It took me a long time overcome and manage my fears. Yes, I do this for a living, and I still get butterflies in my stomach. The difference between me now and when I first started, is I’ve managed to get those butterflies to really calm down.
How did I do it?
I subscribe to the mantra that Confidence comes from Competence. Naturally, experience helps too.
The key is, with experience and competence, I’ve managed to create a structured system on how to start and deliver, and reduce the uncertainty I face when I’m on stage.
Certainty is key to confidence. If you’re not sure about what to expect, then you’ll naturally be scared (of the unknown).
So, the best way to learn, in my opinion, is to not only learn about what works, but also to put it into practice.
That’s because, the more you experience it, the more you internalize it – and you realize that it’s really not so bad at all.
PS: I won over 25 Public Speaking Awards in the first 5 years of my public speaking journey. The skill is always work in progress. It doesn’t mean that you have to be perfect when you start. Neither should you deem yourself as terrible and hopeless if you can’t speak.
We’ve all got to start somewhere. The sooner we start, the better!
Be defined, not by the trophies in our cabinet, the money in our bank account; nor the clothes that we wear, or profession that we do.
But think and define ourselves as the person we are, for all the strengths and faults, quirks and abilities… the person you’re building – that is the bigger question, and the biggest challenge of our lives.
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 26 seconds. Contains 889 words
I’ve been revisiting the concept of one’s “self-identity” recently, and came upon the concept of being in-sync in with one’s vulnerability – which sounds very much like a paradox, really.
Aren’t vulnerabilities bad? It makes me uncomfortable. (It does!)
Why would somebody want to be in-sync with their vulnerabilities?
As I began probing deeper, I realized that accepting, displaying and working with (not merely on) our vulnerabilities helps to open up a new world to us.
Our fears to approach what we deem as unlikely, impossible or even likely to fail, are acknowledged, are embraced – we say to our fears, “thank you very much, but I’d really like to try that out, in spite of failure, (hurt) and embarrassment…” We get out there and try them out anyway – and often surprise ourselves with we what we see and find: freedom and even exhilaration.
[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.
This is old news. If you haven’t heard, an insanely addictive game going by the name of “Flappy Bird” swept through the world over the last year. Rumour has it that it garnered over 50 million downloads across both the App and Google Play stores. The game was so successful, that it began raking in $50,000 per day for its developer.
Yet early this week, its developer decided to pull the plug on it. News has it that the game became so popular… because it looked so simple, and yet was so difficult to play, made it exceedingly addictive to play.
I should know. I played it too – two days before it was taken down.
Since my acquaintance with the game, I’ve come across a wide array of people people who’ve celebrated as well as condemned it. I can see and appreciate both perspectives – and I refuse to be drawn into taking sides.
It’s because I see the value behind the game, and have drawn important life lessons from it. Here are my top five:
#1 Flappy Bird Teaches You the Value of Persistence
I’ll admit… the game has probably ‘stolen’ up to four hours of my life. On a late Saturday night out with my buds to catch a football match on TV – all it took was for one of us (okay… me) to download the game. Before we knew it, all the mobile devices had flappy bird on it… and we spent close to two hours on the game… and by game, I didn’t mean the football match.
For close to two hours, the five of us us strived to outdo each other in high scores department. There were moans, groans and lots of swearing each time ‘flappy’ died.
Did we give up?
I’m no super high scorer, really. In fact, I’m not keen to get into triple digits just for the sake of it.
Instead, I recognize that through persistence and practice, we get better at some thing we put our minds to… and that makes a difference.
Lesson: Persistence matters.
Lesson #2: Practice is Only Half the Story
Instead, our scores got higher. The few of us who banded together even shared learning ‘secrets’ to outdo “the other”.
I’ll admit, my progress was really slow. But until my pair of buds decided to let me in on a little secret of theirs (they were the top two scorers) I was close to the bottom… constantly frustrated and annoyed by another irritating friend of mind.
One simple little tip later, I doubled my score and I became the annoying bugger baying for blood.
Lesson: Practice doesn’t make perfect if you don’t know what to do.
The same goes to the many things we aim to do in life. We can spend hours practicing… but until you know what to do, you might not be doing it right.
#3 It’s ‘Fun’ When You See it as a Challenge
I use open inverted commas here because I know some people will disagree.
I understand the game can be is incredibly frustrating. The curious question however, how did so many of us get addicted to it?
I believe the secret lies in seeing it as a challenge.
We believe that we can do it – and so we put our hearts, minds and souls into doing better each round.
The result (after many hours) is that there will be results – because we’ve invested time, effort and thought into it… and witnessing progress can be really gratifying and addictive.
Lesson: Our our personal development journey can be so so much more gratifying once we start looking at it as a challenging game.
#4 It You Get the Hang Of It After Awhile
I’m going to admit that I kept crashing into the pipes, I struggled to get pass the 10th point on several occasions (to put it nicely).
Looking back, I realized my rhythm was off and I struggled with my timing to ‘tap’. That’s, in comparison to how I approach the game now.
I realized I can easily get beyond the 30-40 mark now without actively thinking about when to tap. I’ve worked up a rhythm… a routine on when to tap so that I do not crash and navigate through the maze almost seamlessly.
Lesson: Like most skills in life, practice makes progress. Once you commit the process to the sub-conscious level, you don’t have to actively think about it any more… and that makes working the skill so much easier.
