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14. A new series: My Personal Journey in Public Speaking: 1. How it all began - Dreams and Challenge

Today I start a personal chronicle of my journey in public speaking. Who I am today and going forward, started off many years ago when I was a young boy. This is my story…

As a young boy, I was generally a shy guy. Yes, I had good friends in school, and I was able to crack jokes, laugh and chat with my group of friends very easily. We did many things together, like study, play football, hang out etc. However, when I turned 12+ and started to enter secondary school, the world became much larger. It is no longer my friends and I only from my class. People from other classes are starting to mix. Before I knew it, we were no longer a group of boys hanging out.

More boys came into the picture, other groups whom wanted to play football against my class team. (Interactions with other people were on the rise). Then, girls came into the picture. One by one, cases of puppy love and mutual admiration started to bloom. Girls became more interesting. The boys now had new challenges... getting to know our female classmates and school mates better.

As time passed, extra curricular activities became a norm. The Leo Club and the Interact Club (respectively under the Lions Club and Rotary Club) became the most popular clubs for us kids whom want to network more, make more friends, and be more exposed to the worlds of charity, service, and mingling, not only with schoolmates, but with fellow club members from other schools.

At that time, I was still generally shy and closed by nature, very comfortable with close friends but extremely awkward with others. However, when I was in Form 2 (Secondary) - I was 14 then, a classmate of mine invited me to join the Interact Club. Her elder sister was then about to be nominated as President of the Club and she would be joining too.

I was unsure… would I fare well in a club where interaction was a given, and networking a must, and public speaking inevitable? My classmate saw my hesitation and said, "Come and join la, it would be fun!" While still skeptical of my ability to blend in and have "fun", I decided to trust my friend and took the plunge…. I attended the Interact Club's next meeting.

That was a very significant first step for me, to jump into an environment with many strangers and struggling inwardly with a whole mix of emotions: fear, shyness, awkwardness, feeling out of place, afraid to open up and make new friends. In some ways, I am still that young boy of 14 today, but those feelings are somehow more controlled.

Back to the Interact Club…. Through the persuasion of my classmates and fellow club members, I started getting more involved in the activities of the club…. Some highlights were:

1. Joining a trip and singing solo karaoke on the first night of the trip (shivers)

2. Getting elected as Treasurer of the Club (Form 3/4) and

3. Getting elected and serving as President of the Club (Form 4/5)

That, my friends was my first batch of exposures to serving many, and speaking to crowds whom are relatively unknown to me……

When I completed secondary school and handed over my Interact Club Presidency to a fellow club mate, I told myself that I must improve, I must get better in public speaking.

Fast forward to my college years, I got the opportunity to be President of my college Christian Fellowship…. Yay! More chances to practise public speaking! Those years, I realised that having chances to practice may not be enough if one is not sure on how to get better, how to systematically improve.

Then I graduated and started my first job in an external audit firm. Then my second job in an international bank. Same great experiences and more opportunities to do presentations for team members, briefings to managers, etc.

Something still eluded me…. How to systematically get better! I think I am stagnant in terms of skills and such. What to do? Where to go?

My answer came to me in my third place of employment…. But that deserves a post of its own… so to be continued in my post next week!

Until then, do reflect back on a time when you wanted to improve yourself. What did you do to get better? Where did you go? Who did you talk to?

Moral of the Story….

If you ever felt that you are quiet, maybe introverted, want to speak in public, but don’t know if you can do it? Or if you do speak in public but feel you can do better. Look no further, I was going through the same thing, and I found the answer over time. It's not a cure all, but it definitely helps…. What am I rambling about? Stay tuned!

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