Posts Tagged ‘toastmasters’

Be the change!

October 11, 2019 Leave a comment

This is the excerpt of the speech from the ‘Specialty Speeches’ advanced manual that I presented at Grassroots TM Club on 5th October 2019.

I am honoured to be invited here today to speak to the graduating students of NTU, Singapore.

You have students here today from different countries, different cultures, races, religions and languages.  Today you have graduated in Science, Engineering, Economics,Literature, Law, Astronomy, Medicine, Business and a host of other subjects.  Tomorrow you will go out into the world and live on your own.

Today the world is being disrupted by technology.   The buzzwords of today are Artificial intelligence,  Bitcoin, 3D printing, IoT and Augmented reality.  It’s a totally different world where only companies that can continuously experiment and innovate can survive.

And what about you and me?

How do we  survive in this new economy that is characterized by Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity?

Remember these 3 Ps and 1 C

Be positive,  Be principled, Be proactive and Conquer yourself 


As students, you have led a very comfortable life in Singapore.  Yet we find people who complain about the smallest of discomforts – the weather, travel, housing, maids etc.  So how do you keep yourself positive.  We just have to look at ourselves and be grateful for this life – this human body, this mind, this intellect that we have been endowed with.

Every day we breathe upto 30,000 times

Your heart pumps 2000 gallons of blood every single day

Your eyes are the most active muscle moving about 100,000 times a day

Maria Salomia Slodowska was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1867  when it was under Russian occupation.

The youngest child of five, Maria was raised in a poor family, her parents’ money and property having been taken away due to their work to restore Poland’s independence.

Both her father, Władysław, and her mother, Bronisława, were proud Polish educators and sought to educate their children in both school subjects and their oppressed Polish heritage.

Maria  slept on a couch in the dining room and would rise early to set the table for breakfast.

Maria lost her sister to typhus and her mother died from TB when she was just 10 years old

Here husband passed away in  1906.

On the Sunday after his funeral, Maria escaped to the laboratory, the one place she believed she would find solace. She wrote this in her diary :

“Sunday morning after your death, I went to the laboratory with Jacques….I want to talk to you in the silence of this laboratory, where I did not think I could live without you….I tried to make a measurement for a graph on which each of us had made some points, but…I felt the impossibility of going on…the laboratory had an infinite sadness and seemed a desert.”

Being a woman Maria was not treated equally like men, but she went on to win not one but 2 nobel prizes.  Friends, Maria was none other than Marie Curie who  won the nobel prize for physics in 1903 and for chemistry in 1911.


As students, I believe what makes us who we are are our principles and core values.  The principles that our parents, our teachers and our friends have instilled in us.

When Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was in his first year at the high school. Mr. Giles, the Educational Inspector, had come on a visit of inspection. He had set  five words to write as a spelling exercise. One of the words was ‘kettle’. Gandhi had mis-spelt it. The teacher tried to prompt him with the point of his boot, but he would not be prompted.

Gandhi could not bring himself to copy from his neighbour.. The result was that all the boys, except Gandhi, were found to have spelt every word correctly.

Later, the teacher called Gandhi stupid.  But it did not have any effect on him.  Because Gandhis principles were etched in his heart and he always abided in his core beliefs.

Even if the whole world is against us – our true strength, our courage is in standing true to our principles.

Today, more than anything we have to be pro-active and innovative.  This means developing a growth mindset.

Thomas Edison’s teachers said he was “too stupid to learn anything.” He was fired from his first two jobs for being “non-productive.” As an inventor, Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. I found out 1000 different ways to make the light bulb.”

As young students it is important to fail and fail fast so that we keep learning.  Learning can only happen through failure.  Success is not a good teacher – it only makes us vain and pompous.  Every great invention and discovery was achieved through failures.

Conquer Yourself:

This was what my teacher wrote on my book on the day when I left school.

When we are faced with a problem – we immediately blame the world- our colleagues, our parents, the weather, our boss anyone we can find.  The only person who we think is right is me…..our Ego is so big that we cannot accept our own mistakes.

Gandhi said “ Be the change that you want to see in the world” .  So change starts with you.

