Category Archives: Body Language

Misses and Hits: Lessons from Singapore’s YPAP Video

Editors Note:
This post is written entirely for learning purposes. Any sarcasm and cynical comments found herein are included for entertainment purposes, and not meant to offend.

[C’mon… give me a break I head to go through the video 5 times!]

Click here to launch the video


[5 minutes 46 seconds, if you average 3 words per second]

ypap pic



By now, if you live in Singapore, or have friends who are Singaporeans – you would have heard about the latest video controversy making its round on the internet.

I was asked by a local news paper, The New Paper to give my views on the video and the reasons for the reception it received.

Here’s my take on the misses and hits, and what we can learn from it.


1) Robotic “Personalities” 

Go through the first 40 seconds of the video, and you’ll see bodies people largely standing still. Even for people who speak, their gestures and mannerisms appear largely controlled.

Having worked in front of the camera, I’m aware of the need to minimize distracting mannerisms.

Unfortunately, minimizing mannerisms in this case has swung to the other extreme, causing a number of people in the video to appear contrived and “emotionless”.

What really stood out for me, is how one person, apart from his/her voice, speaks and sounds almost the same as the other person – how’s that for personality and personalization? 

What could’ve been better: Variation in tone, pace and hand gestures would’ve broken the seeming monotony of “robotic personalities”. They key is to present one’s personality and energy.  


2) Synchronized Movement: An Irony of  Preparation

This is probably a sad irony of preparation. Where an audience demands sincerity and connection with the people who may eventually be their leaders, synchronized gestures throughout the video (ie, at 0:26s) suggests a rehearsed attempt and hardly suggests that actions from the activists (pardon the pun) “came from the bottom of the heart”.

Even the following segment by the West Coast Region YP, an apparent attempt at presenting a united front – backfired, when the actions appeared overly orchestrated.

Tanjong Pagar Region YP (3:44) upped the ante with their segment with an even more uniformed recital of what they wanted to say and with their eyes all over the place except the camera.

Eyes at the camera, please?
Eyes at the camera, please?

What could’ve been better:  Have close ups of individual activists from within the group, present shortened, specific segments. So everybody gets air time, but there’s less “group” coordination required for the recital.

It’s also perfectly fine to look at the camera to simulate eye contact with the audience.

By the way, having one’s eyes moving systematically, from left to right gives people the perception that you’re reading off a script/teleprompter and not speaking from the heart… so doing that is also highly discouraged.

ypap pic 2

It’s hard to convince people that you truly believe in and care for something, when the delivery appears to be devoid of emotion, scripted and prepared.


3) Language: Can you Connect with the Common Man?

I noted a couple of instances, when the words used by the presenters weren’t naturally relatable to or immediately understandable by the man on the street.

In short, we don’t use them as part of of our daily conversations.

Take for example the segment presented by Holland-Bukit Timah Region, where it was said, “We must continue to be responsive to the ever-changing social, political and economic environment, by distributing resources in a caring manner, and balancing  market forces and government intervention for Singaporeans to better cope with living expenses.

That’s a lot of big words there.

Instead of that, how about, “We must continue to be sensitive to the needs of Singaporeans – by sharing with them the fruits of the country’s labour and help them with the costs and challenges of living.
(I don’t like the word “challenging” here… but hey, I came this at the top of my head and it’s still better than the original version, no?)

Then there are  terms that even I find confusing… such as East Coast Region YP’s “Diversity in Social Mindset” – I understood the explanation that came after the term… but I did find myself scratching my head wondering why that can’t be replaced with the phrase “Having more members from more diverse backgrounds” (… other than doctors, lawyers, etc).

If only the other YP branches heeded the advice of Choa Chu Kang Region YP, who called for communication to be simple, concise and easy to understand…



Okay, now that I’m done with the misses… let’s consider the hits.

Content: Pretty sound there – there’re no surprises here. Every thing is spic and span and no controversy erupted over a message that could’ve been misconstrued etc. At least the PAP doesn’t have to be embarrassed by a message.

Party Discipline: Say what you like, the teams still pulled together to deliver a consistent message/direction is still commendable. Achieving that by itself is a feat, considering the massive machinery that is the PAP.

A for Effort and Putting Yourself Out There: Trying to be ‘natural’ and coordinated… you’ve got to say, the people tried and they’re really NOT actors!

It would be great if the speakers could achieve the level of unconscious competency in the area of public speaking, communication and connecting with their audience.

Hey guys… just in case you’re wondering where you can learn that, I know of a coach who does a great job at helping people with that! *winks*



To be fair, I truly believe getting the different branches to send in a “proper” video for compilation is a mammoth task.

