I am Not a Toastmaster

I am not a Toastmaster.

I had considered joining a Toastmasters Club many, many years ago. I just couldn’t find one that fit my odd work schedule or be close enough to home that I would actually not mind travelling to.

It turns out that it didn’t matter.

I learned the hard way, through the cleansing fires of non-friendly, sometimes even hostile, audiences. In my opinion, that’s the fastest, surest way to learn.

Let me qualify that. Toastmasters clubs can be very helpful for someone who wishes to overcome his/her fear of public speaking. I have a fair number of friends who are Toastmasters, and I have seen them grow in confidence as they take the stage.

In the friendlier spaces of their respective clubs, there is greater safety, as well as the presence of potential mentors who can help. These are valuable. No doubt about that.

That said, the usefulness of these things stops once the speaker is past a certain point. Things start to go a little awry. I have listened to hundreds of speakers, both in-person and through the Internet, and I have come to notice certain traits that quite a number of them, who happen to be Toastmasters, have:

1) They have unnaturally exaggerated facial expressions and body language, all the while over-enunciating and placing too much emphasis on their words, often in a slightly off-beat manner that’s very difficult to listen to without getting distracted.

Nobody talks like that in real life. If they did, people around them would either raise incredulous eyebrows, politely excuse themselves, or run.

2) The content of their speeches is lacklustre.

I have heard from a few sources that Toastmasters are judged more on delivery than they are on content.

If that is true, I can only surmise that, in order to win contests and/or titles, they have no choice but to sacrifice substance for form. I certainly cannot speak for others, but that is a sacrifice I am unwilling to make.

Yes, there is a place for pretty speeches, but if the audience learns nothing from the encounter, what’s the point?

3) There seems to be an emphasis on telling personal stories that borders on idolatry.

Personal stories can be powerful and moving. IF they are used appropriately and for the right reasons.

I have lost count of the number of times I had to sit through an unnecessarily long, over-dramatised, poorly-executed narration of an inconsequential incident in the life of a speaker I happened to be sitting in front of.

For some reason, telling a personal story has become a ‘must’ and ‘the only way to start a speech / presentation’. It is not.

The audience doesn’t care about the speaker’s life more than they care about their own.

With that in mind, wouldn’t it make more sense to relate to the audience first, and then tell a personal story that they can relate to, in order to cement that bond?

No, I don’t hate the Toastmasters, nor do I think that they should dissolve. I simply believe that it’s time for them to update themselves.

Story-telling has no shortcuts. It is an art and a science, and needs to be respected, taught, and practised as such.

Cheesy Toast.jpg

Attending the 142nd Meeting of the Association of Professional Trainers (APTS)

The 142nd Association of Professional Trainers (APTS) meeting 2 days ago was quite a blast.

We had, for the 1st time, two emcees - Eugene Seah and Jude Lim - who decided to adopt a cross-talk style, to a... rather interesting effect.

Our President, Mr. David Lee, shared his experiences and thoughts with us during his opening address - something I always look forward to.

Then, we had our first speaker - Alvin Lim, who taught us about Risk Management.

He took us through the types of risks that we, as trainers, often come across:

Strategic Risks, Compliance Risks, Operational Risks, Financial Risks, and Reputation Risks

After that, he reminded us that we could do 5 things when it comes to risks:

1) Accept them
2) Reduce them
3) Share them
4) Transfer them
5) Avoid them

(5) is a common response, but never a long-term solution.

After a short break, we had Mike Li sharing what he suggested is The World's Biggest Problem.

Through an audience poll, and some research he had done, many people think that global warming is The World's Biggest Problem.

Well, it certainly keeps me up at night, especially during the past few sweltering days.

Without spoiling what I thought was an excellent TED-style talk, I will share just one key takeaway from it:

The Mediocre Are Always At Their Best.

Now, that's a statement for the ages.

Thank you, Alvin and Mike, for sharing some truly thought-provoking points.

I look forward to your next events!

APTS 142nd Meeting
Alvin Lim at APTS
Mike Li at APTS

Quietly Leaving Your Mark: Personal Branding for Introverts

[To my fellow introverts:]

Like you, I struggle with the dilemma of deciding between being known and having a quiet, private life.