Today we want to change the climate – but we are looking for others, the government, NGOs… what about you?  Can we reduce the use of plastic? Can we help to do some cleaning when we go to the beach?

Everywhere around us – there is a problem.  And as individuals we can do our best to mobilise people towards causes and make changes – small changes.

But it all begins with changing our outlook.. conquering our emotions and serving others with a smile.

So my dear friends – what are the 3 Ps. And 1C

When you go out into the real world tomorrow – what are you going to do?  What will your friends remember you for?


Fasten your seat belt

September 4, 2015 Leave a comment

This is the transcript of the speech that I delivered at the Area Z3 Humorous Speech contest held yesterday at Katong CC.

“Passengers travelling on flight  TR2652 to Bangalore please proceed to boarding gate 42”.

I had overslept and just made it to the airport in time.  I checked in my baggage and proceeded to the immigration counter.  I handed over my passport.  The immigration officer looked at my passport and gave me a long hard look….”You have a moustache here”.. “Um – I shaved it off”.  He then looked at me like I was a convict.  He  gave me a dressing down from head to toe before he let me go.

When I  reached the boarding gate I hear the announcement.  All first class and priority passengers can board the aircraft.  Then its the turn of passengers with children.  And finally it’s the turn of the   cattle class to board the plane.

When I finally enter the plane, the first class passengers are already seated.  They have already got their laptops and tablets ready.  And they look at you with a scorn – as If to say “Yeah, Im making money even now”.  You losers why have you entered our domain. 

Contest Chair, Judges and fellow toastmasters –

In the earlydays , air travel was a luxury. Male passengers wore suits and ladies wore dresses . Passengers were treated like royalty and waited on hand-and-foot by stewardesses who looked like Angelina Jolie or Sharon Stone.

Today, air fares have become  so cheap  that on some airlines you may be greeted by uncles and aunties.

Air travel has its quirks and has always been a conundrum for me.

When you enter the economy class.  you find a tall, huge man is trying to fit this big, bulky bag into the overhead compartment.  He is oblivious to the queue of people forming up to enter. Finally he realises that the bag cannot make it after all and the air hostess helps him out.

When I am travelling alone, I always like to select the window seat or the seat near the aisle.  This is because in the middle seat you are awkwardly sandwiched between 2 complete strangers.  On my recent flight I was delighted to get the window seat.  Then this big fat man comes in and occupies the middle seat.  He extends  himself to both sides like an  octopus.. I was left with no choice but to look out of the window.

Once the flight took off, the man in front of me reclines his seat all the way until it falls into my lap. So there I was trapped in my seat with no escape route.

I am anxious during take-off and landing.  Because my wife grabs hold of me all of a sudden. She is afraid of heights.  And I am afraid of her.

Then this gorgeous lady comes in wearing a yellow jacket .. and proceeds to give the safety announcement.  She is so fast that you cant catch any pause fillers.   But no one pays any attention.  “Fasten your seat belit like this. She then proceeds to do the Macarena There are 2 exits in the front, 2 behind and 2 at the sides.  In the event of a sudden drop in cabin pressure oxygen  masks will drop from overhead..  Please put on your mask like this.  If you are travelling with children first put your mask and then attend to your child.  In the unlikely event of having to land on water,  put on the life jacket,  blow into the jacket like this,  and blow the whistle like this.”

And then you can see that another air stewardess  looks at you from behind the curtain that demarcates the boundary of first class and economy.. and then she gives you a look…(as if to say…work harder and if you are lucky you can sit here one day)

Then it’s the turn of the pilot to make his presence felt.  So he comes on air – “Welcome aboard Tiger Airways. This is your captain Derek Marshall speaking,.  Today you are being served by our two charming ladies Vera Wee and Celine Goh. We are currently cruising at 37000ft above sea level and our current speed is 400 miles/hour .   On your left you can see the Riau archipelago and on your right you can see Legoland. At this rate we should reach our destination ahead of schedule”

Once the plane lands, the people scamper and  rush to open the overhead compartments, handphones go ring ring, and people are scrambling for the exit as if there is a bomb on the plane. Even school children are better behaved when the bell rings for end of school.

