speaker

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.

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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

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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

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

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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!

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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

Hosting the 131st APTS Meeting and Meeting Dean Shams

On Thursday night, I was privileged to have hosted the 131st APTS meeting. 

Our VP, Eugene Seah, shared about ensuring that we are always bettering ourselves so that we can be ready to take advantage of any opportunities that present themselves. He also advocated the use of self-recorded videos of our presentations, that clients can have a preview of what we offer before they decide if we are suitable for their training requirements.

These are excellent reminders and I shall record a more recent video of my training. The last one was taken quite a few years ago and has been lying dormant in a folder in my computer.

Next, we had Dean Shams to take the platform. Dean has an impressive skillset, one that many of us would be proud to have. He regularly writes articles of 400 words or more in 30 minutes or less.

As an author myself, I know how difficult it is. I had much to learn.

The first thing he told us was that Writers' Block was imaginary. It appears only because we believe we have it.

He had only 3 main steps, which all sound all-too-easy:

Step One: Plan

Step Two: Write

Step Three: Edit

That's it? Well, not quite. He was quick to add that each step has to stand alone and that mixing them is a sure way of slowing down your progress.

What that means is: When you're planning, don't write or edit. When you're writing, don't edit or plan. When you're editing, stop planning or adding content.

Next, he broke it down for us:

1) Write to one person

2) Have an opinion, starting from your emotions

3) Write your main message in 10 words or less so you'll know if you're going off course

4) Focus on at least 1 of 3 outcomes: Think, Feel, Do

5) Start with the conclusion (in 3 sentences)

6) Write 3 points you want to make, then elaborate on them

7) Finish writing, then edit

Dean then got all of us to get down to do each step in a minute (yes, he kept time) each (though he gave us 2 minutes each for points 5 and 6). 

He then gave us 15 minutes to write our 400-word article and many of us managed to do so. I actually finished with a couple of minutes to spare and I was very impressed at how systematic the whole thing was. I then resolved to use this system to produce more articles.

Finally, Dean ended off by letting us know how we can connect with him and made copies of his book - Speak Smart, Make Your Mark - available to us. Needless to say, I got myself a copy. He also informed us of a 1-day workshop that he regularly conducts on writing to influence. The next upcoming one is on 26 August.

Thank you, Dean, for your valuable insight, and for making this session a powerful, highly practical one. I hope to learn much more from you in the near future.

With Dean Shams