The PAP, known more for its discipline accuracy (think engineers and lawyers) and assuming the role of the ruling party would naturally place greater emphasis on the content of its message.

Still, try as they like, the call for people to focus on intention and the message is expected… but will very likely fall on deaf ears.

After all, people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

Therefore, although I believe that there exists real concern (and passion) hidden under the cloak of nervousness and unrefined performance, the art of communication and connecting with the audience is a skill the PAP needs to work on, if they wish to really soften the blow of their (hard) policies and move the audience into believing that they know what’s best.

Shaping Your World With Your Body Language!

Still curious about what you can learn from and do with body language ?

Let Amy Cuddy share you insights on body language and how, when you change the way you hold your body, you change the way you influence your behavior and surroundings.

You can read the transcript here.

Learn it, do it.

Get out there, share and make a difference!

Body Language in Action: Assertive or Aggressive?

Gestures: To Point or Not to Point?

This is one of a series of articles written in response to the action taking place in Singapore’s General Election.

The aim of this post is to share with you lesson on public speaking – the good and bad – from Singapore’s potential representatives in parliament.

Please note that I do not know most of these people personally, and so any criticisms of their speaking styles or perceptions of them on stage should not be seen as an attack on their personalities.

It’s my hope that my evaluations could help you in your growth and preparation for future challenges too.


Singaporeans who have been following the election rallies online would’ve seen several speakers in action. Some have commented that some appear and look sincere. Others commented that some appear high handed and aggressive.

I’ve had the chance to review some videos, and found a couple of examples, of how body language (and tone of voice, but we will not talk about that for the time being) contribute to the overall perception of a speaker and the impressions he gives others.

To help you gain a clearer understanding of what I’m talking about, have listen to the following speech for the text and content, and review it by watching the full video of the speaker in action.

Excerpt from the First Minute of Speech
Young voters of Sembawang

This is an important election for you

This is.. this election is about which party you trust to secure a better future for you

This election is about which party you think is more capable of doing the good job for you

And this election is about which party you want to achieve your dreams

As a young person 

I stand here today more excited and more optismistic about our future than never before

We stand here at the starting line of life

With a very good pair of running shoes

Now, let’s review the same speech and speaker, but with visuals of him speaking. Observe the difference: Continue reading Body Language in Action: Assertive or Aggressive?

Body Language: What Can You Learn at the Expense of Politicians!

When it comes to elections, do the body gestures of politicians mean anything?

Well – they sure do!

With elections fever all the rage in America right now – this special Body Language Report highlights and interprets some of the messages and mistakes that politicians use and make during their political rallies.

Are you interested in learning more about how you can speak with greater perceived confidence, power and credibility – and essentially enhance the clarity of your message through body language?

If your answer’s a yes, then this report is for you! It isn’t a long one (it’s just 5mins and 25 seconds), but it can raise your awareness of what are some of things to do and not to do.

So get out a piece of paper an check it out! Get ready to take some notes even!

Here it is: Continue reading Body Language: What Can You Learn at the Expense of Politicians!

Power Failure – How Not to Use Your Body…

It has often been said that sound and words – the verbal and vocal aspects of communication, aren’t the only way to transmit and communicate ideas. And that’s true as far as the Vocal, Verbal and Visual trinity are concerned. Therefore, as speakers and presenters on stage, we’re often required to rely on not only the power of words and vocal variety, we’d often need to supplement them with our gestures, expressions, poise and general movements on stage.

Now, having shared with everyone earlier about the some of the moves that speakers can use on stage in my post on Power Moves, I’ve been receiving requests to follow up on that post with an entry of moves to avoid on stage. Now I use the word “avoid” because I’ve never believed in the concept of absolutes. The moves that I’m about to show you will have it’s uses in specific circumstances. However, their use should be kept to a minimal, if not zero, during general speeches and general circumstances.

So, now that I’ve got my disclaimer out of the way, let us start by examining some of the troublesome tendencies we have on stage: Continue reading Power Failure – How Not to Use Your Body…

Body Language in Action

I chance upon this gem whilst I was randomly surfing for Body Language on Youtube.

Here, we get to see three politicians campaigning and having their body language critiqued by body language expert Mark Bowden.

I think Mark’s analysis offers us a great deal of insight into the world of body language, and if you’re sharp enough, you would be able to see some of the techniques I spoke about in my earlier post on Power Moves at play.

Check out the video to see if you can spot those principles in action. Better still, see for yourself body language at work in campaigns, debates, and how it’s effective use can help the candidate win over the electorate.