We have new experiences that amaze us from time to time and we have to be grateful to the pilot and the crew in making each of our flights a safe and pleasant journey!”

Traveling not only teaches us the value of life, but also exposes us to the sights , sounds , and stories of near and far-off places. It compels us to think about everything that is right and wrong with this world

In the words of Gustave Flaubert –

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”

Categories: Books Tags: , , ,

I’d like to thank my cats!

March 10, 2015 Leave a comment

You are receiving an award –- either one that already exists, or a new one created just for you. What would the award be, why are you being honored, and what would you say in your acceptance speech?
Today, I am excited, thrilled and elated to receive this World Championship of Public speaking award here in Las Vegas in front of toastmasters and friends from all over the world!

It has been a long, roller-coaster ride for me. I began my journey with Bishan Toastmasters club and ever since I have been actively involved in meetings, contests and networking.

After winning the club contest, the area contest, the division contest and the district level contests, I cannot believe that I came, I saw and I conquered it here too at the World Championship.

I would like to express my profound gratitude to my mentor who has worked with me and guided me throughout my journey.

This award means a lot to me and it would not be possible without the love of my parents and family who have supported
me always.

But most of all, I would like to express my thanks to each and every member of my club who have stood by me, encouraged me and motivated me throghout my journey.
Other interesting posts in this category:

Categories: Books Tags: , , ,

Second-hand stories

November 3, 2014 Leave a comment

What’s the best story someone else has recently told you (in person, preferably)? Share it with us, and feel free to embellish — that’s how good stories become great, after all.

The best story that someone has recently told me is the one by Tammy Miller, past-International President of Toastmasters International.  She related to the audience at the Semi-annual convention in Singapore her first experience in skydiving and the leadership lessons that we could derive from this experience.

It was a very uplifting and inspirational talk.  She told us of us she not only went on to skydive for speech material but also how she survived cancer and now works with cancer survivors.

Tammy drew parallels between the birds eye view that a skydiver has to the far-sightedness or holistic view that a leader should have.  She also debunked the myth that a leader is supposed to know everything.  She said that more importantly, a leader should have a vision, a good team and  faith in the ability of the team.

She told us how she had faith in her companion show she was backstrapped to and how she trusted that he knew his job.   She painted a vivid picture of her standing 12000 ft above the ground in the plane – putting her left foot out, then right foot and taking that leap of faith.

It was an enthralling motivational story!

Other interesting posts in this category:

Do you remember?

May 28, 2014 4 comments

(This is the text of my Advanced Project 4 speech from the Humorously Speaking manual that I delivered at my club yesterday evening)

I can’t remember the number of umbrellas I have lost  or the number of times I have misplaced my keys.

Sometimes when I have left home for work – I have the “Did I” moment.  Did I switch off the iron?  Or Did I lock the main door?

Distinguished guests, fellow toastmasters and friends –

In this fast-paced world with a growing population we have to remember so many names, so many phone numbers, facts, figures, internet passwords – it is really mind boggling.  But technology gave us paper , the printing press, the typewriter, the computer, the internet and the smartphone and we have progressively outsourced our memory to these gadgets.

Inside our brains temporal lobe is the hippocampus (sounds like hippopotamus) responsible for converting short term memory to long term memory and the amygdala (sounds like a queen from a fairy tale) which processes emotions and can record events..

When I was a child I could remember times tables,  Gandhis date of birth and when the battle of Plassey was fought.  Then when I was going to get married I could remember my wifes birthday and even her mothers birthday.  I had the memory of an elephant.  But after marriage I find it hard to remember our anniversary date, birthdays etc.

The most effective way to remember your wifes birthday is to forget it once.

When I go grocery shopping I always keep a list with me lest I should forget one item and go all the way back.

A University of Cornell study found that women remember better and can multitask whereas men are more focussed on a single task

In the movie Finding Nemo – Dory, one of the main characters can’t remember if she’s coming or going and Winnie the Pooh also had a poor memory.

Just 2 weeks back I attended a seminar to improve my memory organised by Singapores only memory champ and guiness book record holder Nishant.

