Saturday, April 30, 2011

Secrets of Speaking Success

After a hiatus of a few months due to a change in work portfolio, I have finally managed to wrestle some semblance of control. I have resumed my favorite pastimes - reading, writing and yes, speaking.

I booked a speaking slot in my Toastmasters club and delivered the promise to myself - to keep my journey of self-improvement. I deeply believe in the Toastmasters program of learning by doing. It has been a life-transformational journey which is still evolving.

Tonight, I will like to share with my readers the "Secrets of Speaking Success" which I have delivered for my first advanced project for Speaking to Inform. I hope you too can benefit from it.

The Secrets of Speaking Success


There once was an eight-year old girl who was extremely shy and reserved. Alas, she was thrusted into limelight when her teacher signed her up for a story telling contest. She chose the option of avoidance - not to think about it until that fateful day. She stood on stage, froze with fear. In the end, the teacher had to lead her off stage. I was the girl.

By a show of hands, how many of you are currently having or used to have phobia speaking? [Pause] I see that almost all in the room raise their hands.

Fret not, help is at hand. This is the Competent Communicator Manual that you will have when you join any Toastmasters Club. It is in the welcome package sent right to your doorsteps.

Today, I will like to share with you on how this manual will make you a better speaker. There are 10 projects in the guide and you can divide them into three levels – beginner, immediate and advanced.

Beginner level projects are projects 1 to 3. 1 is on Ice Breaker for you to know the speaking skills you already have and what are the areas to improve upon. Thereafter, you will move on to Project 2 and 3 to learn about structure in a speech – opening, body and ending; and what you want your audience to do or to know at the end of the speech. For example, in my case, I will want my audience to have an overview of what the Competent Communicator manual covers.

After the basics are the in place, you will move on the Immediate stage in Projects 4 to 6. In project 4 we learn to use vivid and expressive words. For example, when I say, I stroll, I walk, I sprint, I zoom. The words, stroll, walk, sprint, zoom refers to moving from one place to another using our legs, but there is a different speed associated to each word. You will also learn to create music using words. Eg, I zoom and zonked out. Zzzzz… Project 5 is on body language – a confident person is confident because he is congruent in his action. How would you perceive a speaker who say yes and do this (shaking the head). But these are the things which we do subconsciously when we are nervous. Project 6 on vocal variety, so when you talk be careful of not doing this “I am going to share with you on the ten projects in the Competent Communicator manual.” This is a sure way to get people to go to sleep. By the way, vocal variety also includes pauses. [Pause]. I pause because I want to STRESS that having pauses are important. So we can pause before we say something important.

Finally, after completing these projects, you will find yourself several notches up in your public speaking skills. Then you can proceed to the Advance stage in project 8 to 10, whereby you will learn how to use different visual aids in project 8, learn to persuade others and finally, having inspired in the Toastmasters journey, it is your turn to inspire others in finale project – project 10.

Before embarking on the Toastmasters’ Journey, I was groping the dark before any business presentation. And because, it was so dark, I could not see, there was a lot of fear. Then there is light and the secrets of speaking success are revealed to me.

Learning public speaking is like learning swimming. Can you learn swimming just by reading books or attending a 3-day crash course? [Pause] Naturally, I was crashed.

The magic of the Competent Communicator module is that you do not need to complete all the 10 projects to be better. After each speaking assignment, you will be better. That is the law of nature. It is just that we have to battle that lousy feeling of defeat initially especially when we are no good. But in the Toastmasters’ Club, we provide a safe environment for you to practice. Remember successful people do things NOT because they are good. They DO, SPEND TREMENOUS AMOUNT OF TIME ON IT TO BE GOOD.

I hope to see fellow toastmasters to register for their next time speaking slot. For guests who are looking to improve their speaking skills, hesitate no more, sign up with our club today, reward is within your reach.

Back to you Toastmaster of the Evening.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

John Rock's Error

I had just read the article John Rock's Error by Malcolm Gladwell.

It piqued my interest as as a friend of mine has recently lost her battle to cancer.

It gives a layman's understanding of what is cancer:

"Cancer, after all, occurs because as cells divide and reproduce they sometimes make mistakes that cripple the cells’ defenses against runaway growth."

It talks about the female reproduction system and how John Rock, the inventor of the birth control pill thought that women would find it strange not to have monthly menstruation. How presumptuous! A man could never understand a woman.

I find the alternative argument based on evolution instead of theology more convincing. In the evolutionary case, a medical researcher Straussman went to South African to study the woman's reproduction system in pre-industrial era. Read this in the past, a woman only had about 100 menstruation cycle compared to the current 350 to 400 in her lifetime. It is due to demographic shift whereby women today do not have so much children (8 to 9 in the past) and also shorter period of nursing.

It also fills the information gap on women on the pill having a higher chance of having breast cancer. The reason is the the pill works by releasing the hormone progestin which leads the body to think that it is slightly pregnant. This helps to reduce the number of times the egg breaks into the ovarian walls and the sloughing off of the thickened uterus lining. On the whole, the risk of ovarian and endometrium cancer will be greatly lowered. However, whatever good the progestin does is undone as the same hormone is responsible for preparing the breast for child-birth. Again, the division and reproduction of cells heighten the risk of breast cancer.