Note the present tense. I still do.

What I learned is this: 
In order to have the quiet, private life that I want, I must first be able to provide for it.

Yes, I’m talking about the 3rd most taboo subject: Money.

Let’s get real.

You need a fair bit of change to live in the most expensive city in the world (according to The Economist Intelligence Unit - EIU). As do I.

Prime opportunities go to those who are at the top of their field. If you’re not up there with them, you’re getting second-rate projects that they rejected or were never going to enter their field of vision anyway.

What that means for you is that you are fighting with a lot of people for very little gain.

Is that really how you want to live out the rest of your life?

This is my perspective.

I’m done being passed over for meaningful projects that I know I’ll be great at, which instead got handed to the loudest person in the room.

I’m tired of being treated as if I’m slow or invisible during unnecessarily raucous meetings and ‘brainstorming’ sessions.

I have had it with people wondering whether I’m good at what I do just because I take time to think rather than talk constantly and offer information they may or may not want.

This is why I built my personal brand around who I am and what I wish to achieve.

It required a lot of thought and a lot of work, but I am on my way to leading the life I want to lead. It’s going to be a journey, and I’m glad that I have friends along for the ride. (You guys know who you are!)

If this is a journey you have heard of but haven’t embarked upon, I encourage you to take the first step and start building your personal brand.

If you’re concerned that you don’t know what to do or which direction to head, it’s alright. You don’t have to go it alone. We can be your guides and show you the way.

Join me and my friend Eugene Seah on the 10th of July (it’s a Tuesday) from 7 pm to 10 pm at Synergy Hub @ 45 Middle Road #06-00, a mere 5 minute walk from Bugis MRT station.

I will be showing you how you, too, can quietly leave your mark on the world and those around you.

Quietly Leaving Your Mark.jpg

Arising New Misconceptions About Introversion

The impact of Susan Cain's book Quiet has been nothing short of impressive. Suddenly, introverts from around the world are proud of their identities.

However, as with all such shifts in thinking, new misconceptions have arisen.

With this newfound attention, especially through the media, introverts, who used to be viewed as 'weird' are now seen as 'cool'.

Perhaps in an attempt to seem like part of the 'cool' gang, many people have jumped on the bandwagon and declared themselves as introverts because they see themselves exhibiting certain stereotyped introverted behaviours, such as reading, taking time alone and being less-than-comfortable in social situations.

Of course, there are many other such stereotypically introverted behaviours, but let's for now focus on these three:

1) Reading

Reading is NOT the exclusive domain of introverts. I know plenty of extroverts who read - some of them, voraciously and I also know plenty of introverts who don't enjoy it at all.

This is a stereotype because reading is typically a solitary activity and concentration on the content is usually easier when it's quiet.

Nevertheless, enjoying a good book doesn't make you an introvert, and it certainly doesn't mean that you have to be an introvert to enjoy reading.

2) Taking Time Alone

Whether we are introverts or extroverts, we all need to take some time alone, be it to think, to re-focus, or simply to get away from it all.

Yes, introverts do generally need more time on our own because that's how we recharge so we have the energy to get through another hectic day. That said, we don't 'own' the alone-time space.

Just to clarify, we are all somewhere on the introversion-extroversion spectrum. Just because someone tends toward the extrovert side of the spectrum doesn't mean he/she has no introversion in his/her personality. There is no such thing as a 'pure' introvert or extrovert.

So go ahead and take time on your own. It really is the best way to clear your head and get things sorted.

3) Being Less-Than-Comfortable In Social Situations

Before you label yourself 'socially anxious' or 'socially awkward', try and figure out what exactly it is that makes you so uncomfortable about being in a social situation.

Are you concerned that nobody will find you interesting?

Well, then get yourself a quirky hobby. Also, figure out a new angle with which you can talk about what you do. This isn't about having a good elevator pitch. It's about seeing what another person may find interesting about what you find mundane.

Are you worried that you will get rejected by the people you try to talk to?

That's possible, of course. The good news is that many of them are worrying about the exact same thing and they will probably welcome your conversation, unless you are bad conversationalist or a terrible bore, in which case, you need to go brush up on your social skills. Attend a course and bring somebody along with you.