He said that the reason that we have a bad memory is that we do not exercise our brain enough

A toastmasters meeting is the ideal place to exercise our brain – A speaker can throw away his script
The TME, language evaluator , General evaluator, timer and Ahcounter also have to pay attention throughout the meeting and  have to be alert all the time.

Do we ever forget to brush our teeth, take a bath or eat our  lunch?  We are creatures of habit and unless we make it a habit to remember we will tend to forget

A man was invited to some old friends’ home for dinner. He preceded every request to his wife by endearing terms, calling her Honey, My Love, Darling, Sweetheart, Pumpkin, etc.One of the friends was impressed since the couple had been married almost 70 years, and while the wife was off in the kitchen he said to his buddy:

“I think it’s wonderful that after all the years you’ve been married, you still call your wife those pet names.”His buddy hung his head. “To tell you the truth,” he said, “I forgot her name about ten years ago.”


As we grow old, our brain can suffer from dementia and Alzheimers disease due to atrophy or lack of use.  So some ways to improve your memory are

–       Get a good sleep – stress is not good for our memory and a good nap can recharge you and leave your mind fresh to grasp like a sponge

–       Llead an active life – we lead a sedentary lifestyle – so it becomes important to exercise – because as the saying goes  ‘a  healthy mind in a healthy body’

–        play games not on your smartphone but just do some crosswords or play Sudoku at times & finally

–        have some smartphone free time every day.






Categories: General Tags: , ,

White Lies

March 26, 2014 2 comments

(This is the script of my AP2 – Humorously speaking speech that I delivered at our Toastmasters Chapter meeting yesterday)

A bus filled with politicians was driving through the countryside one day, on the campaign trail. The bus driver, caught up in the beautiful scenery,loses control and crashes into the ditch. A farmer living nearby hears the horrible crash and rushes out to discover the wreckage. Finding the politicians, he buries them.

The next day, the police come to the farm to question the man. “So you buried all the politicians?” asked the police officer. “Were they all dead?”

The farmer answered, “Some said they weren’t, but you know how politicians lie.”

TME, distinguished guests and friends – How many of you have lied at some time or another in your life?

Now – For those of you who are not raising their hands – are you sure?

We grow up with the belief system etched in our mind that it is always wrong to lie and that you will be condemned if you do. We think that like Pinocchio whose nose grew longer whenever he told a lie so also something awful will happen to us if we tell lies.

  •  Visit a hospital and you’ll hear a lie: “The doctor will be
    with you in a minute.”
  • Visit a dentist and you’ll hear a lie: “This won’t hurt a

There are certain situations where it is ok to tell white lies:

–          1)  Sometimes we tweak the truth to not offend or hurt the feelings of someone who matters to you.

–          – Suppose your wife asks  you : Does this dress make me look fat?  At first you pretend you didn’t hear the question .. Then you say – “ No honey, you look as slim as you did yesterday!”

–            2)  If your 5 year old asks you if  tooth fairy or Santa exists – You do not destroy the little ones innocence or creative imagination

–            3) Offering pleasantries – or mild false truths.  Like if you are a guest at someones house and you are offered something.  It is ok to say.. that you loved it although you did not because you don’t want to be a jerk and offend them.

–            4) In a life and death situation –

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant asks what you should do if someone running by with a weapon asks you if you have seen someone pass by just few minutes ago and in which direction they were heading. Telling the truth might result in death or severe injury while lying may save a life.

5) Many a time we ask ‘How are you’ even though we don’t actually care

6) Even in this age of sms and internet – we lie.  When we text ‘I am on my way’ or ‘I didn’t get your message’

7) Then there is the ‘I’ve read the terms and conditions”.  Who reads all the 10 page terms and conditions on a contract or investment or legal document  before agreeing. A research by British firm Gamestation has shown that as many as 88% of people do not read the terms & conditions of a website before making a purchase.


