Thursday, 20 March 2008

A long day, there is more to being a toastmaster than just meetings

Before the meeting, Ernest decided to have a breakfast session with everyone at Ali Maju. Which Ali Maju? The one nearest to Guardian. Honestly, I myself did not know where Guardian is but thankfully, I found the place in the end. John was the earliest, arriving there at 8.00 am, followed by Qinmei half an hour later. At 8.45 am, Ernest and Gajendran came in, unfortunately John had to leave shortly after that. The breakfast session was great because we had the opportunity to get to know each other better outside the formalities of the meetings.

The meeting started a little late as the members as the guests were busy getting acquainted to each other. The SAA of the morning, Qinmei, welcomed the audience, which included many new faces and guests besides a long lost member. Then, everyone introduced themselves and spoke about something that they are proud of about themselves. There were many responses to that question such as some being proud of their SPM results which was just released a few days ago and a few others felt proud because they successfully forced themselves out their comfortable beds on a Saturday morning to attend the meeting. The language evaluator, Jee Aik, was very eager to share the word of the day “jubilant” that he presented the word of the day during his introduction session.

Next up was the presidential address by Ernest where he spoke about our club constantly growing and learning. He also stressed on the importance of communication. Communication should not only be limited to during meetings, but we should also form friendships outside the club. By sharing with others, whether it is difficulties with preparing speeches or even asking for opinions regarding a speech given, we learn something. We are actually helping ourselves.

The TOM was Fong Wen, who was proud to be at the meeting as she had not done so for quite some time. Since Jee Aik had already introduced the word of the day, he was asked to remind everyone to use the word of the day. After that, she gave a brief history of Toastmasters and a brief history of our very own HELP University College Toastmasters. She also said that it is important that we know our roots because without them, there wouldn’t be us.

As usual, the table topics session was without doubt an interesting one. Khai Qi chose quotes and phrases that he had found on the internet as the topics for the table topics session.

Before the theme of the table topics session could sink into our minds, one guy immediately raised his hand and volunteered. Unaware that he was actually supposed to speak immediately after the topic was given, he casually went back to his seat thinking that each speaker was given a certain amount of time to think. The shocking truth came to him when he was called back from his seat to speak. As he stood in front of the audience, he tried his very best to talk about his topic, but to no avail. Even though he did not present his speech entitled “What You Give is What You Get”, he was definitely acknowledged for his courage and bravery to be the first.

The first speaker was Eugene, a guest from Taylors, with his speech “If You Think You Can, You Can.” He started off explaining how everything starts with a thought. He also compared life to a card game. We may not always get the cards we want. However, there is nothing we can do but deal and live with the cards we have and just make the best out of it.

The second speaker, Fan Chen Keat, was given the tittle “The Secret of Success is to Be Ready for Opportunities When It Comes”. He advised us to ride the wave to the next level and not get stuck at our current levels. What use is staying and not moving up? We will never be ready for opportunities as something always gets in our way. The big “if only…” always pops up when we think of moving up.

The third speaker was Ernest with the long speech tittle “I Wept Because I Had No Shoes until I Saw a Man with No Legs”. He urged the audience to see the bigger picture and focus on it. He further explained that people will always influence those around them and that we should always stay positive. He also said that we should be glad to have no shoes because then, we would be able to feel the earth beneath us.

The fourth speaker with the tittle “Follow Your Dreams” was Jee Aik. In his speech, he said that everyone should have a direction. With an end in mind, it is easier to reach the destination.

The final speaker was Jack, a guest from Nilai Toastmasters, speaking about “There is Time for Everything”. According to him, we always need to prioritize in life. We, as students, are young and energetic. We have big dreams. He ended his speech with a meaningful message for the audience to ponder upon that is “dreams are free, so free your dreams”.

The control was passed back the Fong Wen as TOM where she explained the role of each role player, for the benefit of the guests. Then, she passed the control back to the table topics evaluator.