Are you, perhaps, afraid that you won't know what to do or what to say?

As above, brush up on your social skills. Learn to make small talk. As much as introverts hate it, it is a very powerful social lubricant. Also, practise introducing yourself with a twist so that others ask you questions. Then, you won't need to worry about what to say next, because you just have to answer their questions.

Remember that introverts and extroverts can suffer from social anxiety, which is based in fear, an emotion, not in personality.

Certainly, there are other misconceptions out there, but these are 3 of the most common ones that I've come across. If you have any to add or any questions to ask, feel free to drop me a message.

Red-eared Terrapin

Meeting Charlie Ang - Business Futurist

Last night, I learned something:

There are no facts about the future because it hasn't happened yet.

What that means is that everything you hear about the future is opinion.

We can, of course, make educated guesses and predictions. We can base them on past experiences and present observations, but they will still be nothing more than guesses.

That said, it doesn't mean that we don't need to prepare for it.

That's why I attended Charlie's event.

Charlie Ang

Charlie shared a great deal of information, backed up by statistics and articles, about what he sees the future will be.

Of note are the following points:

1) The Information Economy will make way for the Intelligence Economy, which will be slow at first but will improve exponentially.

When this happens, we can expect a greater disruption than when the Industrial Economy transitioned into the Information Economy. This is partly due to the fact that information itself is inherently passive. It cannot act on its own but only in tandem with other factors.

As with all fledgling technologies, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is in its stage of infancy. It can do simple tasks now, but will pick up speed in the coming years until it 'suddenly' makes a breakthrough, one that will allow its ascension into the foremost technology of its time.

2) Preparing for the future requires us to IMAGINE the future

If there is one thing we can do that machines cannot, it is the ability to dream, imagine and envision.

If we don't first imagine a future that we want to live in, someone (or something) else will. And when they create it, we no longer get it a say in it.

3) For businesses, disruption can come in two forms: Supply Disruption and Demand Disruption

Supply disruption is the easier one to look out for. For example, instead of hiring an insurance agent, peer-to-peer insurance may develop and take over the market. Personal AI Assistants may also become so proficient at weighing between policies that they can recommend the most cost-effective solution.

Demand disruption, on the other hand, tends to be harder to spot, unless you are adept at joining all the dots. In the same example of insurance, self-driven cars of the future may make the roads so safe and, because they are not owned by any one individual at a time, may need little to no car owner's insurance at all. In the same vein, if disease prevention becomes so powerful that people almost never get any diseases, health insurance policies are going to see a dip as well.

There are so many factors and forces that are at work that it is very difficult to predict what will happen and even more difficult to see what will happen because of what happens.

For now, it is becoming ever more important for businesses to explore new avenues even as they are exploiting the markets of today.

Thank you, Charlie, for sharing your thoughts and knowledge on the subject. It has sparked a lot of thoughts and, I imagine, many future conversations.

Four Point Zero

A Creative, Millennial-friendly Workplace of the Future?

Last Thursday, I attended the 138th APTS Networking and Training Workshop.

Our first speaker was Dickson Tang (of Ideaschap), who spoke on Creativity and its importance in the future of work.

Though we are, inevitably, marching towards a future of automation and artificial intelligence, there are things that machines and computers cannot do well. As good as they are at analysis and logic, they cannot solve creatively.

In that, we have our advantage over them. To that end, Dickson shared 3 things that will be important in an automated future:

An INDIVIDUAL MINDSET that is creative and, instead of saying, “Cannot!” asks “Why not?”

A team INFRASTRUCTURE that is held together by making and learning from mistakes and strives to become well-versed in multiple disciplines.

A bank of IDEAS derived from figuring out how we can add to, subtract from, multiply by or divide up our current thoughts and methods.

He encouraged us to take time to ponder over these points and apply them to what we are already currently doing.

After a short break, we had our second speaker – Vivek Iyyani who spoke about Motivating Millennials at the Workplace.

 He shared the identity and motivations of the Millennials and, true to the Millenials’ embrace of technology, he made use of an audience-interactive online service that allowed us to immediately post our thoughts on the presentation screen.

