Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tough Love

Written by DTM K Loghandran

Winning the District 51 International speech contest 2008 at Penang was sweet. My last victory was winning the District 51 International speech contest 1998 in Kuching.

After winning the 1998 contest, I was asked to give many workshops on how to be a winner. That stumped me. I didn’t know which part of my speech was the one that convinced the judges.

I have to ask for feedback from those that attended to determine why I had won. One common feedback was that I have stage presence throughout and my story was positive in the end. When I did not make it at the Regional level, I knew there was a lot to learn. I got valuable tips from 1993 world champion, Otis William. He has rehearsed 18 times just on the morning of the speech in the empty hall. Otis is an army sergeant who is used to tough discipline.
DTM K. Loghandran - The Champion of District 51 International Speech Contest and members of Speakers' Dream Toastmasters Club

I learned the punching of the hand technique from him. In 1998 The World Champion was an Australian who can mimic over 100 persons. He was also an actor. Taking the cue from these champions I involved myself in acting and stand up comedy with my buddy Fong Muntoh. After writing and acting in over 15 plays, I felt that I was ready to give it a shot.

Many had asked why I took part after a 10-year gap. My answer: I have come closer to the answer to winning a speech contest. It was not easy but hard work. I made sure that I covered all the points in the contest criteria form.

The other factors that had helped me are as follows

a) Stage time
I was given in my club despite finishing my DTM. There was always a slot called ‘Do your thing ‘ in our club. I volunteered every time to fill the slot. I tested my story telling skills here.

I also got more stage time by joining the Speakers' Dream sister club (Kelab Spot-On Theatre ) to improve performing arts skills. The public that comes for our plays are more critical than Toastmasters.

b) My approach
My approach to the contest was to treat it as an International Communications contest rather than a Speech Contest. So, the mental orientation that I used was to communicate to the audience. I very strongly belief that an audience can make out whether you are communicating with them or speaking at them. Thus I used many techniques to engage with the audience. Once audience I began to tell my story.

My approach was also to use a positive emotion( I have it in my knowledge that judges are quite fed-up listening to self pity stories.)

c) Writing original works with elements of comedy for 10 years for theatre.This has put in a frame of mind to develop my own stories or stories related to me .

d) I am a voracious reader on every subject. Especially topics that are related to the human element. Nobel prize winners in literature win because of their writings on the human element.

e) I have a good memory of personal stories. I have a knack of remembering trivial matters that even my own friends are amazed. This has immensely improved my story telling skills.

f) My materials also come from my surroundings. So I am in constant alert to pick up great conversations. Even the title of my winning speech ‘Tough Love’ was picked from the WWF wrestling match.

g) I am involved as an actor and director of Comedy plays. The plays I write are designed to engage people.So I mentally see my audience responding to my words before the speech.

I am also a stand up comedian who performs at corporate functions. By the way, the runner-up for the 2008 finals is a stand up comedian.

h) I am very particular with pronunciation of words. I notice that many toastmasters dont want to learn this aspect of speaking and get knockout at the area level.

i) The good feedback and support I get from Speakers Dream Toastmasters club. It was never an individual effort. The Speakers Dream Toastmasters club members took it upon themselves to be evaluators at the other run-off contests and provide feedback to change tactics. They are very professional in this. They act as my personal coach.

j) I enjoy the thrill of competition.

k) I have lost many times before . Therefore I know what mistakes not to make.

l) Tactical changes made in the speech when competing at different levels.When you are at the contestants briefing, you are able to roughly judge the level of contestants. One is able to decide on which part of the speech to deliver for the run off and which to save for the finals.

m) More time to concentrate. Many toastmasters have day jobs that zapp their minds until they postpone preparing till the last moment.I now have the luxury of preparing everyday for three months before a speech.

n) Style of speaking. The grand oratorical style of the past is no longer valid (I refer to the speaking style of Sir Winston Churchill). Presently, audiences are more used to short quick changes like the kind employed by MTV.

o) Designing the speech so that it will empower me rather than make me anxious.It is good to start the speech light hearted and slow and later give it speed.

I consider the District Contest for 2008 of high standard. The contestants had put up a good fight. For those aspiring to take part next year, I encourage you to start now. Try and recall your personal stories that impacted your life. Prepare a fourteen minute speech and move around the points to make the seven minutes.

As regards my next Regional contest in Calgary, I will not offer any excuse. As Yoda said in Star Wars ’There is no such thing as trying’. I have to see the tapes of the past winners and listen to their speeches.The entire style and content of my district winning speech will have to be changed.

The audience and judges have a higher level of expectations. I will treasure any feedback to improve. Remember nobody can do it alone. All of you in District 51 are my coaches.

My email is starcoaching@gmail.com

If you are in Kuala Lumpur, drop by to taste our coffee or do an assignment there (Our VPE is Mun Yuen 016-2187876).

I am with Speakers' Dream Toastmasters Club that meets every 2nd and 4th Monday of the month. Venue: Kelab Golf Perkhidmatan Awam (Opposite East Inn hotel )

Loghandran DTM (012-2389 897 )

No comments: