[5 minutes 46 seconds, if you average 3 words per second]
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.
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.
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.
PartyDiscipline: 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.
We may well be into the 21st Century, but that old adage, “it’s not who you know, but who know’s you” continues ringing true.
In fact, some people (myself included) have gone further with, “it’s not who knows you, but who remembers you” that counts.
The Art of Successful Networking for both personal and professional success are still key components in our world today. Yet, it is still an area that many of us fall short of, mainly because a significant proportion of us operate behind the miracle and wonders of the computer, and that good teachers on the subject are far and few between.
Commit yourself to speaking to people you haven’t met, and avoid the comfort of just hanging around familiar faces.
Commit yourself too, to having quality conversations, and by that I mean finding out about what they do, how you can help them and vice versa.
2. Dress the Part
The business world is a big marketplace, but that doesn’t mean you should dress like you are actually at one.
The way you dress, reflects how much effort and consideration you’ve put into your personal and professional branding. A haphazard ‘put-together’ suggests you don’t care – and if you don’t why should others?
3. Be Professional
Being professional means applying a skill or practice in the course of work, and that takes effort – effort which goes over and beyond what you would normally do in the personal sphere.
Being professional, thus requires you to prepare the “tools of your trade” and doing everything which is necessary to get the job done and done well. This includes preparing your name cards (the crisp and nice ones), polishing your shoes, reading up on who might be attending the event, and what they might be interested in etc.
4. Seize the Initiative
Don’t rely on others to take the lead. Be first to break the ice; they are probably just as nervous as you are and are also there for a purpose.
5. It’s Not Over Even After Its Over
A big mistake most people make at the end of a networking event, is thinking that it’s over after everybody’s gone home.
That people have gone home means that your work has entered the second phase of “staying in touch”. When the dust’s settling, that’s when you get the breeze going by keeping in touch and reminding them you are keeping them in mind (preferably with ways to help them in whatever ways necessary).
In a subtle way, it is also an indirect way of reminding them to keep a look out for opportunities for you.
Regardless, it’s still a great way to have them remember you – and that’s important, isn’t it?
6. Stay Visible
Join a networking/professional group or volunteer your services. Whatever it may be, the key point here is that you should be able to meet new people, show others what you are capable and continuously apply Tips 1-5.
Offer to speak at events, or publish articles; position yourself as the “go-to” person in your industry.
At the end of the day, it’s more important about who knows (and remembers) you, than who you know, is it not?
Do you have any other tips where it comes to Networking? Share it in the comments section below!
Some of you may know of it. Most of you are involved in it. That is if you are Singaporean, that is!
A battle is raging on our usually peaceful and restful nation. The General Election fever has hit our sunny island, and the battle for the electorate’s votes have been raging like wild fire!
And with the benefit of social media, and with sites like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, the action is brought even closer to voters, of which I am one of too. Indeed, social media has brought about a certain air of change, as voices from various camps are much easily heard during these GE, as compared to yesteryears.
Whether those voices will be well received by the electorate, and whether they will translate into votes is anybody’s guess. More importantly however, not only do we get the opportunity to witness our potential elected representatives in actoin, we too get an opportunity to review and assess their individual speaking styles in action.
Yes, and that means the good stuff… along with the bad.
I will evaluate various speakers in action. Not so much of the things that they say (I’m no expert on politics and policies), but on the way it was pitched, their use of voice, body language, and the ways they were structured in delivery. The main aim is to share with everybody lessons that we may all learn in our quest for personal development.
Do note that I do not know most of them 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 just a general assessment skills, of what are potential public figures in the future.
Hey, these people will be judged and assessed not just by the locals, they will be seen by the whole world too if they assume higher office too… and it’s my hope that this post can help you in your growth and preparation for future challenges too.
The first post is coming up soon. Watch this space!
Wise men learn by other men’s mistakes, fools by their own. -Unknown
I gave a talk on learning and progressing as a public speaker recently, when I was asked by a participant, “how exactly can we model and learn specific skills from observing other, better speakers”.
Earlier, I had spoke about shortcutting one’s route to success, by observing the best, and incorporating the best practices into’s one’s arsenal of skills.
This is was one of the personal strategies that helped catapult my progress within a relatively short span of time, and it’s a very powerful and efficient strategy, especially in an era when resources and case studies are made easily available with the internet and Youtube.
So how exactly can one learn and model after others?
The role of a leader is to lead. Sounds like a no-brainer huh? What is a leader if nobody chooses to follow him?
I was once told by my platoon commander when I was serving the Singapore Armed Forces that “the biggest fear a leader is to look over his shoulders and realise that nobody is following him”.
That day was the last day I left the camp and green uniform behind. But the words have stuck with me since.
In essence, it truly highlights the principle that “A Leader is only a Leader when there are people Following him”, and that a Leader is nothing without without his followers and supporters.
That begs the second question then: Why do people follow anyone else?
There are several reasons for this. But without going too deep into philosophy and/or sociology, I think that people generally follow somebody else’s lead because it is perceived that the everybody can get the job done in a better fashion.
Mind you, this does not naturally mean that the hearts and mind of the people are won and that they would follow somebody wholeheartedly. Seldom do we see something like that happen.
The power of leadership may come as a “natural endowment”, ie, people vest their trust and loyalty upon a leader voluntarily. Others may come as a form of “vested authority”, ie, authority is delegated and the leader is appointed. In effect, you can interpret it as empowerment through democracy and/or authoritative means. Each method has its merits and I won’t go into detail about that.
