Saturday, November 08, 2008

A Toast to Public Speaking

ASIA's TOP: Loghandran's achievement is the highest in the international speech contest ever to be achieved by any toastmaster at the Asian level.

WINNERS: Logandran with WCPS champion La Shunda Rundles of Texas (centre) and second runner-up, Katherine Morrison of Florida.

By Marilyn Ten
Sarawak Post (The Sunday Post on 26 Oct 2008)

The number one fear of most people is speaking in public.

But for financial training consultant, Loghandran Krishnasamy, talking in front of an audience is simply a joy and this talent of his has done the country proud when he took the first runner-up spot at the 2OO8 World Championship of Public Speaking (WCPS) in Canada this year.

About 25,000 toastmasters from 92 countries spoke at the championship, organised by Toastmasters International. Overall, more than 230,000 members from 11,000 clubs of the participating countries joined the contest.

Competitors were required to deliver a seven-minute speech and judged on core message, speech development, language and delivery techniques.

The KL-born Loghandran wowed an audience of more than. 1,500 at the contest in Calgary, Alberta, on August 26 with a seven-and-a-half minute captivating speech on "Finding the Rhythm" based on his observations of people who have everything but are not happy.

He even received a letter from the Prime .Minister's Office, congratulating him on the achievement, and attributed his success to his 15 years in Toastmasters … and that through the WCPS, had finally achieved world-class standard in public speaking.

Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organisation which teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. Toastmasters Malaysia began in 1976 in Kuaala Lumpur and currently has 321 active Toastmasters Clubs, with 19 in Kuching.

Loghandran's achievement is the highest in the international speech contest ever achieved by any toastmaster at the Asian level.

The 54-year-old, in Kuching recently for the Connections Toast masters Club & Installation Night and Five Years Anniversary, shared his thoughts on public speaking with TheSundayPost.

Q: What is public speaking?
A: People are not born to be public speakers. Some are just private speakers who would rather talk among themselves. So public speaking is a skill you must develop.

Public speaking is a leadership skill. If you're good, in public speaking, people tend to think you are good in other leadership skills and you'll end up getting promoted for the wrong reasons (laughs}. That's why politicians can go up very fast and public speaking is one skill, a leader must have.
Some people may have other leadership skills but if you don't have public speaking, if you can't tell it, you can't sell it. So whatever ideas you have, you want to promote and present them ... if you can't sell the ideas, you lose out. So we must be articulate and able to sell the ideas and present them in such a way that people accept our ideas.

Q: Why did you join Toastmasters?
A: Some people join Toastmasters to face their fear of public speaking. I joined for the joy of public speaking. I was still in the banking industry then and we once had a contest just to encourage people to speak. We were each required to deliver a three-minute speech and I ended up winning and getting RM 300 for it. I remember thinking "wow, one minute for RM 100. That's not bad.”

Then I heard that Toastmasters International is a public speaking body where you deliver speeches in the club. So I joined the Penang Toastmasters Club In 1992 – I was working
there then – and when I first started, I was very raw with no structure.

But as time went by, I worked my way up and have been with Toastmasters ever since.

Q: How does Toastmasters work?
A: When you come to a toastmasters club, we have courses where you take assignments, each for around seven minutes. If you have finished 10 speeches, you will be known as a competent communicator. After that, you complete another 1O and you'll be recognized as an advance communicator. The member will be promoted from bronze to gold after completion of every 10 speeches.

Then you have another leadership track where you'll become president, area governor and all. Once you've finished that, you will achieve the highest award – the Distinguished
Toastmaster (DTM) – usually after about 40 speeches.

In my experience when a person is new to Toastmasters he or she is quite raw and a bit nervous. But by the eighth speech, you can see a transformation taking place. The person has changed and is visibly not as nervous any longer.
The basic thing to remember here is communication. There's one restaurant my wife and I frequent and one day I went there alone. The waiter asked me "where's auntie?' So I told him my wife was working. He said to me "tell auntie, I tell, where auntie?"

So I went home and told my wife the waiter asked about her. My wife knew the waiter could not speak good English. So she asked me what did he say? So I conveyed the exact message "Tell auntie, I tell, where auntie?"

Though it was not proper English, the waiter conveyed from his heart what he felt. Now that's communication.

But in Toastmasters of course, we expect you to speak at a higher level, especially if you're a university graduate ... and if want to present yourself, your level of English must be higher.

Communication can be at the lowest or the highest level. But we try to take you one level higher and there is no failing in Toastmasters. For every assignment, there is no failure. It's the people who give you feedback who are the most valuable.

There is a difference between judgement and feedback. Judgement is what you said was wrong while feedback is "this is how. I felt about your speech." This enables people to find out which area they can improve.