He reminded us that, though the Millennials are often portrayed negatively, they are a product of previous generations and they still look to their elders for wisdom and feedback.

In order to lead Millennials, he emphasises that the previous generations have to appeal to their values and take the time to understand and mentor them. It is in the interests of superiors in the workplace (especially bosses) to make the work environment conducive to the Millennials using his 10F Model. I'll just mention a couple of them briefly:

FUN – to appeal to and cultivate their passions

FLEXIBILITY – to aid in work-life integration

FORTUNE – in benefits, not necessarily money

As a Millennial myself, I would certainly be more attracted to a workplace that has these things in place.

Once again, thank you, Dickson and Vivek for sharing your expertise and for making it such a fruitful evening.

APTS Meeting - 29 Mar 2018

Presentation Advice for Trainers / Educators

Every good presentation is a result of following 3 S’s:

Steps

Simplicity

Story 

Steps give your presentation a smooth flow – a result of proper planning, preparation and practice. 

Find out about your target audience and customise your presentation for them. Decide what information to present, then prepare any visuals, handouts, materials, and equipment that you will be using. 

Familiarise yourself with the content by practising your delivery and timing. Any instructions should be clear, concise and specific. Remember to allow time to carry out your instructions.

Simplicity ensures that your session is understandable but not ‘dumbed down’, challenging but not too difficult to grasp.

To do this, use:

1) Short sentences

2) Everyday words instead of jargon or technical terms

3) Personal pronouns, like ‘I’ and ‘you’

4) Active verbs instead of passive verbs

5) A little humour

Story helps make your presentation memorable. After all, we are all wired to pay attention to (good) stories.

A typical story flow goes:

1) Connect (with audience)

2) Create (scenes in audience’s minds)

3) Characters

4) Crack

5) Conflict

6) Climax

7) Clearing (of prior messes)

8) Conclusion

Apart from full-fledged stories, you can share anecdotes and human interest stories. Just make sure that they are relevant to the topic of your presentation.

Lecture

Meeting Dean Shams - Communication Strategist - Again

I first met Dean at an APTS meeting in July last year, when he was the speaker.

I wrote about what he taught us here:

At the end of that evening, I got his book - Speak Smart, Make Your Mark - and found it very useful. It presents the process of getting your mindset right about communication before going into the details and methods of making your communication more impactful and effective.

We've been in contact since then and I met him again as a speaker at the Up Your Game Conference late last year.

Dean - UYG 2017

His topic was 'Up Your Profile', for which he taught the audience how to raise their profiles and build credibility and trust with others.

He spoke as a Communication Strategist, shared his experience in the industry of PR, and reminded the audience that the media doesn't necessarily improve a person's image or brand. It merely amplifies it. 

What that means is that we are responsible for improving our own images / brands.

He gave 4 Key Points:

1) Know your message
2) Know your audience
3) Know your space
4) Know your style

One of the memorable points he made was 'Don't Be Humble'. Specifically, it means to stay away from false humility and to have confidence in your own ability and expertise - a point that I definitely agree with (a topic for another post, I imagine).

At the end of his presentation, he reminded us that a great public profile begins with us managing ourselves.

Dean's style of communication is direct and practical. We share a common belief that substance doesn't need to be fluffed up to be appealing, and I unhesitatingly recommend his expertise to anyone looking to improve their or their company's public profile.

You can look him up here:
 

Speak Smart Make Your Mark.jpg
With Dean Shams at APTS

Meeting Vivek Iyyani - Millennial Consultant & Coach

I first met Vivek last December at the Up Your Game Conference. He was one of the speakers and introduced himself as a Millennial Consultant when he took the stage.

Vivek Iyyani

He proceeded to share his thoughts and how, despite the negative perceptions surrounding them, millennials are creative, resilient and a driving force for change.

Briefly explaining how we got to this ‘era’, he gave insights into a millennial’s point of view, the better to understand the thoughts and behaviours of these up and coming movers and shakers of the world.

Being a millennial and a bit of an info junkie, I was familiar with some of the things that were shared but it had disparate bits and pieces of information. Vivek had taken all of that and clicked them together into a coherent, easy-to-follow flow.

I got a copy of his book: Empowering Millennials and couldn’t help myself thinking, “If only I had all of this information 10 years ago.”

