Sunday, October 21, 2012

Project 5 Speaking After Dinner

Project 5 Speaking After Dinner


1. Prepare an entertaining after-dinner talk on a specific theme
2. Deliver the talk using the skills developed in the preceding projects.

Time: 8 to 10 minutes

Sizzle with Masters of the Toast

Not so long ago, I was a struggling middle-aged office worker. My main work portfolio was to crunch numbers, flip through tons and tons of reports and hopefully hit the jackpot – with insightful trends and patterns. In short, it was the unglamorous backroom job. It was just like a restaurant, I was working in the hot and stuff kitchen and the waiter would bring the food to the customers in a posh and elegant dining room.

If you recall how mad scientists are being portrayed in movies. They have this dishevelled gray hair – often fizzled, and thick black rimmed glasses. I used to belong to that club. I paid very little attention to my appearance and way I presented myself, the way I talked. Between style and substance, I thought it was the substance that counted. I told myself. But who was I fooling?

First impression counts. I would not have befriended my husband some 20 years ago if I did not find his look appealing. After I knew him, he turned out to be a man of fine character.

My dear friends, we have to accept that looks and the way you carry matter. It will help you to open the door. And then, you will have to prove your worth.

Back to my work. The world is constantly changing. Expectations are different and standards are higher. For example, nowadays, we have restaurants embracing the open-concept kitchen, where customers can view the chefs at work or even choose to sit at the counter to get closer to the action as they enjoy the meal. Similarly, I found myself being thrust to the forefront at work.

Public speaking was never my forte. I remembered when I was young, I was being “volunteered” to participate in a story-telling contest. I went on stage. “Goo... good morn... ing,...” [Long Pause] I was being ushered out of the stage. Even then, I was trembling throughout. It was worst than death!!!

“Ring, ring...” My office phone rang. I dread to pick it up but I had to.

“Aileen, I need you to brief at a meeting next week.” At the other hand of the line was my boss.


After which, I would spend the next 7 days – worrying about how I would fare during my presentation, dreading each passing day, having nightmares from Monday to Sunday. Definitely, there would not be work-life balance if I allowed this fear to consume me.

So I went to the Internet to search for ways to improve. I typed “public speaking in Singapore”. Whoala, Kampong Ubi Toastmaster club came up among the top in the search list. Oh yes, I found the toastmasters. It was a pretty misleading name as I thought it meant being masters of toast bread. You know Yakun, the famous toast bread with kaya coffee shop.

Piqued by curiosity, I went to check it out. And like everyone here, I was once a guest. The rest is history. My speaking goal was simple. I wanted to be able to stand on my feet without falling on my face. And today, I have learnt to make a pretty mean toast – not the sliced bread but speeches – with the help of masters, toastmasters.

In short, the Toastmasters Movement deliver my goal with flying colours and many more. On a personal front, new challenges piled and they are still stacking up as high as Mount Everest, I thought of leaving. But I never left.

There is so much Toastmasters Movement can offer. I saw great speakers like Kwan Hong, Jun and Suhail, leaders like Antonius, James and Ramana emerge. At this point, I must qualify that the names are read out not in the order of their ranking, they are all superb in their own ways, but based on alphabetical order. Ordinary people like you and me are transformed into dynamic forces of oration and inspiration.

I am sold. Toastmasters programme works! Each assignment and contest which I have taken up allowed me to try something different. It stretches my potential like a rubber band. The big difference however is that this rubber band does not snap.

Every time, I jump at an opportunity. Wings are formed and I could soar to greater heights. At times when that did not happen, I am not going to bluff you. Failures do happen to Toastmasters. But there is always a safety net at the bottom of the cliff that helps us to bounce back.

There is so much camaraderie amongst fellow Toastmasters. Kampong Ubi TMC prides ourselves as being one of the friendliest club in Singapore. I always feel a sense of warmth and homecoming when I am here. We are amongst friends to lend each other a shoulder lean on and to cry on.

Today, I will like to thank my dear friends at Kampong Ubi for their support and kind encouragement. I will continue to sizzle with the masters of toast.