speaking

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

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

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

Last Night, I Learned How To Create Videos for Udemy and How To Write More Effectively

After 2 months of absenteeism, I finally managed to attend another APTS Meeting last night.

The speakers were Andy Ng, who spoke on producing Udemy videos for (nearly) free, and Walter Lim, who spoke on writing to get leads.

Andy showed us that, with the right equipment and know-how, it wasn't that difficult to produce an online course that could meet Udemy's standards. All we needed was a camera (on a mobile device), a camera stand (with an appropriate head), a video-editing app like VideoShow, PowerPoint installed on the same mobile device, a bluetooth headpiece with a mic, and content that we wanted to turn into a course. Easy peasy!

Of course, it wouldn't be too difficult to get better equipment if we are so inclined but Andy was insistent that there was no need. The most expensive bit of equipment was the bluetooth headpiece, which should be tested for high sound quality before buying.

Andy showed us how the apps he used worked and he showed us some of his finished videos, encouraging us to do the same. Of course, they aren't as polished-looking as 'professional' videos, but they certainly cost a lot less and still get the job done.

One thing that bothered me was Andy's speaking style, which was a little too opinionated for me and he had a tendency to go off-tangent. Also, there were a few times when he spoke rather condescendingly about other trainers who charged fees for helping others to put up Udemy videos. Perhaps he was trying to insert some humour into his presentation. However, I feel that he missed the mark and has, regrettably, adversely affected my impression of him.

Nevertheless, I won't associate a person's manner with the knowledge he has. If the information is useful, it should still be accepted and acted upon as it is.

Our second speaker was Walter Lim.

He told us that he wrote for a living and had been doing so for a very long time. His company name is Cooler Insights and they work with their clients to produce social media content and to direct traffic to their sites.

Being quite an writing expert, he emphasised the importance of an eye-catching visual, a powerful headline and a strong lead-in for any writing that we do. This is especially important for long articles and blog posts.

He also showed us the importance of incorporating appeals to Search and Social functions when we write and he also gave us links to useful tools and resources online such as Google Trends, SEMrush, Buzzsumo to look up trends and Freepik, Pixabay and Unsplash for visuals.

It's a lot to take in all at once but I'll certainly be putting Walter's advice to write regularly and consciously to practice.

Thanks, Walter.