After all, Mark says it best when he said: A voter may not understand all of the candidate’s policies or what they stand for exactly, but they may well trust it. And if they trust it, they will put an X. Otherwise, they will just leave it blank!

Check it out!

Be intrigued!

How to Look Confident by Knowing Where and How to Look!

Many of us have heard about the importance of maintaining eye contact whilst we are speaking. For those of you who aren’t sure about it or are having difficulty recalling the significance of maintaining eye contact here’s a quick recap, followed by simple to use but effectives techniques on how to use your eyes to charm and connect. Continue reading How to Look Confident by Knowing Where and How to Look!

That’s Not a Look, It’s My Face!

It wasn’t too long ago when people came up to me to ask, “Gary, why so moody?”

Actually, there weren’t many people coming up to me… quite simply because of the “look” I was wearing. The problem was… it wasn’t my “look”… it was my FACE! Continue reading That’s Not a Look, It’s My Face!

Power Moves! – 5 Tips to Make Body Language Work for You!

Gestures and Body Language are important and powerful tools which have in them, an immense potential and ability to affect the end effect of our speeches and presentations! When used appropriately, our body gestures may enhance and strengthen the effect and points of our speech! Used indiscriminately, they’re liable to dilute and dampen the power and effectiveness of our presentations.

So what are some of the positive gestures and body language you may adopt to enhance your public speaking performance for maximum impact? Continue reading Power Moves! – 5 Tips to Make Body Language Work for You!

Podcast: Speaksmart 2

Popular Podcast offering listeners insights and ideas on how we could improve our public speaking performances is back with Part 2!

As with the first installment, I found this podcast to be highly comprehensive and insightful! More importantly, the quality of the material and suggestions are EASY enough for most of us to understand and Implement in most of our EVERYDAY speeches and presentations.

I was particularly intrigued by Continue reading Podcast: Speaksmart 2

Video: Enhancing Your Presentation Skills!

I chanced upon a video relating to presentation skills some time ago, detailing some great tips to note where it comes to public speaking. Now I really liked the tips highlighted in the video for being easy to use and their practicability in EVERY public speaking situation!

The speaker in the video is J. Douglas Jefferys. Douglas has trained thousands of satisfied participants in proper public speaking skills and continues to develop and edit dynamic on-screen presentations for top executives at many Fortune 500 companies.

For those of you who are interested to find out more about Mr J. Douglas Jefferys, you may check out this link highlighted above.

Otherwise, just check out the video below!


Animate Your Message!

In a research report published years ago, it was noted that words constituted a considerably small portion of a message. Naturally, non-verbal messages such as our vocal tone, rhythm and body gestures form a considerably larger portion of of the messages we’re trying to communicate!

To highlight this, I found a little video on Youtube which showcases how a message or a point may be brought to life when accompanied with a suitable mix of body gestures, facial expressions and vocal variety.

See if you can spot the ways the actors used the above throughout the video!
(Actually, it’s quite hard to miss… *wink*)

Have fun!

Related Posts: More Than Words

How to Be Funny – The Mechanics of Humour

Now as promised, this post is a follow up on the Principle of Humour! Yes! Finally!

Having been a pretty boring and dull person earlier on (well, I’m sure I’m still guilty of it sometimes!), I began examining exactly what tickled people’s funny bone, be it in social situations or in private. My search led me to the discovery of what I called, the Principle of Humour.

However, knowing the underlying principle wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to specifically what were the Mechanics of Humour. I wanted to know what were the real nuts and bolts and tools that make people laugh! The specific tools that allows us to create surprises! Here are some of the most powerful tools I’ve learnt and used to great effect!

1) Exaggerate It!

This technique involves one-uping or blowing up a certain situation or idea beyond its most commonly anticipated form in people’s mind. Hey, we are talking about creating surprises here! And exaggeration is a sure way of making sure that the impression or point your trying to bring across will be an “EXTRAORDINARY” one!

What a way to be remembered!

2) Twist It!

We all know how conversations seem to take a certain life and direction on it’s own when we’re talking with other people. Have you ever realised that there’re times when you could almost predict what’re the sentences and words that will next come out of the speakers mouth?

Yes! We are all intelligent people and so we’ve learnt to anticipate what’s coming up next, either consciously or subconsciously. So, can you imagine how we could exploit this human tendancy to anticipate to create surprises? Yes! By “Twisting It!”

Twisting It involves leading our listener down the familiar road which allows us to predict or preempt our listener’s response by inserting it with a totally unexpected answer – preferably a drastic one (see point 1)!