Well, no time for ‘what if’ and ‘if only’. My time will be better spent digesting the numerous nuggets of wisdom and answering the thought-provoking questions that Vivek has sprinkled copiously throughout the book.

Empowering Millennials

Fast forward a few weeks, I got an e-mail from Vivek asking how I’d been and expressing his wish to know more about what I do, owing to the too-short time we had at the conference to converse.

So, we arranged a meet-up, during which, we shared about what we do and discussed numerous things.

I learned that Vivek had started as a trainer in a similar way to me and that he moved on to building up his own company – a path that I intend to follow.

I told him that I had been wandering a bit since my book launch, not quite sure about what to do next. To that, he advised me to focus on one aspect of what I’m doing at a time – advice that I sorely needed to hear – and he very kindly offered to help me get going on this.

It isn’t every day that you meet someone so willing to spend time and energy to build up a near-total stranger.  Thank you, Vivek, for your generosity and for offering your advice and experience despite your busy schedule. I look forward to our next meet-up.

If you’re looking for a excellent speaker on practically any aspect of the millennials, Vivek is your guy. I unreservedly recommend his expertise on the subject.

You can look him up on: www.vivekiyyani.com

Because I know that quite a number of you who are reading this (especially you who are my ex-students) are millennials, if you’re looking for someone to show you the ropes of entrepreneurship and designing a life that you seek, connect with Vivek through:


Facebook: www.facebook.com/millennialexpertasia

or

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/millennialexpertasia

With Vivek

An Interview with STYLEGUIDE

A couple of weeks ago, I met Timothy and Carol at Central (Clarke Quay) for a media interview with STYLEGUIDE.

After some introductions, during which we realised we knew a few of the same people (Eugene and Maarten, you guys are clearly influencers), we talked about our respective industries, they in media and I in education. 

It turns out that Timothy has a vast array of experience in various aspects of business and marketing. Carol had joined him in STYLEGUIDE not too long ago and told me that she had already learned a great deal from him. 

Sounds like Timothy is a good teacher!

After a drink (non-alcoholic, of course), we went to a coffee place at Capitol Piazza to record a video for the interview article.

Halfway through, however, a rather large family arrived and they (along with their children) weren't exactly the quietest people around. They also, for some reason, decided to sit well within the frame of the video.

We decided to go somewhere else and ended up at SMU (Victoria St), where we shot the rest of the video in relative short order.

It was quite an experience and, though I'm still not too comfortable standing in front of a camera, it has at least shown me that there is less to fear about it than I originally thought.

Thank you, Timothy and Carol from STYLEGUIDE for the excellent conversation and the opportunity to get my story out there! I look forward to working on our next project together.

StyleGuide Media Interview Picture.jpg

2018: A Year of ...?

Every Dec 31 for the past 3 years, I sit in Killiney Kopitiam in Siglap and plan the direction of the coming year with my now-wife.

The Dec 31 that just passed was no different, although it had been a little rushed as we had been in church the entire morning and afternoon.

It took me another day to finish planning my direction and habits for the new year. Though I haven't fully reflected on every aspect of the plan yet, I will continue to do so in the coming days, the past few having been taken up with training (schools are starting really early this year!)

So what do I plan for? Six aspects of my life - 3 goals and 3 habits per aspect.

1) Financial

2) Family / Relationships

3) Business

4) Health

5) Personal Development

6) Spiritual

Generally, I'm not much of a planner. I like to take things as they come, when they come. However, I have found that having an overall direction really helps in using my time and resources more efficiently and effectively.

There are many things that I intend to accomplish by the end of 2018 and I will be reviewing my goals once every quarter, making changes and updating them as necessary.

I hope that this will inspire you to reflect on the past year and map a direction for this coming one. I wish you a fruitful and eventful 2018!

Happy 2018

Thank You For Being Part of My 2017

As 2017 draws to a close, I would like to thank all the incredible people I've met this past year.

SG100 Meeting

Whether it was at a Trainers' Synergy gathering, a SG100 meet-up, an APTS meeting, an Introverts' Network get-together, or the numerous workshops, conferences and events I attended or participated in this year, I was glad to meet you.