Chee Hoong was the table topics evaluator. He was very detailed in explaining each and every speaker. He pointed out many good qualities and speaking skills of the speakers while also giving some ideas for improvement.

Chee Hong, Table Topic Evaluator

He was very thorough in giving his evaluation even though it was only his first time as a table topics evaluator.

Next up was the assignment speeches.

The first speech was from Qinmei who was giving her second speech of the competent communication manual entitled “Ambitions and Fantasies”. Her speech was basically about the realistic goals in life that one should have and the fantasyland that people should avoid. She concluded her speech by stating that it is easier to climb over the rainbow to reach the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow if you can see it there.

The second assignment speaker was Gajendran with his speech entitled “The Two Faced Plant”. He talked about how marijuana was a two faced plant because while it can bring great benefits, it can also cause great harm. A major question brought up by him was whether marijuana should be legalized. There have been many cases of the harm caused by this drug, yet he feels it should be legalized because it is capable of making a positive change.

There was a ten minute break where refreshments were provided and everyone had the chance to further practice their communication skills through light conversations.

After the break, Ming Haur gave his sixth speech, “Live Your Dreams before It’s Too Late”. He started his speech with a famous quote from Martin Luther King, “I have a dream!” In his speech, he mentioned his own childhood dreams and how they changed.

Then, the General Evaluator, Claudia, took control of the meeting.

The first part of the evaluation was the evaluation of the assignment speeches. The three evaluators, namely Fong Wen (Qinmei’s evaluator), Claudia (Gajendran’s evaluator) and Ernest (Ming Haur’s evaluator) were kind yet effective in listing out the good points and points to work on for each speaker.

After the assignment speech evaluations, the team working quietly behind the scenes while the rest of the audience were engrossed in listening to the speeches gave their reports. The Language Evaluator, Jee Aik, Ah Counter, Ming Haur, and the first time time-keeper, Boon Keong, gave their reports accordingly.

Finally, Claudia, as the General Evaluator, gave her comments on the entire meeting in general, besides also pointing out a few points left out by the evaluators, whether it was about the speakers or role players. She also congratulated Qinmei for her ice breaking SAA role and Boon Keong for his ice breaking time keeper role.

The last part of the meeting was the Closing Address, handled by Ernest. He once again stressed on the importance of dreams, encouragements and courage. Prizes and awards were given out to acknowledge the best speakers and evaluators. The “Best Assignment Speaker” went to Gajendran while Claudia won “Best Evaluator”. Ernest earned himself “Best Table Topics Speaker”.

The usual club meeting may have ended but the day was not over for five young toastmasters. Ernest, Qinmei, Ming Haur, Fong Wen and Chee Hoong, were about to take on a new challenge, that is to play roles at the Area B1 contest, held at Deloitte. There were a few other members who were supposed to join us at the contest; unfortunately, all had to pull out at the very last minute. Even though there were only five of us left and four out of five of us were exhausted and sleepy due to insufficient sleep, one with panda eyes, we still bravely stuck through the afternoon.

We had lunch at a corner shop just opposite the tower building where the contest would be help. Despite the not so delicious food, we still had fun because we once again learned new things about each other besides sharing experiences, humourous ones especially.

When we finally arrived at the 17th floor after taking an accidental detour to the 19th floor, we were warmly welcomed. After registering and being offered refreshments in the form of food from McDonalds, we were told to attend a briefing for the role players. Dennis was kind enough to take us on a really long tour around his office just to find a secluded place to hold our top secret briefing. At the end of our briefing, he told us to go out from the other side which was practically a short cut. Picture it like this, the office is a rectangle and we went round three sides of the rectangle to reach a spot for the briefing, then later we only had to walk though the remaining one side to reach the room where the contest was held.

The role players at the contest from our club was Ernest as Table Topics Contest Chair, Ming Haur and Qinmei as Time-keepers, Fong Wen as a Ballot Counter and Chee Hoong as an SAA. We are proud to be from HELP UC Toastmasters. Why? Because we have a fancy timing device that has lights and uses electricity. However, we were asked to hang on to the colour papers as back up just in case our one breaks down.