Take for example a conversation with a friend who asks you if you went out with that hot waiter/waitress you both met the other day.

Friend: So, did you ask her out?
You: Sure did!
Friend: How did it go?
You: It was unforgetable!
Friend: Wow! That great? Tell me about it!
You: She was a transvestite.

Ok… something like this. You get the picture!

3) Animate It!

Bring your message to life! Act it out! Humour isn’t all just about wit and humour and words. Have you ever stopped to think that even mime’s can be funny?

Usage of vocal variety and tones, facial expression and exagerrated body gestures are some ways of animating your message and bringing it to life! Imagine the surprises you’ll be creating in the lives of people who are so used to dealing with words in the form of forms, powerpoint, documents, contracts, notes, handouts, fliers, newspapers (the list goes on!) etc. Think about the impact you’ll be making!

I was tempted to show a video each after each principle to highlight each point. However, I believe that you woulld have realised by now that the 3 principles above work best when they are used with each other! So, here they are some exhibits below for your ‘reference’. See if you can spot those principles in action!



Movie Trailer


And last but not least…


I’m pretty sure you’ve got a clearer idea of the mechanics and principle of humour. So, what are you waiting for? Go make someone laugh today!

After all, don’t you enjoy a good laugh too?

It’s All About You! – Body Language Edition

Following my posts on Body Language entitled More than Words, and tips on how to become a better conversationalist, it would appear pretty incomplete if I didn’t follow up that last post without some tips on how you could use body language to encourage others to share more about themselves too!

Thus after much pondering, I’ve decided to use list down the top 3 body language signals which you can incorporate in your conversations with others to put them at ease and get them to share more about themselves! Remember, people would only want to share about themselves when they’re comfortable and when they feel that you’re REALLY interested in them.

Since I’m already assuming that you would really want to be interested in others because of your great personality, I’m going to help you with the following tips on how you could enhance your meetings with others through the use of some simple but effective body language signals.

1) Nod Your Head

Nodding your head is a signal that you’re in tune with what the other person is saying! Now I’m not asking you to nod your head as if you’re like some life buoy in the water or the head of a jack-in-the-box on a spring. But nodding your head every now and then when the speaker is talking is a signal that you’re listening and paying attention to what the speaker has to say!

2) Use your eyes!

Yes, use your eyes a bit! No, don’t worry, I’m asking you to electrocute your speaker by staring eyes deeply into his/hers. Rather, learn to raise play with your eyelids. Open `em wide when the speaker says something astonishing/hilarious/surprising/unbelievable to signal your amusement and intense interest in what he’s just said!

Alternatively, learn to express shock and disgust and disbelief by wincing your eyes to express pain/anger/shock to signal that you can relate to the speaker’s feelings of agony or injustice (ie when he’s told off by his pesky boss for something he wasn’t responsible for).

3) The Power of Smiling!

I can never emphasis enough on the power of the smile! Smiling has a disarming effect on people and calms any form of nerves and distrust one has towards others, especially in social situations when you’ve just met someone. People have learnt to recognise the smile as a sign of peace and friendship. Hey, you wouldn’t be smiling if you saw a ghost would you? Neither would you smile if you happen to chance upon Mike Tyson staring at you with his boxing gloves on. (Then again, you might want to smile to get yourself outta that situation!)

Smiling is a sign that you like the person and it’s very encouraging to the speaker to know that the listener is feeling at ease and enjoys listening to him!

The ancient Chinese has a saying that goes “a person who does not have a smile should never open a shop”. Chances are, a person who does not know how to smile will never be able to win friends and get along with people effectively. And if there’s one thing that has helped me a great deal where it comes to breaking the ice with people and leaving a positive impression, it has got to be my discovery of the power of smiling!

Stop being a sour plum! Smile more!

So there you have it, 3 simple yet powerful body language signals to help you become a better “conversationalist”!

Remember, being a better conversationalist does not necessarily require you to mouth 2500 words per minute or be funny all the time. It’s really getting the other person interested to talk about themselves!

For more information and insights on becoming a better, more interesting conversationalist in social situations, check out my post on It’s All About You!

Now then, you’re in an even better position to make someone’s day and expand your social circle! Get out there and make someone smile today!

More than Words!

Take a look at the following clips! Compare and contrast…

Torn – Video 1

Torn – Video 2

It’s undeniable that words play a big, big role in our communication. Yet, do you realise that our messages can take on a whole new dimension if we alter our body language?

Consider also the different receptions to messages when our words are accompanied by different body language!

Amazing isn’t it?

So now, consider how you can make body language work for you too!