Thank you for sharing your experience and for being so generous with your time.

SuperBrand Me - 18 Sep 2017
Yangon PDC 2017
Last APTS Meeting of 2017

Some of you I met during mission trips, church events (especially our recently concluded stage production - Close Quarters) and church services.

Thank you for demonstrating the love and grace of our Lord, for doing what you do in God's service, and for being a part of the body of Christ. 

Cambodia Mission Team - 30 Jun - 03 July 2017
Close Quarters Cast

I would like to specially thank you who were at my wedding, my speaking engagements, as well as my book launch. 

Wedding - BC Peeps.jpg
Wedding - SAC People
Book Launch with Trainers

Thank you for being there to show your support, love and care.

To you whom I have known for years, thank you for your friendship. We may not have been able to meet as often as we'd like, but know that you hold a place in my heart.

As we dive into 2018, I wish you clear direction, excellent opportunities and endless delights.

Thank you for being part of my 2017. I look forward to journeying with you in 2018.

Happy 2018

A Successful Book Launch!

The Book Launch of The Introvert Teacher was a success!

A culmination of weeks of planning, coordination and organisation, the event truly came together a mere 2 - 3 days before it happened.

The vision of the Book Launch was for it to be a bazaar of connections and learning points. There were timeslots for focused, value-adding networking as well as mini-workshops for experiential learning.

To run the activities, I got the assistance of my fellow trainers to set up spaces where they will conduct sessions of their speciality topics and guests would come and learn something from them.

The reason behind this unusual move was to make this a different, more memorable launch event. A typical launch event consisted of an emcee coming up to introduce the 'main character', who will then give a speech, including some thank-you's. After the speech, there will be little else going on as the guests hang around until they get an opportunity to talk to the 'main character'.

I didn't want that unproductive downtime. It made much more sense to use that time wisely for learning and networking instead of wasting it doing nothing useful.

As it turned out, my guests had nothing but high praise for this decision. Many of them told me that they learned a lot and that the event was well-thought-out and executed.

I can only thank the others who came alongside me to help me make the event what it was.

Apart from booking the venue (at MOX), we had to order catering (from Liang Food Caterer), make arrangements to see the space and plan the allocation of activity spaces, get the books and other stuff there on the day itself, as well as make sure that all the finances were properly handled.

There was no way that I could have done all that on my own.

Thank you, each one of you, for helping me out. I am deeply appreciative of what you've done.

Book Signing
With Fellow Trainers

Nature Nurtured - Listening to Mr. Subaraj Rajathurai

On Monday night, at the SG100 Foundation Meeting, our speaker was Mr. Subaraj Rajathurai, a lifelong naturalist and a wildlife consultant. Honestly, I can think of very few professions cooler than that.

When he took the platform, I could feel the passion behind his words as he told us about his humble beginnings and the immense work he had done to push for the conversation of what we now know as Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, amongst other little-known but no-less-massive efforts to preserve Singapore's wildlife and its habitats.

He highlighted some of his favourite animals and showed us that Singapore, despite being a tiny country, has some of the richest biodiversity in the world due both to our geographical location (close to the equator) and the age of our rainforests (older than even the majestic Amazon).

When he came to the topic of rapid development and urbanisation of Singapore, he emphasised that he saw this as a necessary part of Singapore's growth, though he was firm in his belief that it needs to be done in a responsible manner and with respect to the natural environment.

To this day, he works in his favourite classroom - The Great Outdoors - both as a teacher and as a student. He gives guided tours, conducts nature programmes, and does field surveys alongside other researchers and nature enthusiasts.

Mr. Subaraj is a man I highly respect. He lives his life in the pursuit of learning and passing on what he has learned, and he encourages others to do the same.

He reminds us that we cannot live apart from our natural environment, that if we care for nature, nature takes care of us.

Thank you for sharing your life and your passion, Mr. Subaraj. Through your words, I am inspired.

Mr Subaraj

Almost Ready With The Book Launch

Now that The Introvert Teacher is printed, it's time to get copies out the door and into the hands of readers.

There have been a number of pre-orders already and we have already gotten some of them to friends and family. 

Of course, we aren't stopping there. So, there is going to be a...

BOOK LAUNCH!

