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.

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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.

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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.
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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!

Super Heroes…Not Everyone Wants to be One

27 May 2017

There were meant to be four prepared speeches but by Friday afternoon, only two left.  By then, I had already printed out the programme sheet and I didn’t want to waste trees equivalent of 20 sheets of paper to reprint.

Suhas couldn’t make it as well as he was assigned on Wednesday to take part in army open house held on that weekend.  I became the Table Topics master with the theme of Super Heroes set by Toastmaster of the Day, Jamie.

As I thought through the topics, I was wondering there might be people who would not wish to be a super hero.  A guest said he doesn’t want to be one because super heroes are subject to scrutiny and public opinions while Taichi would prefer to earn the super powers himself to having them bestowed on him.

Edwin’s prepared speech Never Try Never Know encouraged us to listen to our heart and not head/logic to take on risks at times.  When I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, that was my attitude.  But as I age, it seems too much is at stake, I lost the courage.

I wish I had vigour as well.  That’s the Word of the Day selected by Taichi, who recorded the number of times we vigorously used the word or its variants.

I was what E Hueen described in his The Three Seconds as I tend to think too much.  Three seconds isn’t enough to rest my racing mind and arrest my wild thoughts.

E Hueen is awaiting his national service enlistment.  He was a Toastmaster when he was studying at Temasek Polytechnic.  We didn’t know that former Toastmasters did not need to pay the one-time registration when they renew membership.  I wrote in to Toastmasters International to appeal for a waiver and we were told it wasn’t chargeable for former Toastmasters.

He clinched the Best Table Topics title at this meeting and the last.  Would there be a hat trick for this affable teen?

Saddiqi was a bit under the weather but he delivered his promise and conducted a workshop on rhetorical devices.  It was a shame that the turnout was small and just 12 of us benefited from the educational session.

Puspita, who left the club for a year for charity work, has not lost her public speaking skills.  She was a super mum and speaker, bagging the Best Table Topics Speaker title – a tie with E Hueen – and an effective project evaluator.

After the meeting, I ran through with her the duties of President and she was very quick to grasp, especially the importance of Personal Data Protection.  It made my handover easy.

After the meeting, a guest called Naveen signed up.  But another, who visited us in mid-May and had informed me before this meeting started that he was going to make payment, didn’t. Perhaps he has been turned off by my serious message in opening speech.  Jean had an explanation on why Naveen hasn’t been bothered by my opening speech – he didn’t understand what I was saying.

Yeah, Jean could be right!

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You don’t see me here because I was the photographer but actually I don’t like to take photographs.  I had asked why we must take photographs every session but I can’t remember the reason(s) now.

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29th April 2017

I could feel myself buckling under the demands of work and Toastmasters. I have been so forgetful that I suspect I might just forget myself one day.

Past week has been busy, with the hours as usually long, and I could feel myself falling sick. Luckily I was to stand in for a colleague in high court on Thursday, providing me a much needed breather from the hectic state courts.

Despite resting on Friday as I took leave to take advantage of the long weekend to have a better and well deserved break, my mind was apparently not well rested.

I forgot to bring Toastmaster manual in spite of reminding my members to do so, and I also left home without Jeremy’s script with annotations on it for evaluation.

It was no better at the meeting. It’s hard to juggle a few appointment roles at the same time. I was the Word of the Day, evaluator of Jeremy’s speech and timer all rolled into one.

Did I say I was the photographer too?

We were stretched, only 11 of us excluding the three guests turned up and some of us took on more than one role.

I didn’t play any role well as a result. Except Kate, Lynn and Jean, no one else used the Word of the Day – spring – in their speeches.

Neither did I excel in evaluating Jeremy’s speech. There was no structure nor conclusion. The fact that I forgot to bring his script made it harder for me.

I was also struggling with tracking the time in between taking photographs using the same handphone.

The chapter meeting started with Toastmaster of the Day, Lynn, testing our memory in the icebreaker. What a game when my memory is apparently failing. But I wasn’t the one who lost the game.

We had five speakers doing their projects with Kate being the new kid on the block talking about herself as an avid traveller and a coffee lover. Jeremy who won the best speaker title for his Ice Breaker project clinched it again with his project speech on Tibetan Dream Yoga. Let’s see if he would have a hat trick. It was a tie with Edwin who researched on Time Travel and talked about paradox when one travelled to the past and it would affect one’s fate in the future as a result of meddling with one’s past. He’s composed. Like Ajoy said, Edwin had a conversational tone.

Steven shed light on High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT in short, and this form of exercise is convenient because it doesn’t require equipment, takes up only 30 minutes per session and it can be done anywhere. Except that this isn’t for those who are not fitness buffs…like me.

Ajoy talked about Agile system in his technical presentation. It was not technical for non-IT practitioners like us and I think he had succeeded in this except that he busted the time limit. After hearing him speak, I noticed that Ajoy has a strong command of English and he was a few rare ones who pronounced the word “overarching” correctly by being silent on “h” and ending with “king” instead of “ching”.

We would meet on 13th May but already a few Toastmasters have told us they would be absent. Taichi would be running for a charity event, Steven would be burying himself in books for a financial exam while Venetia is attending her brother-in-law’s wedding.

 

 

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!