At Toastmasters, we use the American style of giving feedback. We tell it to your face like in American Idol. This is, of course, confined to Toastmasters members. So it's up to you to take it, and improve yourself from there.

Q: What can a member gain from Toastmasters?
A: Here's an example – a member reads a book about the Blue Ocean Strategy while the other members have not read it yet. For the next seven minutes, I get the gist of what is in the book. Therefore the knowledge is there and shared very well. Some will share their culture and that's the wonderful learning experience you get from Toastmasters apart from the fellowship. There are, of course, those who join just for the fellowship. They don't do any assignments but see it as an opportunity to meet friends.

At Toastmasters, we work as a team but at the same time, we develop you. So you have a great opportunity to improve your communication and leadership skills. On the other hand, you'll get to hold positions and learn more about responsibilities. All these are leadership skills and if you go for trainings it can be very expensive.

You can have the most timid person who, after joining Toastmasters and climbing up the leadership track, may one day become president of the club ... even the person himself can't believe that he has achieved that position.

What's certain is that those who join Toastmasters come out more confident. You will always be better than when you first joined.

Q: How do you come up with ideas for your speeches?
A: Everybody has his or her own way of doing it. For me, I would spend the whole day thinking about it. But before I retire for the night, I would just drop it. The idea itself will come to you naturally – either from yourself, the radio, the TV or maybe somebody said something interesting in passing. I don't know how it works for other people but it works for me.

For eight months I was focused on this. In 1998, I was still working full-time as a banker. I couldn't really focus on my speech preparations then. But now, I'm doing my own business and don't have to stretch myself as much – so I have more time to spend on public speaking.
I always believe there is a coincidence. The more coincidence you get, the more you are in touch with the source.

My own belief is if you judge people in anything at all, you'll destroy the silence. Silence is the language of the soul. If you always complain, you are forming judgement and you'll disconnect from the source.

The source could be talking to you all the time. It may not be verbally but if you observe or listen hard enough, the idea will come to you.

In fact, for the regional level, I delivered a speech called "Silence of the Awkward Pause" and the message from this speech came from my son who loves walnut carrot cake. I told him to do what his mum always does ... taking one slice to his grandmother resting in her room. I cut one slice, gave it to him and watched him from the corner. Halfway, I saw my son pinching a tiny bit of the cake and putting it hi his mouth.

I said to him "you greedy boy. There are 11 more slices in the box and you chose to eat this particular piece. My son stopped, all the while chewing the cake, and replied "this is what mummy does. Mummy always tastes the food before she gives it to me. If it's spoilt, she would throw it away. Mummy said spoilt food is bad for your stomach. "We can't give spoilt food to grandma."

Here I was shocked in silence ... hence the title. You just don't know what to say. In that silence, I learned what is more important: a full slice of cake for grandma or a bitten off piece, approved with love and care by quality control.

Lessons are being taught in my own house and I didn't know it. So that's a strong message to my audience. There are times we assume we know everything and sometimes when people give you an answer – for instance, the Americans would call it the great comeback – especially children, you just don't know what to say in return. That silence is a reality check.

So you don't have to go far to find a message for your speech.

Q: What is your advice to those who like to face their fears in public speaking?
A: The only answer is to face them. If you have the fear of public speaking, go and deliver, especially when you are young.

Mohammad All once said "if I win, people would only remember for two weeks." So if you come to a Toastmasters club and said something stupid in your speech, people would only remember for two weeks. The next session, which is usually two weeks later, you'll be delivering a new speech … so by then, people would have already forgotten what you said a fortnight ago.
So if you think you're going to make a fool of yourself, go ahead and do it before you are 40. After 40, you are expected to be a leader, so make all the mistakes before 40.

Public speaking is something you have to practise many times and they say Toastmasters is the place to make mistakes. Any speech you deliver, there will be some glitches here and there. I had even done training where the youngest participant was a four-year-old boy ... I told him to come up and deliver a speech ... he came up and said "I want to tell you a story about the papa bear, the mama bear and the baby bear" with his chin resting on his hand. He could speak but all he had to do was take his hand and put it down.

Likewise, everybody can speak but it's the mistakes he or she should avoid. Structure the speech in such a way people can understand.

If a speech is all over the place, people won't know where your story is going and they can't get your message – so structuring is also a way to design your speech into an understandable format.

We all have different levels of anxiety nervousness. It's still there to a certain degree. It just needs to be polished.

Posted by KC Leong, SDTMC Webmaster


1 comment:

GreatManagement said...

Great interview.

I have worked with Darren LaCroix teh 2001 World Champion of Public Speaking - these guys are an amazing inspiration.