We are in the midst of confirming the venue and the time, so stay tuned!

Launch

Accomplishing Stuff in the First 10 Months of 2017

10 months of 2017 have passed. We are now in the final 2 months of the year.

As with the years prior to 2017, I ask myself,

"What have you accomplished this year that you have not before?" (Yes, I talk to myself all the time in this way)

So here we go:

1) Married my One and Only, met so many familiar faces at our wedding AND got the keys to our new home in April

Looking Out

2) First Church Camp as a married couple in June

3) First overseas mission trip in end June - early July

Cambodia (113).jpg

4) Spoke for the first time at the Association of Professional Speakers Singapore (APTS) in end August

APTS - With President David

5) Did my first assembly talk in a school in mid September

6) Incorporated my first company in mid - end September

7) Presented at my first overseas conference (Professional Development Conference 2017 in Yangon) in end September

Presenting in Yangon

8) Held the first physical copy of The Introvert Teacher in early October

Books Arrived 01.jpg

9) Exhibited in my first Gem Fair, gave 4 talks related to gemstones, and met many new people in end October

Loupin Jewels Booth G114.jpg

All in all, I'd say this is a pretty hard year to beat in terms of accomplishments. And the best part? There are still two whole months to go, to get more things done.

Right now, I'm planning the book launch for The Introvert Teacher as well as workshops for Loupin Jewels, apart from an overseas trip, all before the year is out!

Very exciting stuff! I am thankful for all that has happened this year and all that is about to happen soon. Thank you for being a part of it!

Speaking at SJGF2017 02

Advice on Becoming a Public Speaker from Dr. Andrew Goh

A little over a week ago, I had an opportunity to speak to Dr. Andrew Goh. 

I told him,

"Dr. Andrew, you may not remember me. A few years ago, I asked you for advice on becoming a public speaker. Today, I am well on my way. Thank you for your advice."

I then gave him two copies of The Introvert Teacher, one addressed to him and the other to pass on to anyone he wants.

This was the advice he gave to me. The elaboration is my own:

1) Volunteer to Speak and Practise

At the start, the only way to get known and gain recognition is to speak whenever you have an opportunity.

Also, you are going to need the practice and volunteering yourself will help you to figure out your niche topic, which brings us to...

2) Have a Specific Topic

It's all too easy to take on any and all projects that come your way. 

However, being a generalist can be confusing, especially for those who are looking for speakers on a particular subject. It also makes you less memorable to those who have already heard you if you tell them that you can do 'any topic you need'.

People look to experts. Establish yourself as one.

3) Once Established, Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Speaking Fees

At some point, you are going to have to be paid if you intend to embark on speaking as a career.

This can and does happen organically but the surest way is to ask.

Start by getting the organisers to cover your travel expenses, even if it's just a taxi ride.

From there, as you gain confidence, ask for more. Be reasonable. You probably shouldn't ask for 10 thousand dollars per hour if you only started speaking 2 months ago (unless you're already some sort of celebrity) but, hey! If you get it, that'd be quite an achievement.

Still, be firm in your requests. If you give in too easily, you are only shortchanging yourself.

Thank you, Dr. Andrew, for being a teacher I look up to and for taking the time to advise me.

With Dr. Andrew Goh

An Introvert's Impressions of the People and Business Practices in Yangon

Before September, I had never been to Myanmar (Burma).

The only contact I had with the country was through the gemstone sellers I met in the gem fairs here in Singapore (which I will be a part of later this month of October - more on this later).

Sule Pagoda - Yangon

I had read stories and watched documentaries and news reports about Myanmar and I wondered what it was really like. Was it truly what the media had portrayed it to be?

So, when I was presented with an opportunity to be a part of the Professional Development Conference 2017 in Yangon, I jumped on board as soon as I could. Let me say here that it was an excellent decision.

Granted that Yangon is a major commercial centre and a large city and, thus, not an accurate representation of a country with more than 900 times the land area of Singapore and nearly 10 times as many inhabitants, it was still quite an experience to have met and conversed with the locals there.

I found them to be friendly and approachable, welcoming and ever-willing to lend a helping hand. Their culture is one of resourcefulness and I experienced a deep hunger in them to connect and to learn. I hope to be of service to them in the near future and onward.

