Sunday 26 June 2011

5 Ideas to Win a Toastmasters Speech Contest

I wrote this article for the District Newsletter and thought it would be useful for everyone out there preparing for a motivational speech or speech contest 

Personally I have been at the District Contest 3 times  and represented the region in the San Antonio and Washington DC Toastmasters Contests in 2002 and 2006. This year I am going to Las Vegas in August to give it another shot.  I do hope my humble ideas will give  your speech an added umph! 

Taking part in contests requires a lot of time investment and a heart that can take rapid palpitations. It gives you an opportunity to think about what you would like to say. It provides you with a great reason to ponder about your significant moments in life. I have found that taking part in contests also evokes the hidden philosopher within all of us.
The aim of taking part in Contest I believe is to improve our speech crafting techniques. I have learnt more from the contests I did not place as Champion. So take a deep breathe and remember the core reason for committing to a Speech Contest is to IMPROVE in the different aspects of delivering a message to your audience.
Write down some of your personal goals for taking part. How much time are you willing to allocate towards the preparation? When will your first draft be out? How many times do you intend to practice?

IDEA TWO: Speech Content
The message of the speech has to be an uplifting one. The questions I normally I ask myself to guide myself in choosing the speeches are
1.      What would serve as a good reminder for people to help them relook at some important aspects of living as a healthy human being? (It’s useful to refer to some motivational books and positive psychology books for ideas)
2.      What are some events that have shaped my life? (I generally keep a journal about my life and so far I have collected about 12 of them. I use these journals as a source of inspiration in my preparation work)
3.      What are some things my heart warms or races to? (Things that get my blood boiling or softened are things that I am concerned about. It gives me a clue as to what is important to me. I have found that speaking about things that I am passionate about is a lot easier than coming across as being “intelligent”)

IDEA THREE: Writing the Speech
I agree when Issac Newton said, “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants” because I have learnt from many masters from different times, places and disciplines to have developed my speech writing techniques. Here are a few of my favourite strategies.
1.      Sentences must be sound “nice”. Vowels create more air and consonants give our words crispness. For example, “My father’s face blossomed in happiness” Read this sentence aloud and you will notice that many of the words can be pulled to create an almost lyrical effect. Now pretend you are singing this song like a love ballad.  Here is another sentence but this time focus on the consonants, “FoCus your MinD on THe GReaT THings you haVe in your LiFe.” I purposely made certain words into CAPS format to help you emphasise them. This makes your speech saturated with liveliness.
2.      Sights, Sounds and Sensations. A winning speech immerses the audience into a world you are building. Consider this sentence, “The high pitched honking from the frustrated lorry drivers mingled with the nauseating smell of hot diesel fumes. As the sweat trickled down our t-shirts from no where a speeding motorcyclist who was trying to whizz past our car and accidently hit our side view mirror with great force and crashed!” Definitely this sentence can be improved but the basic idea here is to engage your listeners’ imagination.
3.      Use Poetic devices sparingly. My all time favourites are alliteration and the power of three. Do google these words to learn more.

IDEA FOUR: 100 Percent during Rehearsals
My Band instructor often reminded us that if you give less than a 100 percent during the rehersals then your actual performance will also sound like you are still rehearsing. You must prepare your body and mind for the real thing. This is one area I do like a maniac. I often rehearse at least 40 to 100 times before a contest. For those of you who have seen my contest videos, you might think that what you are watching is a about natural talent but that is far from the truth. I recommend all contestants to really concentrate during rehearsals and be willing to edit your speech if it does not seem right.  On the Contest day arrive as early as possible to use the stage and get yourself absolutely familarised with the every square inch. My advise on rehearsals: REHEARSE TILL everyone things you have gone BONKERS!

IDEA FIVE: Grooming
                  The last idea is a simple but effective one. When you are up on stage looking professional adds to your appeal. Here are some things to consider shine your shoes, get a suit that fits well, neat hairstyle, shaven look for the guys. During the rehearsals wear everything you plan to use on the actual contest including your shoes so that you can get comfortable in them. If the contest venue has stage lighting use some powder on your face to reduce the shine . Ramesh’s biggest contest preparation secret? I wear two socks during contest to prevent my feet from getting cold. J Grooming helps in your mental preparation. Plan for your next contest adventure! GO FOR YOUR DREAMS!

Thursday 23 June 2011

Emotional Intelligence for Organisational Excellence 22nd/23rd June '11

Please do share what are some of the goals you have set for yourself as part of the continual growth after this program. It must be carried out daily for the next 30 days. Be specific. Be committed.

Do share your personal story and how it taught you some lessons to become stronger as a person.Your sharing will certainly encourage many people.
You may never know who will read this blog and you might just touch them with your words.

i would also like to find out more about which ideas you liked and you connected with most. This will help me improve the course.