Think of how you learned to ride the bicycle, drive or swim – the process is similar.
# 5 It’s All About Focus
Again, I’ve another admission: I struggled with my ability to focus my attention on the game when I first started. Mainly because there were so many things going through my mind.
Yet through consistent practice (trials, to be exact), the process took effective and my mind became conditioned with the routine. Like #4 – I don’t have to actively think about what I need to do any more, my hands get the job done, and I’m able to block out distractions that render me ineffective.
In a related article, I’ve read about how so many people have written extremely critical letters to the game creator blaming him for their addiction. I find it ironic… because (I feel that) the game has taught me how to cure my own addiction to distractions.
It’s for that reason I’m comfortable and able to put my phone down to pen this article.
Lesson: A key to getting things done is the ability to focus. The ability to “focus” is a skill – and by that definition it can be honed.
Don’t blame your addiction / inability to focus on somebody else. The buck stops with you.
Too many people give up, not due to of a lack of knowledge, but due to a lack of commitment… due to a lack of belief – either in the outcome, or the effort they’re putting in.
The key however, is recognizing that time, thought and effort do pay off as long as we we’re willing to acknowledge the progress we’re making, and continue to push our boundaries.
The fact that we are willing to put up with such an incredibly frustrating game… and push our boundaries on it… is enough proof that as long as we put our minds to something, we can become better at it.
The same principle applies to confidence building, relationships and public speaking.
As the saying goes, it’s mind over matter. If you don’t mind it, it doesn’t matter.
I came across this interesting post, whilst randomly surfing for interesting articles (which is a good thing) to read.
I must say, having started my career in my early 20s, that I found the list highly relatable and that I agree it to a large extent.
Points 1, 6, 7, 9 and 10 will probably get the biggest YES! from me, seeing that they were the main things I made a conscious effort to go against.
I do however, find points 2 and points 10 a little big oxymoronic, since the latter could be seen as an attempt by the “junkie” to live in the present, and I do wish that I can be more present as I go about fighting for the things I want in life.
Still, it makes for interesting reading. Tell me what you think about the 10 Reasons.
Which ones do agree with and why? Share your thoughts in the comments column below.
One of the few people that consistently come to mind, when I ask participants at my workshop who they thought was a great speaker, would be the late Steve Jobs. Make no mistake about it, hate him or love him, he did set the stages he graced alight and abuzz whenever he took to it.
Many people wondered if it was just the “Mac” factor, the undeniable success brought forth by line of sexy and elegant gadgets that Apple has come to be known for.
Thank you very much for your love and support! The number of queries and emails I’ve been getting have been amazing, and over the last week or so, there have been so many more of you (shy people!) choosing to connect and share with me your concerns over Facebook.
I must say, I am really encouraged to receive so many queries and appreciation over the last couple of weeks, and I do hope you keep all your questions coming in! I may not be able to realistically help everybody, but I’ll do what I can.
For updates on our upcoming programmes, or partnership opportunities, you may drop me an email, or link up with us at https://www.facebook.com/SpeakVentures (yes, I’m legit, and I do run my own company and its operations!)
Those of you residing in Singapore would probably know the story. It was a breathtaking two weeks of hustings with a local by-election in the electoral division of Hougang. For quite an extended period, the Opposition Workers Party seemed to be on its back foot as talks of party disunity, indiscipline and issues of integrity dominated the headlines.
Political observers, initially in unison in their analysis that despite it being the opposition’s stronghold, a number of voters could be swayed to support the ruling party, due in part of reasons why the by-election was called for in the first place. Yet, as allegations and issues surrounding the opposition party and its members surfaced, the ruling party seemed to jump on unto the bandwagon to amplify the issues in a bid to whip and collect political advantage.
Unsurprising I would say. It’s politics. It’s a game of one-upsmanship. Why let your opponents go, when you can use the opportunity to show the world, the audience – your voters – that your opponents are not up to the mark? That their quality, or or abilities are not up to par, or even their arguments and proposals are fundamentally flawed?
Unfortunately, what seemed to be a natural, political move, seems to have backfired, again, and the electorate returned the constituency to the opposition, margin of 62.09% to 37.91% of the total number of eligible votes.
Political commentators responded in their analysts, that the ruling PAP should’ve and could’ve narrowed down the margin… but the PAP’s constant harping on integrity issues and their attempts to pull down their opponents suggested that the ruling party “hadn’t learned their lesson” since the last General Elections.
Now I’m no political whiz, and my interest lies more in my country’s future than in political affiliations (i.e, I will vote for the best candidates available to me, after careful analysis of what they both stand for, and not necessarily along party lines).
However, based on my analysis as a speech coach and speaking strategist, it is my view that the old method of mudslinging at campaigns is over. Personality attacks simply do not work anymore, and whilst enough noise may still be generated from a sizable electorate in larger countries, the truth is that positive personalities… people who are likable are tend to draw crowds towards them and their ideas like moths to a flame.
The point in contention here isn’t just about content. You can give the best speech in the world… but nobody will buy it if they don’t trust you, and if they don’t trust you, they won’t like you, and if they don’t like you, they won’t buy you or buy from you.
Nobody cares about how much you know, until they know how much you care – John C. Maxwell
It’s not only a battle of minds, for minds, but also a battle for hearts.