A clergyman was walking down the street when he came upon a group of about a dozen boys, all of them between 10 and 12 years of age.
The group surrounded a dog.
Concerned lest the boys were hurting the dog,the clergyman went over and asked “What are you doing with that dog?”
One of the boys replied, “This dog is just an old neighborhood stray. We all want him, but only one of us can take him home. So we’ve decided that whichever one of us can tell the biggest lie will get to keep the dog.”
Of course, the clergyman was taken aback.
“You boys shouldn’t be having a contest telling lies!” he exclaimed.
He then launched into a ten minute sermon against lying,
beginning, “Don’t you boys know it’s a sin to lie,” and ending with, “Why, when I was your age, I never told a lie.”
There was dead silence for about a minute.
Just as the clergyman was beginning to think he’d convinced them , the smallest boy gave a deep sigh and said,
“Oh..All right,he won…give him the dog.”


In life, we may not be able to stick to absolute moral rules such as ‘never tell lies’ but we can follow an ethical approach of reasoning before we tell white lies to save someones life or not to offend our dear ones.

So … what did you think about my speech? . Don’t worry , its okay to lie

(References – the 2 jokes at the start and end of the speech  are googled from the internet)


Categories: General Tags: , ,

Why do we complain?

January 29, 2014 2 comments

This is the text of the speech that I delivered as part of my Advanced Project 1 from the Humorously speaking manual (Toastmasters) at my club yesterday

In a village there lived a wise minister who solved the problems of the people.  Every day the people would come to him with their problems and he would tell them how to solve them.  Now he realized, that most people come to him with the same problem over and over again.
So he wanted to make them understand.
One day he told them a joke .  The people roared in laughter
The next day he told them the same joke and only a few of them smiled
When he told the joke for the third time no one laughed anymore.

The wise man smiled and said: You can’t laugh at the same joke over and over.  So why do you always complain about the same problem!


Distinguished guests and fellow toastmasters,
Why do we complain?   There are three reasons –

1)      It is human nature to complain:

I have yet to hear of a baby who comes into this world laughing.  From the time we come out of the womb all the way to the tomb it is a story of constant whining.
  When a child screams you can put a pacifier in it s mouth but when an adult complains what do you do?

Take  a teenager on a date – he complains because he wants the perfect girl – must be 36 – 24 – 36, long hair, fair, not too tall – not too short  — to him it is like ordering a pizza  – thin crust, extra cheese, Hawaiian.

For married men or women complaining is a daily chore.. As soon as you wake up in the morning you say the water is too cold or there is no more toothpaste. At lunchtime the husband complains  to his  wife –“. It’s the same old food”.

The wife complains that the m-in-law gives her too much housework

The father complains to the  child: “Why don’t  you do your homework without watching TV all day”,   And the child complains that with the load of homework every day – he will turn into a zombie someday.

The employee complains to the boss:

“Sir – the work is too much – I desperately need a raise”

To which the Boss will reply–“ the company is running a loss because of people like you – go and do your job before I fire you

If it rains, we complain of too  much water, flooding   If its hot and sunny we complain its stuffy and sweaty

2)      Too many choices

. Picture this scenario –  If we were told when young… there is only roti prata at home and you must have it.  There is no choice and if you are hungry you will eat it.

But Singapore is a foodies paradise – you want plain prata, murtabak, or icecream prata – you want Adam road nasi lemak or katong laksa, chicken rice or  mee goreng.     Now that is a problem.. so we complain!  What to eat!

3)      We want only the best – or the Kiasu syndrome

Take P1 admissions – To get their children into the best  school  parents buy a home near the school and do volunteering jobs in the school and they still compare with other children and complain.

Singapore is shielded from floods,  tsunamis,  hurricanes and  earthquakes. So when there is a small disturbance like a haze we get over reactive and  run to the pharmacy to get the best mask.

If they build a workers dormitory near your home –complain.  If your maid takes an extra day off complain  and if the rubbish dump is close to your home complain.

Take public transport – we complain that we are stacked like sardines.. and some even complain they have to sit near poor people .

We are blessed with good health, friends, family, and we can have 3 meals a day. We can enjoy a movie, sip a coffee at Starbucks and occasionally go on a getaway to a neighbouring country.  So why are we still complaining?