1. Become mindful of your activities. Take time to notice what is going on.
2. Breathe more deeply
3. Do your Grounding Exercises (if possible in nature with no shoes)
4. Sing out loud.
5. Do some Journalling to clarify your mind.
6. Observe what is triggering you at an emotional level.
7. Move the energy safely
8. Laugh more. Release endorphins
9. Awareness is the 1st Step to Change
10. Respect the force and Move the Force
11. Don't get sucked in other people's drama.
12. Smile more.
13. Take a risk and interact with other people.
14. Focus on positive words and thoughts more often.
15. Drink more water. Remember the Emoto experiments.
16. F.G.I.O

Here is your group picture guys


Tuesday 14 June 2011

Book Recommendations for Inner Arts Students

Dear Students from the Inner Arts and Rejuvenation Class. I pray you are well when you are reading this. ?Here are some books you may want to consider for your future development. Many of these texts have guided me in my personal journey to becoming a better person. Every day is a new day and its an opportunity to make new decisions. It has been my privilege  in meeting all of you. Please do let me know if there is any other resources you would like to help you in your journey.

This is a 2 day workshop which is aimed at helping adults understand the different levels of human consciousness. Its a self reflection and personal development journey. If you would like to bring this program to your organisation please  drop a  mail at or
photograph by Candy Lim. Shot on Canon.
Love Ram.

Friday 10 June 2011

Tamil Television Interview and SHORT FILM CANHOPE

Check out this great MSN video: Episode 22

Canhope from Mohamed Yahssir on Vimeo.

Featured on Vasantham together with my Pal Yahssir!

Hi Guys,

This video link features about 4 mins worth of interview from Yahssir and myself. Am grateful for Yahssir's faith in my ability to contribute towards his meaningful humanistic films. Will probably blog more about film making in the future. Below I have recommended my favorite book on script writing.  The title is STORY. Its by ROBERY MCKEE. A SUPER DUPER  useful for film script writing, essay writing. I am planning to go for Robert's training program. If anybody else is keen lemme know.

 FOR THE TELEVISION INTERVIEW :  Click here :  Featured on Vasantham TAMIL interview

<a href='' target='_new' title='Episode 22' >Video: Episode 22</a>

And the short film is here: Click this  CAN HOPE
Its in Tamil with English subtitles.

Thursday 2 June 2011

District 80 Toastmasters International Speech Contest Experience Part 2

"Excuse me... which way to the white marque? The toastmasters event?" I asked a well built Malay guy who works at SRC(Singapore Recreation Club). A quick pause, " Err.. you can actually walk thru this door and go straight." he responded cheerfully. SRC. They have some real standards in making visitors feel welcomed and welcomed I certainly did feel. 

 Lugging the heavy drum while not  crumpling my jacket and not breaking into a sweat was a challenge.I was panting mildly. (note to brain: EXERCISE)  
First face of the day : DAYAL KHEMLANI! The former district 51 Humour Champion who inspired me with his uncanny wit  and imbeccable comic timing.He welcomed me with open arms and we started bantering about different things. I quickly approached the stage. I needed to get on it to feel the space. 

Two of my fellow contestants Shuzhen and Pakpoom were also doing their rehearsals. We exchanged greetings and started rehearsing.

I really liked the place. Brightness spread out thru the venue. There was something airy about the place.   It was the first time for me to take part in a speech contest in such a relaxed environment. I had a good feeling. But the fear was slowly creeping on me. 

I know I am insane. I changed the sequence of my presentation at 5.30 in the morning. (read my earlier posts) I decided to take a risk (what's new...) and go with a completely different and dramatic opening. All my years of training in Debates really did kick in. The ability to be impromptu and follow through with conviction. I told myself, as long I had fun and left the audience with a message which I felt was pertinent, I have accomplished what I set to do. The mission was to lock in every finer aspects of my stage blocking, movements and tempo. 

"Ramesh, remember don't go over time!" That is often the advise I have been given my club members. The  sharp blade of overtime has come near my neck one too many times.. 7mins and 28 secs... Woah... What  a thrill. Today, I instructed myself "Keep it short! Keep it tight!" 

I rehearsed various parts of my speech close to 30 times. To create some muscle memory so that my body will move with fluency. I am a highly animated creature the moment I hit the stage. That power has to be harnessed and channeled so that the audience can experience something meaningful. I was more or less ready and then... 

"Are we going to get to check the sound? " asked one of my fellow contestants. The sound console was still snuggly wrapped up. Time? 7.50am. Contest starts at 8.30am. Tick tock tick tock. Oh no... I remember one of the years whilst competing my microphone went dead on me. It totally killed my speech. Every aspect of a contest counts. The moment there  is a laspse in something the Audience will get unsettled. The speaker then has to do some recovery to get them back into intended  mental and emotional space. Lost of time. This time my trepidation started tapping me on my mind. "What if... the microphone is lousy? What if it breaks down half way? What if I have to use a Hand Held??? Argh..." I had not anticipated this aspect. 