I like the last segment which is an argument in logics on why Henderson and Pike do not believe that it is the environment that causes breast cancer:

"Henderson and Pike, however, became fascinated by a number of statistical pecularities. For one thing, the rate
of increase in breast-cancer risk rises sharply throughout women’s thirties and forties and then, at menopause, it starts
to slow down.

If a cancer is caused by some toxic outside agent, you’d expect that rate to rise steadily with each advancing year, as the number of mutations and genetic mistakes steadily accumulates. Breast cancer, by contrast, looked as if it were being driven by something specific to a woman’s reproductive years. What was more, younger women who had had their ovaries removed had a markedly lower risk of breast cancer; when their bodies weren’t producing estrogen and progestin every month, they got far fewer tumors.

Pike and Henderson became convinced that breast cancer was linked to a process of cell division similar to that of ovarian and endometrial cancer. The female breast, after all, is just as sensitive to the level of hormones in a woman’s body as the reproductive system. When the breast is exposed to estrogen, the cells of the terminal-duct lobular unit—where most breast cancer arises—undergo a flurry of division. And during the mid-to-late stage of the menstrual cycle, when the ovaries start producing large amounts of progestin, the pace of cell division in that region doubles."


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Lessons from Japan

The recent unfortunate triple whammy - earthquake, tsunami and nuclear fallout that besieged Japan was heart-wrenching. Amid the chaos, there was calm and order. The Japanese stood out for their stoicism.

I know my own personal challenges is merely a tiny drop in the ocean compared to what Japan has or is facing today. However, the way Japan handles these disasters holds profound lessons to the way we lead our lives.

Japan is no stranger to natural disaster. The word "tsunami" originates from a Japanese word meaning harbour wave. Japan lies on the cusp of the Pacific-Philippine-Eurasian triple plane junction, where the complex interaction of the three tectonic plates is unpredictable.

The Japanese are well-prepared, they have built buildings to withstand the tremors of earthquake, they have built barrier at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear plant, they have numerous back-up plans to handle the many what-ifs situation. Despite their preparedness, a black swan event occurs.

Instead of despair, we see the stoicism of Japan strongly playing out as the unfortunate event continue to unfolds. Besides stoicism, there is perhaps another Japanese word "Gambaru" which means "do your best", "hang on there", "keep going" that is keeping the Japanese going.

Japan is still coming to grips to the extent of the damage. I have every confidence that Japan with her stoicisim and Gambaru spirit will recover from this setback and rise to greater heights.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Theory on Risk

Another interesting insight from Freakonomics.

According to Peter Sandman, mathematically, the risk equation can be written as follows:

Risk = Hazard + Outrage

Unfortunately, hazard and outrage do not carry equal weight in the risk equation. When hazard is high and outrage is low, people underreact. But when hazard is low and outrage is high, they overreact. In other words, risk that you can control is much less a source of outrage than the risk you cannot control.

An example is that though many more children die from drowning in a swimming pool than from a gun shot. Most parents in the States forbid their children from going to a family with a gun but not one with a swimming pool.

So why is a swimming pool less frightening than a gun? The thought of a child being shot through the chest with a gun is gruesome, dramatic, horrifying - in a word, outrageous. Swiming pools do not inspire outrage. This is due in part to the familiarity factor. But it takes only about thirty seconds for a child to drown, and it often happens noiselessly. The steps to prevent drowning meanwhile, are pretty straightforward: a watchful adult, a fence around the pool, a locked back door so a toddler doesn't slip outside unnoticed.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Notes from a Friend (I)

I chanced upon a very fantastic book "Notes from a Friend" by Antony Robbins, an international leader in peak performance. I have his other book "Awaken the Giant Within" and as what Antony confessed, many readers did not manage to finish reading the 400-plus pages book as it was a heavy read. I was one of them.

This is another good book which I will like to share with my readers. It is concise and easy-to-under guide on the most powerful and life-changing tools and principles. Starting in 1991, a self-published version of this book has been handed out to thousands of people in need, as part of the Anthony Robbins Foundation's Thanksgiving "Basket Brigade." The book provided inspirations to individuals to overcome the most challenging circumstances.

From my personal experience, I used to doubt the soundness and effectiveness of such self-improvement books. I was then sailing smoothly in my life. However, when I picked them up and read again at the lowest ebb of my life, I found a new meaning in the same words that I have once doubted.

Napolean Hill said that when one was ready for success, he would know. I realised that there would not be success without failure. It was only when one encountered failure that the path to success would appear before one.

It is not difficult to be successful. One just needs loads of positive thinking, persistence, and never-say-die attitude. Sounds simple? It is that simple. But Napolean Hill never said that it would be easy. In fact, he acknowledged that it would be a Herculean task. That is why, reading "Notes of a Friend" helps to keep our hopes alive and propels us to keep on trying.

I will be sharing with you on the key takeaways from this little insightful book in my next post. Until then, my friends press on in your quest!