivery wasn’t smooth.  There’s huge room for improvement.

I need to improve my evaluation as well. While I had never done it, it’s not an excuse to put up an unsatisfactory performance. My evaluation did not have a proper structure and I didn’t summarise the contents in closing. I need to do more table topics to train my reflex responses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perfect 10

There were only 10 of us at the chapter meeting on 27 August.  Occasionally, we do see a quieter and as a result shorter meeting because of fewer attendees.

When I was checking with Toastmasters if they would be doing their projects at this meeting, many of them replied that they wouldn’t be attending.  As a result, Toastmasters like Taichi had to take on a few roles.  He was the Sergeant-At-Arms, the Toastmaster of the Day and an evaluator.

I told him it seemed like he was running the whole show.  He had participated in Table Topics segment as well, being the first speaker selected by Table Topics master Tricia.  He always impresses me.  He said while he is over 40 years old and having hit the performance plateau in marathon running, he would still expect to improve his performance.

Prabhakar presented “Diligent” as the Word of the Day.  Tricia, Taichi and Pradeep told Prabhakar that he had shown improvement in his public speaking.  When he delivered his maiden speech, he was nervous and stiff, now he was confident.

Not only this, Prabhakar knew that he was busy and didn’t have the time to prepare a project but he tried to participate by volunteering to do Word of the Day.  His attitude and spirit were commendable.

Jun hoped to do Table Topics 10 times in a year and also learn diving, when he shared his goals during the Table Topics segment.

There was a bright spot this past week.  Taichi has got a job, after months of searching.  Thank you to Toastmaster Steven who helped to set up an interview for Taichi. Taichi said that it had been a learning experience for him in attending interviews and learning to answer the questions.  The last time he looked for a job was five years ago and it was done in Japan.  This serves as a timely reminder for all employees: stay up-to-date with your skills including the ability to handle interviews.

(Left) Prabhakar presents Word of the Day.
(Right) Perfect 10

The contests

“My mind was blank… I don’t know why I am here, ” said Jamie ruefully when interviewed by the contest chair Lynn while the judges were deliberating on the results for the evaluation contest.

Jamie, Jun, Pradeep and Anthonius took part in the evaluation contest held yesterday and the winner will represent the club in the area contest.

While I didn’t contest, I could feel Jamie’s exasperation, having been through some writing tests under pressure.

Though Jamie didn’t clinch the championship, her participation in itself was admirable.

Pradeep clinched the championship for the evaluation contest, with Jun and Anthonius the first and second runners-up respectively.

Jun clinched the championship for the humorous speech contest, with Anthonius and Taichi being the first and second runners-up respectively.

Jun spoke about his family members and girlfriend’s advice to him on being himself.  Anthonius’ was about his first love while Taichi made the Japanese food natto the subject of his speech.

Hesperus and Ethan Chen Kuang, though rookies in public speaking, had made their maiden attempts in contest. Wasn’t it great to see these young people facing head on their fear of public speaking?

I should make it a goal in my public speaking journey to take part in contests to challenge myself as well.

Taichi has been doing very well in this aspect. While he said he was a timid person, he takes part in the sport that has a certain degree of danger, free diving. He claimed that speaking on the feet, that is delivering a Table Topic, is scarier than free diving.  Yet, he has the nickname of “Table Topics King”.  Because he pushes himself to face his fears and challenge his limits.

However, we might lose him should he not be able to get a job by the end of the month.  What a shame to lose someone who inspires us with his indomitable spirits.

But perhaps the time has come for him to go home to start a family and settle down, as well as near to his ageing parents in Nagano.

Whatever it is, we wish him all the best – though we would like him to be here in Singapore.

Briefing contestants before they started entertaining us with their humorous speeches.

Briefing contestants before they started entertaining us with their humorous speeches.

 

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Natto = Durians? Hmm…

 

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Pumping his fist, Anthonius says he was going to give it to the man who struck up a conversation with his sister.

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Shhh…Evaluation contestants were so serious as they prepared for their evaluation.

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Chief Judge Yen clearly enjoying the speeches.

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Congratulations to the contestants who emerged winners and runners-up, what a feat!