"Deep breathes. Deep breathes... All is well. All is well." The sound guy arrived. Booted up everything in a jiffy but the moment he switched on the lapel microphone, an eerie annoying feedback emanated from the huge black speakers. My nightmares about lousy sound seemed to be coming real. My heart sank. 

"Bro.. how come so much feedback ah? " I asked in my politest tone so as not to aggravate the already stressed sound crew. "This lapel mic very sensitive la. That's why should use the headset" replied the cool sound guy while waving his hand towards to the table behind. HEADSET. You know what that means? It goes on your head. I will look like Britney Spears in Concert. At first there was a resistance in my heart. I was rejecting a solution because its not something I had factored in. My brain whizzed around thinking about the implications. Will the audience be able to take the speaker seriously or will it look out of place? 

Either go up with a lapel mic that is manic or a head set that looks odd. Sound. Sound.Sound. Heave. 
Just go with the Head Set. Its a done deal. No more time to reconsider. 

The crowds started pouring in. All my fellow contestants were in the ZONE. Mentally visualising their speeches. I was warming up my face and lips so the words will flow easily. 

A simple speech. This contest was a huge stretch for me. Unlike my previous contests where the norm was to  poke fun at the other speakers, crack frivolous jokes and to resort to blatant asking for the prize, I was a reformed Toastmaster. 
No more old tactics. It's a fresh approach. It was a mighty gamble. 

"Ramesh Muthusamy, Speech Title, Speech title, Ramesh Muthusamy" The announcement was made. Just as was start, the Contest chair approached me to shake my hands! Opps. Did not anticipate that as well. So I decided in the moment to continue with my opening and leave him standing there for a few seconds and after I had finished my opener, I darted towards him to complete the handshake. The Audience reacted. Laughter ripped across. Whew! Everything happens for a reason. 

BOOM BOOM BOOM... I was moving. The words were flying. My mouth went dry in excitement. Another opps.... I forgot a transition paragraph. Argh... Keep talking. Keep Talking!! Ah.. caught my train of thought again. Green light turns Amber. I had hit my 6th Minute. One more story to tell.... the powerfully emotional one... HOw HOW HOW? 

Decide time. If I told the story I will rush. If I rush it will lose its impact. I might go over time. 
"Ramesh Muthusamy! Land this plane now! " 

I think I have a fairly decent job. I think it should be ok to conclude. So in a flash, I started for my conclusion. But because its not the actually conclusion I had rehearsed I had to modify one on the fly. 

Boom Boom Bang~ "Mr Contest Chair! " Heart pounding faster and faster.... I am done. Its over. Its over. All the writing, rewriting, self doubting, rehearsing can take a break for a while. Maybe a long while depending on the contest results. If I win its Vegas baby! If I don't I will be blogging about the importance of learning from taking part. Either way its been 10 years for me in the International Speech Contest circuit. I was ready for the results.

The rest of the contestants brought their best games to the table. I asked my father, " My speech, how? " 
He hesistated.... ARGH.... he paused. Smiled. And said, "It was ok..." I heard the  knelling for my speech. He really liked David's speech. Personally, I loved the tone of David's voice. It was commanding and soulful. His speech had more meaning. I thought I was done for. 

As you grow older I think we develop a comforting voice in our heads which often kicks in to comfort us. "Its ok. It's not that you are lousy... They are just better..." This is my usual strategy after a contest while waiting for the results. I assume I did not place in the contest. Maybe after my 2006 contest in Washington D.C. where I was over anxious in winning and subsequently feeling depressed for a period because of the lost, I developed a protective mechanism to prevent massive pain. 

I chuckled inside my head thinking about how much tension I was experiencing... 

Fast forward. Results Time... The Mandarin and English contest winners were being announced at the same time. Something refreshing. Head spinning. Heart Pounding. Father and Brother seated next to me. Friends who have come to support and are the edge of their seats.... People looking in my direction while energetically showing me thumbs up. "You better win mate! I have 10 dollars on you" said a Toastmaster said... 

Boom Boom BAM! By the grace of the heavens and the Mercy of the Judges I placed first. 
The feeling that was overflowing in my heart at that time was gratefulness. I was and am truly grateful for all the love from the Toastmasters community. I have gained so much in terms of learning how to speak better, Thinking more creatively and most importantly for connecting with my authentic self. 

The day was awesome. I got a chance to hold the hands of one of my speaking Heros Mr.Mark Hunter. 
He gave me some powerful feedback as to how I can improve. I am soaking it all in. The dust of the District contest is settling. Now I hear the distant call of the Semi Finals. Las Vegas here I come! 
Me with the World Champion of Public Speaking 2009
Mark Hunter!!! 

If you like this post please do leave me some comments. I also attach some useful resources from amazon in my posts. Please do take a look. Ty. 

THE PRESENTATION SENSATION is a MUST read. One of the books that has greatly influenced me.