Yet, like it or not, a leader has to be able to wield an appropriate degree of the various leadership tools that are of both “democratic” and “authoritative” nature from time to time to get their work done.
Having worked with a fair deal of people of who were stepping into leadership roles without extensive experience of handling mega projects prior to their latest appointments, I had a quite a good time observing the similarities and differences that lie behind what makes a competent and experienced leader.
The way they communicate is one such difference. Here are some communication principles that separate competent leaders from inexperienced ones:
I got the privilege of evaluating an advanced project during a meeting at Tampines Changkat Toastmasters Club this evening. The project was on “Crisis Management”. The speaker was expected chair a media conference and deliver an official statement addressing a crisis that had struck the organization that he was working for. Thereafter, he would be required to chair a question and answer session from members of the media – tough interrogators who are hungry for sound bites and hawkish for answers.
The speaker had to be on his toes and watch what he said – for any slip could further stoke the flames and potentially devastate the company further.
The speaker who attempted this project for the night, Gregory Ernoult, ACB, managed this challenge admirably. In fact, it was such an admirable attempt that it helped to surface a few pertinent points in crisis/media management and prompted me to blog about it (for you) too!
Since it’s close to 4am, and I’m too tired and lazy to think of an alternative structure to share those ideas, I shall proceed simply by sharing the three main areas Greg did particularly well in followed by the three suggestions I thought he could use to enhance his presentation and Q&A. But before we begin, we’ll have to understand the setting for his “crisis” first. Continue reading Six Speaking Skills You Need For Managing a Crisis→
Those of you who’re in Singapore would be no stranger to the AWARE saga – an event (or some say coup) involving a Civil Society in Singapore that caught the young nation’s attention.
For those of you who are (*ahem*) unAWARE (pardon the pun), of what this is about, you may read on to find out more. Otherwise, you may skip this prelude to proceed straight to the lessons on Leadership Fatalities
“The feeling in the room was electrifying. I still can’t get over the fact that we got Aware back. It is a great moral victory.”
– Constance Singam, past president of Aware
You would probably know the story by know. But I’d like to take the analysis of the Old Guard’s victory one step further and examine it under the microscope of communication and the fatal mistakes the New Guard made as leaders – for your benefit of course. (*winks*)
Two weeks back, I received an interview request from a group of friends who were working on a project concerning “miscommunication in the workplace”. They were keen on examining the concept of “effective communication” and “miscommunication” and gather some practical tips which students can use to enhance their ability to communicate.
I was taking a little walk the other day when I bumped into this young chap at a bus stop. He was slightly taller, well dressed and proper in his nice shirt and pants. I was in a red jersey, white sports shorts and sandals.
He looked like he was ready to take the world by storm. I looked like I was ready to be hoisted out on a flag pole as the flag of Singapore or Indonesia!
Yes, he was making me look bad by simply standing next to him.
Unable to bear the awkward silence, I broke the silence first and started small talk. It was weird at first. He probably thought I was gay or something. But I managed to win him over after about 30seconds after we both eyed the same cute girl who walked past the both of us…
Anyway, I digress!
We began talking about the weather, how wretched and unpredictable it was and how it was more comfortable to be wearing a light jersey, shorts and sandals as compared to his expensive suit (woo hoo!). Then we began talking about our work. He was an accountant working in one of the local SME (small and medium enterprises) and introduced myself as training in communication and public speaking skills.
By then, our conversation was on autopilot as we waited for our bus to arrive. The name of the “pilot” in my conversation was “Mr Curiosity” as I allowed it to direct and fish out some of the challenges my new found friend had with public speaking. Apparently, it was the usual – fear of failure/falling flat on stage, how to keep the audience interested and what are the things he should do on stage etc.
I’ve heard these things pretty much all the time now – and I must admit it that I face it all the time too. Yet, I’ve also come to recognise that fear can be a powerful ally, and I’ve since learned to let it direct my attention towards areas I need to shore up when I’m preparing to speak.
Yet, the revelations I got from my new friend did remind me of a a couple of pointers too when it comes to managing fear. Here are some of them:
*** My new friend and I aren’t that different – so are many of the people we’ve met and will meet.
Strangers are just friends you haven’t met. Essentially, most of us face the same concerns and face the same challenges. In fact, because our society’s structured and conditioned in a certain way, most of us even share similar values that we can all relate too!
The significance of this revelation is this – if many other people share the same concerns and value as I do, then there’s a higher chance I will be able to relate to them! Or if I don’t, then I there’s at least a higher chance that I would be able to guess correctly what are some of the values, challenges and concerns that other people face when it comes to a particular topic/event/subject!
Of course, I’m taking quite a wild shot in presenting this theory. After all, it’s hard to apply such a generic theory to specific situations or circumstances when there’re specific requirements to be met and cultures to adhere too. Still, it’s a start, and that start can lead you to finding the things you need to meet those expectations – via research.
You see, at the end of the day, researching via interviews and statistics will be able to give you a feel of the general sentiment, mood and perspectives of the people that you’ll be talking to. The best thing you could realise after conducting your research, however, is to realise that you’re not all that different from the people you were afraid to speak to.
In that instance, you would come to realise that your audience are actually extensions of yourself and your friends. They’re not as hostile as you think – and there’s no need to be afraid either.
The key challenge here, however, is for you to research, prepare and preempt the reactions of your audience. Only then would you be in a better position to engage and endear yourself to the people whom you wish to connect with – fearlessly.