Thursday, December 13, 2007

Speaking in Advance

Agenda for the meeting

From Joint Meeting...
All veteran speakers eventually make their way to the prestigious D'Utama Advanced Toastmasters Club. Because of that, it was honor when President Lee Wei Seong graciously invited me to speak at the club. There is a reason why his club is deemed advance though. Only toastmasters who are achieved the level of Competent Communicator is allowed to join as members. The current D'Utama Advanced members are a constellation of veteran speakers who have achieved many titles in the toastmaster’s universe.

Although both D’Utama and D’Utama Advanced share the same meeting room, due to renovation, the venue was changed to a big hall down the corridor. The room was different but the familiar toastmaster camaraderie was ever present.

From Joint Meeting...
I think what most toastmasters will find unique about the way the meeting is conducted in the Advanced club is that a lot of emphasis is placed on evaluations. Speeches are still important but you will not find the familiar humor, table topics or even the “Tarik for the Soul” sessions which are corner stones of D’Utama meetings.

On the other hand, instead of table topics, another form of open speeches are facilitated – Open Evaluations. During this session, speakers are evaluated from anyone in the meeting… It is an interesting session for us speakers as we are able to immediately gauge the response of the audience. At the end of the session, speakers are then given an opportunity to “defend” their speeches. I place the word defend in inverted comma because the real purpose is to provide a feedback to the evaluators thus completing a circle of valuable reflections.

There were 3 speeches from different advance manuals on that night. I was the last one and to say it was a daunting experience will be an understatement. After spending more than 5 years in D’Utama, I can safely say I know most of the people in the crowd by name. But here, I am faced with an audience of competent speakers who have practically witnessed and experienced every form of speeches there are out there. Even more, I have a feeling that they are not only there to enjoy the speech but are secretly evaluating every move I make. All in all it was a stressful experience.
From Joint Meeting...
Which is why I will probably recommend speaking on such a daunting stage to all speakers who have completed the Competency manuals. It will help you break a plateau or even accelerate your improvements that much faster.

I was evaluated by a very capable and funny speaker – Toastmaster Denise Wee. His evaluation was delivered with such panache and humor; it made me wish my speech was as funny as his evaluation of it. His points of improvement were spot on and something I can definitely use for my next speech. But what really impressed me was his mastery of humor. It was almost nonchalantly delivered cracking the audience with each punctuation mark… Wonderful stuff!

From Joint Meeting...
During the second half of the meeting, we had the charismatic Sheila Wong with her 20 minutes long about using scarves. Considering that scarves are usually associated with the fairer members of our species, it was with a sense of polite dread I sat there waiting for this mysteriously stylish lady to take center stage. And take the stage she did.

Her presentation was amazing. A powerful speaker who is able to take the dullest of topics (it was to me anyway) and make it exciting and keeps you glued to your seat deserves high praise. I was riveted by not only her presentation skills but the way she commanded the crowd and drew our attention to the subject matter.
From Joint Meeting...
Sheila Wong is an obvious master at the art of presentation and I was thanking my lucky stars that I was able to witness her in action.

The meeting pattered off after Sheila Wong and as usual the president took control to facilitate the familiar business session. Shortly after we said our good byes and closed another night of laughter and performance of the most advance order.

By, Vijay Balasegaram