Abraham Lincoln  said – “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”

© copyright, skm, 29th Jan, 2014


The Ice Breaker

October 30, 2013 1 comment

Tell us about your first day at something — your first day of school, first day of work, first day living on your own, first day blogging, first day as a parent, whatever.
Photographers, artists, poets: show us BEGINNING.


I remember the day.  It was the 10th August 2010.  I had joined Bishan Toastmasters Club to improve on my public speaking and leadership skills.  It was going to be a speech about myself.  I spoke about “Looking through the kaleidoscope of my life”.  It was interesting opening up before my club members.   When you speak about yourself it is easier to connect with your audience.  I spoke about my childhood, my education, my career and my move to Singapore from India.

Now it is more than 3 years and I am currently the President of this club.  I enjoy being with this club as we have a very jovial atmosphere.  Our members are also very encouraging and we motivate each other to excel.

In any endeavour in life, I think that taking that first step is the most important.  It is fun to try out different skills in life.  We may find along the way that we are not suited for  a particular field and then we just try another field.  I find that in this manner our learning curve improves.

Joining toastmasters has helped me to network with like-minded people from all over the world with different backgrounds and cultures.  We also learn about each other and in this manner we celebrate our diversity.

Other interesting posts in this category:

Naked with black socks

September 19, 2013 Leave a comment

Are you comfortable in front of people, or does the idea of public speaking make you want to hide in the bathroom? Why? 
Photographers, artists, poets: show us PUBLIC.

The greatest fear in the world today is the fear of public speaking. I am an introvert by nature and would avoid grand parties etc. but I love speakng in public. I have enjoyed taking part in elocution and debate competitions since  school days. It has helped me a lot to become comfortable and confident.

A toastmasters program is a structured program with a communication and leadership track. It is a great platform to conquer your speaking fears and to be evaluated by peers in your club. You also have an opportunity to develop leadership skills by taking on meeting roles or positions in the Exco of your club. You get to learn to write a good speech, to listen, to evaluate, to mentor, to give a humorous speech and to inspire others to join your club. A typical chapter meeting at a club consists of Prepared speeches, Table topics (Impromptu speeches) and evaluations. There is also a language evaluator who can help you to improve understanding of pronunciation, articulation and grammar. A general evaluator gives tips on how to improve the meetings.

A toastmasters club is a wonderful avenue to meet after work and improve on speaking, listening and leadership skills. It is a great place to network with people of diverse backgrounds and get diverse perspectives on current events, topics of interest and have fun. It also helps to develop our leadership abilities by way of taking up roles at meetings within the club and networking with other clubs.

I joined Toastmasters International 5 years ago and am currently doing my Advanced Project manuals. I would like to take this  interest further by being involved in training and leadership for companies.

I am currently President of Bishan Toastmasters Club located at Bishan CC in Singapore.
Other interesting posts in this category:

Table Topics : An exercise in impromptu speaking

November 20, 2012 1 comment

How many of you have  stuttered in front of an audience when you were faced with a challenge of speaking impromptu?

If so –  A toastmasters club is the ideal place for you to hone your skills.  Table topics is a part of every toastmasters club meeting.  Here you get a chance to speak on diverse topics picked up by the table topics master.  The topics may be on quotes, news, current happenings, sports, events, education, inspiring topics etc.

Table topics provides you with an opportunity to practice careful listening, quickly preparing a relevant response, and expressing fluent, clear and organized thoughts in a limited time.

A table topics session helps you to:

–Practice on your own knowledge and experience on a topic

— Train your listening skills and present an appropriate response to the question

— Speak in an organized manner

The table topics session offers a speaking opportunity to every meeting participant. Some clubs excuse the Toastmaster of the day and project speakers from this session.  It is a great opportunity for guests and aspiring toastmasters to begin speaking before an audience and control their shyness and nervousness.

The topics usually avoided in table topics sessions are sex, religion and politics.  Having a theme for the meeting helps to break the monotony of standard topics and build a sense of camaraderie among the members.

Guidelines for a Table topics speaker:

.. Keep your remarks to the point of the topic

.. Try to make a sensible, worthwhile presentation that adds to the listeners knowledge


Here are some strategies from Richard L Weaver II on Impromptu speaking:


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