The contest kicked off with Joyce asking all of us to close our eyes and picture food that we are craving for. There were many responses about what everyone wanted to eat. She then asked us whether it would have been nicer if we were out there having a bowl of ais kacang on the hot afternoon. In spite of all the tempting thoughts of delicious food, we all chose to attend the contest and make it a success.

The first contest was the International Speech contest, chaired by Karen, who happens to be a previous HELP UC Toastmasters member.

The first speaker was Julian with the tittle “Fail”. He talked about how a person failed but persevered and never gave up, eventually succeeding. He urged us to accept failure if it came. But, he stressed that he was not asking us to fail on purpose.

The second speech, “Child in the Orange Farm” was by Kuang Shan who was explaining how hard it was for a seed to grow up and form an orange and how it might not have done that without the support of the stick. He was actually talking about the relationship between a child and the parents. He was also the only contestant who used props, an orange and a walking stick, to enhance his speech.

Carolin Wong was the third speaker with a speech entitled “The Things We Called Love”. She spoke passionately about love, including love for the family, with a sweet voice.

The last speaker for the contest was Chan Siew Peng who gave a speech called “Seize the Opportunities”. She gave a good speech with a wide range of vocal variety and interesting body gestures.

There was a twenty minute break, in which we were served with more water and a box of titbits. Everyone took the opportunity to get up and take a walk while also connecting with others to fight the afternoon drowsiness. The sleepy and the tired time-keepers almost forgot that it the twenty minute break was over until the Meyya, the SAA, asked us whether twenty minutes were up.

Ernest took on his role as Table Topics Contest Chair and explained the rules of the contest before letting us know the topic of the contest which turned out to be “Try Not to Become a Man of Success, but Rather to Become a Man of Value”.

The first speaker was Kian Yoong who mentioned that he would leave his family for a girlfriend. Later in his interview session, he explained that he did not leave his family. And he said that if he had to choose, he would listen to Lillian Too and just keep them separate.

Julian was the second speaker. He chose to talk about how people he knew were involved in politics. He spoke about the corruption and foul plays of the politic world, where values are seldom upheld.

Ngan Eng, who was the third speaker in the table topics contest, tackled the topic with great confidence.

The final speaker was Bonnie Loo who presented her speech very well by injecting a lot of humour and elaborate body gestures. She also inserted a personal experience regarding a climb up the corporate ladder and what it has done to her.

There was a brief interview session with the table topics speakers where they were practically having a second go at the table topics session, except with no time limit and no judges this time. At the acknowledgement of role players’ efforts ceremony, our club was also given proper recognition, probably due to the enormous support we provide. We are glad that we successfully played our roles, indirectly making the contest a great success.

Prizes were given to the winners. Since there were only four contestants in each category, only the winner and first runner-up were formally awarded with the trophies. The winner of the International Speech Contest was Chan Siew Peng while the first runner up went to Kuang Shan. As for the Table Topics Contest, Bonnie Loo emerged as the winner while Kian Yoong won first runner up.

Although it was an area contest, it sure did not feel like one as the atmosphere was light, witty and it portrayed an environment with lots of humour and friendliness. And the crowd was certainly a responsive one.

Going to an area contest is definitely a new experience that must be included in your Toastmasters journey. Even as a part of the audience, watching the speakers present their speeches will prove to be an inspiring and motivating lesson. Playing a role will also be good as you will be pushing yourself to greater heights by taking on a heavier responsibility and learning to be more precise and attentive. And of course, as a speaker, you can test your capabilities and actually get very well acknowledged for it besides gaining new experiences by observing your fellow contestants.

“There is more to being a Toastmaster than just meetings. Only you can help yourself. Let the learning process begin!”


Note :

Being an SAA is not as easy as it seems. Being a time keeper is really easier than it sounds.

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