I decided to expound on some of the observations I had while on this trip. Here they are:

1) Respect for the Buyer is Important

Walking through Bogyoke Market, there were hardly any touts or loud callers. It was nothing like the noisy 'fish markets' my primary school teachers used to compare my class to. The business practice seemed to be one where the buyer approached the seller only when he/she was ready to browse or buy, and only when the buyer was close will the seller start promoting his/her wares.

Many of the sellers I met had also invited me to return even when I was merely browsing. Those that I had bought from made it a point to remind me that I was always welcome to visit them again. There was an open-ness in their invitations and many even offered bottles of water and chairs to sit on while I was at their stalls.

This spoke to me of a respect that the seller had for the buyer, especially in terms of comfort and personal space. It was one of the reasons I so enjoyed the markets and street stalls in Yangon. I didn't feel the pressure of having to repeatedly decline sales-y advances and persistent offers to be of assistance when I didn't want any because there was always a respectful distance between buyer and seller that the seller did not close unless the buyer desires it.

2) Polite and Indirect Speech Works

Before my trip to Myanmar, I had heard that the locals use a lot of word play and indirect allusions to meanings in their conversations. Though I hardly understand the language, I see this 'indirect-ness' in many ways. 

When talking to many of the business owners I met, though they are glad and willing to talk about their business dealings, they rarely speak of their connections, no matter how impressive they may be, unless asked directly or the conversation obviously veers in that direction. 

This reminds me of the very British trait of indirect, polite speech, where the hearer is expected to listen carefully and deduce the meaning of the words spoken. It makes for high formality and a certain amount of rigid-ness (both are still stereotypical traits of the British even today) but it produces a culture of sophisticated social skills and less in-your-face confrontations.

Perhaps, being an ex-British colony, Myanmar has assimilated some of this into her own culture. Though I have to wonder why Singapore, also an ex-British colony, has lost all traces of this subtlety and social grace.

3) Communications Take Time

Being in a fast-paced modern society means that everything needs to happen 2 minutes ago.

In Yangon, though Wi-Fi and Internet services are as commonplace as honking vehicles (quite an annoyance, really), there is still a certain slow-ness of pace.

I found that e-mails aren't read and replied at the feverish pace most of us in Singapore are used to, messages are hardly acknowledged, let alone replied to, and even phone calls take repeated tries to get through.

It gets a little frustrating sometimes but, through prior experience, things eventually fall into place. Not always the way we wanted or expected them to, but they do work out somehow. 

This reflects the inventive-ness of the locals and it highlights their need to come up with unusual solutions in order to survive in a somewhat chaotic environment.

Things really do take time in Myanmar and this isn't necessarily a bad thing. If anything, we need to learn to slow down and smell the roses rather than expect everyone else to speed up. It will make for a more interesting life.

Busy Street - Yangon

My First Overseas Conference - PDC 2017 in Yangon

Late last month, I was in Yangon for the Professional Development Conference (PDC) 2017. It was held at the historic, beautiful Sule Shangri-La (previously known as Traders Hotel) in the heart of commercial activity in Yangon.

The conference brought professionals from various industries together to learn from the expertise of over 30 trainers from Singapore. I numbered one amongst them.

Educators of the Future - EOS

The style of the conference was such that there were five concurrent Executive Overview Sessions (EOS) occurring at any one time, excepting timeslots for breaks and lunch. Each attendee to the conference was free to attend any of these sessions, according to the areas of their interest. It was inevitable that some wished to attend sessions that have timing clashes. Nevertheless, feedback regarding this style of conference was positive.

Trainers who weren't training during a timeslot were free to attend other EOS's or network / mingle with other attendees.

Over the first 2 days of the conference, I got to meet a number of locals who were either currently part of the private education sector or intending to be part of it. In the following days, I learned that many of the other attendees were also interested in setting up training centres, pre-schools and/or tuition centres in the city.

It is heartening that the private education sector in Myanmar is taking the leap and spearheading changes in the way education is done there. 

I will follow up with some of the contacts I made and see how I may be of assistance to them. Who knows? I may be there for longer periods of time in the coming months.

At PDC2017