It was the start of another year of learning and personal growth at Brunei Speakers’ Club and the evening opened with a Big Bang of claps and cheers. The room was filled with members and guests, most just returned from exotic holidays over December. They were truly missed and it was thrilling to see their wonderful smiles again!
B.E.S.T speaker nights are sure tickets to a full house – mostly due to our members’ commitment to self-improvement, partially due to the absence of a Table Topics session. Our Toastmaster of the Evening, Chris Woo, CC, however, made sure to at least treat our unsuspecting guests to questions à la Table Topics when he queried about their new year’s resolution. Fresh out of Sixth Form, both Kendrick and Fauzan hope to do well in their A level exams and securing a place in a decent university. Fauzan is also looking to gather valuable work experience as he awaits his results. Similarly, Wilson wishes to excel in his studies and subsequently find a job related to the public relations course he is currently taking.
It was the duo, Xiao Hui and Xiong, who rendered our Toastmaster of the Evening slightly flustered when they announced their resolution to live a better life than last year. ‘Small steps!’ He hammered his ‘Thought of the Day’ home: Don’t pressure yourselves with impossible ambition. Instead, set many small targets with higher chances of succeeding. As you achieve them one by one, you will remain motivated to reach your ultimate goal.
‘Focus, focus, focus’. Our Timer and Tip, TM Faiz Zailani’s ‘Tip of the Day’ echoed Chris’s thoughts when he advised us against being distracted from our present. Present, he was, and receptive to the teachings of our Grammarian, TM Maudena Hamid, when he immediately made use of the ‘Rhetoric Device of the Day’: epizeuxis. The word ‘focus’ was repeated to express his emphasis on its meaning. ’Brevity’, which means concise and exact use of word in writing or in speech, would not be the word to describe the nature of this device, but it was Maudena’s chosen ‘Word of the Day’!
Last night was definitely “Something Special”, which coincidentally was also the title of TM Haryati’s CC2 speech. What would you think if you start hearing voices of inanimate objects in your head? ‘You’re crazy, crazy, crazy!’ is what Haryati told herself. She refused to believe that any sane person would hear a carnation begging for its every intricate petal to be examined. Her bully of a mind taunted her for being a ‘lunatic’ day in and day out that she decided the rational thing to do was to quit her job.
However, one colleague stunned Haryati with an unexpected thought. ‘You have something special, Haryati’. Indeed, she has. After seeing a counselor, Haryati was found to be blessed with the ability to pick up small details around her and processing them at fast speed. The voices she heard was not an illness, it was a gift.
Despite the professional assessment, the bully in her head relentlessly reminded her of her ‘lunacy’, but she learned to deny it of power. Haryati ended with a call for everyone to fight against their own negative thinking. ‘You will find your special something when you stop listening to your negative thoughts’.
If Haryati didn’t make you tear up, then perhaps Lai Ling Ling, CC, CL, would with her ACB5 speech entitled ‘Dear Brunei’. Her speech, which was written as a series of letters to contrast life in the UK and in Brunei, instigated many bouts of laughter.
Ling Ling was elated to be leaving humid, insect-infested Brunei for the fast internet and reliable public transport of the UK. What she did not anticipate was the unreliability of the weather, the high cost of living (which means less shopping!) and the enigma of the two tap water system which would either scald or freeze you.
She was excited for snow, before she learned the hard way how cold, dark and gloomy winter can be! Her armour of layers and layers of clothes was useless against the icy wind. The room roared when she confessed, ‘even my socks have socks!’
When her stock of ‘Mee Goreng’ was finally depleted, she started to miss her food favourites of Brunei: ‘Asam Laksa’, ‘Tapak Kuda’, ‘Ayam Penyet’ – dishes that are truly ‘Bruneian’ that there are no English words for them! She also missed her family and dog dearly.
Her experience, which she described in a humour no one can replicate, taught her that different is not necessarily better. In her case, different is!
After hearing the two very talented speakers on stage, one cannot help but wonder if it was ever possible to reach their level. Allen Ang, ACS, ALB, believes one can, if they follow the 3 do’s and don’ts that he outlined in his B.E.S.T Speech entitled “Behind the Scenes”.
Firstly, one must figure out their strengths and weaknesses. Once you’ve figured out what your weaknesses are, you must then strategise a way to overcome it and be disciplined to follow the plan through. We must consistently put into practice what we learn in Toastmasters in a real world setting. Allen showed his dedication towards improving himself when he made a conscious effort to keep a notebook for learning English and speech writing.
Effort was number two on Allen’s list of do’s. ‘Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard’. He told a tale of a Toastmaster who would present his speech to cars after cars, altering his vocal variety each time to figure out which works best. The Toastmaster was none other than Chris Woo, who would later stand among the top 9 speakers in the World Championship of Public Speaking!
In addition to putting in effort in speeches and their delivery, one must also set aside time to look up resources on public speaking and to learn about it independently. That was his third point: to not only rely on knowledge given to you in Toastmasters meeting, but also search for more yourself.
As for his list of don’ts, he advised us to maintain the right mental state for learning. We should not think that life is equal. Different people are at different levels of any skill they wish to master. However, he believes that life is fair and those who work on their skills will be able to catch up and even surpass others. The process can be tiring and it’s easy enough to come up with excuses to avoid it. But, excuses would not prop up if you want to achieve your goals badly enough. He ended his talk with a reminder for all to be modest as there is always something new we can learn from other speakers.
As the Club Contest draws nearer, the inspiration, motivation and knowledge that we got from this week’s speeches were welcomed. Members who have completed their CC6 will be eligible to enter the competition which will take place on the coming 8th of March. Some of us may hesitate and start to hear voices that tell us we’re not ready. Don’t listen. We may expect a horrifying experience, but sometimes expectations and reality do not meet. Give it a go. Who knows what you may learn from the experience.
TM Rahmat Tarsat
Photography & Caption by;
TM Gerald Goh