Lesson 6: Think Fast, Talk Smart

I don’t know about you. Sometimes my mouth works faster than my brain. That’s not good when you said the wrong thing and regretted it later. It’s like the consequences have already occurred but your brain takes a while to process the damage. As a result, I would be worried if I am going to be judged, treated as rude and worse, lose a friend or an opportunity.

I decided to listen to this ted talk called ‘Think fast, talk smart’ by Matt Abrahams from Stanford Graduate School of Business. He offers several techniques to help us speak spontaneously with greater confidence and clarity.

Spontaneous speaking occurs more often than we thought and it can be more stressful than planned speaking. For instance, they may happen during the following instances:

  • Introduction
  • Feedback
  • Toasts
  • Q&A

Before we speak, we need to work on the following:

  1. Anxiety Management:
    • Emotions under control otherwise audience will not receive your message and they will be uncomfortable in your presence
    • Greet anxiety: Acknowledge it and its normal to prevent the anxiety from escalating
      • Reframe the speaking situation as a conversation and not a performance
      • Start with questions to get audience involved
      • Use conversational language
      • Be present oriented instead of being worried about the future
        • Listen to music or walk around a building or say tongue twisters to warm up or get into the mood
  2. Ground Rules
    • Improvisational speaking
    • 1st Step: Get out of your own way: We want to be perfect in our speeches
      • Work against your muscle memory to solve problems
      • Do this by shouting names of random things to see things that we do to prevent us from reacting spontaneously
      • Dare to be dull instead of striving for greatness for a while and you will reach that greatness
      • But using greatness as a target can cause you to freeze up, because you tend to overthink
    • 2nd Step: change the way we see our situation we find ourselves in. See it as an opportunity rather than a threat
      • Be aware of the environment: challenges in the room, cold, emotions, acknowledge the emotions of the audience but don’t name the emotions and reframe the response in a way that makes sense
      • Rephrase it as it allows you to reframe the response
      • If audience is remote, engage them to interact, be mindful of them
    • 3rd Step: Approach to a situation/ question: ‘Yes and…’
    • 4th Step: Slow down and listen and respond
  3. Speaking spontaneously
    • Tell a story
    • Use a structure as it increases processing fluency and keep the audience engaged
      • Problem/ Opportunity > Solution > Benefit structure
      • What > So what? > Now what? structure

I am going to practice these techniques in my attempt to be a more effective communicator and achieve my goals at work, during meetings, hostile situations or even outside, while interacting with loved ones. I hope the summary helps to give you an overview of what it takes to speak spontaneously too.


Lesson 5: 10 ways to have a better conversation

Damn my big mouth! That’s how I feel after every interview or any other social event. I always have this perception that I talked too much and people may perceive me in a negative manner.

So I listened to this Ted Tv titled as stated in the heading in my attempt to improve my communication skills.

So here are the tips to listen and talk to people:

  1. Don’t multi task:
    • Be present and be in the moment
  2. Don’t pontificate: 
    • Enter a conversation assuming you have something to learn
    • Set aside your personal opinions, and you will slowly open up your mind to your listeners
  3. Use open ended questions (Who, What, Why, Where, How)
  4. Go with the flow
    • Thoughts come to your mind and let it go out your mind
  5. If you don’t know, say that you don’t know
    • Be accountable for what you know, expert on, and what you don’t know
  6. Don’t equate your experience with others:
    • Eg: someone talks about loss of a family member, you don’t talk about your bad day at work (It’s not the same)
    • It’s not about you, its about the other party
  7. Don’t repeat yourself, don’t rephrase your points
  8.  Stay out of the weeds
    • People don’t care about the details in your head that you forget to tell them
    • They care about you, what you have in common
  9. ***Listen
    • The most important skill to master
  10. Be brief
    • Be interested to listen
    • Keep your mind open and be prepared to be amazed

So I am going to try these techniques and try to talk to people. I might try a couple of these for my next interviews as well. Hopefully, I won’t set myself up for failure. Fingers crossed!

Lesson 1: Structure of Public Speaking

I was listening to a talk on Ted.

Chris Anderson mentioned these four methods to structure your talk:

  1. Start with an idea and build it in the thoughts of your audience
    • Communicate your idea to others
    • Show your perspectives, doesn’t matter if they are different from others, shaping their actions between now and future
    • Ideas that are powerful will shape human culture
  2. Give people a reason to care
    • Stir their curiosity by asking intriguing provocative questions, use language devices
    • Ask lots of why??
    • Reveal the disconnection in their views and they will be able to connect with you
  3. Build your idea in small components using concepts that your audience already understands
    • Start with what the audience knows or understands
    • Use analogy for audience to understand easily (AH HA moment)
    • Test your thoughts with trusted friends and see what they are confused about and improve from there on
  4. Make your idea worth sharing
    • Who does this idea benefit?
      • Audience
      • Does it inspire someone to do something differently?

Here are the four tips that will help one to structure their speech whether it’s meant for presentation, speeches etc. Give this a shot and see how people react to it. I hope this helps you to achieve your goals for whatever speech you are doing for.

Review on Toastmasters Project 10: The Journey

I did my Capstone Project 10 for Toastmasters Competent Communicator on 19th May 2017.

I believed this was my best project by far, not just because I won the ‘Best Prepared Speech’ for the night but also because I  felt was speaking from the heart. It was such a coincidence that my evaluator was a writer himself so he understood my perspective and I am glad I did not set myself up for failure.

The feedback given was that I should have informed the host that that I require a change of environmental settings i:e: pretending we were all at a book signing ceremony.

I was caught trying to recall my script along the way and I should have avoided that. I should have used lesser filter words and made more eye contact. I will probably need to learn to control my nervousness and figure out a way to remember the flow of my speeches and learn how to ‘think fast, talk smart’ after this.

So basically, the setting was a book signing event and I got a printout saying ‘Recipes of Life by Farah Saleh’ and wrapped it around a book. I also had slides showing reviews on the book with my photos.

Before I jumped into the various ratings, let me jot down some other feedback on other P10 speeches for reference’s sake.

To inspire, always ensure the following:

  • I – Intention must be clear
  • T – Methods to inspire/ personal stories
  • M – Methods to inspire the audience / Consider using personal stories if any (like an analogy)
  • A –  Audience: Know your audience and know how to convince/ inspire/ empower them

Other things to take note of include:

  • Have a data/ source of info for persuasion
  • Use of dialogues does have to add creativity
  • Do not use powerpoint slides for speeches between 5-7mins unless for a quick one
  • Use language devices for call to action

Here are the ratings for my speech:

  1. Was the speech relevant to the occasion selected?
    • Excellent
    • The topic was most relevant for the project
  2. Did the speaker understand and express the feelings and needs for the audience?
    • Excellent
    • The speaker was emphatic to express the various emotions and disposition.
  3. Was the speaker forceful, confident and positive?
    • Speaker was confident and convincing.
  4. Did the speaker effectively use stories, anecdotes, and/or quotes to help to convey his or her message?
    • Excellent
    • Speaker used anecdotes, examples and personal stories effectively
  5. Did the speaker’s words convey strong, vivid mental images?
    • Excellent
  6. Did the speaker’s use of body language enhance his/ her message ?
    • Speaker was poised and confidently portrayed the appropriate gestures and postures to motivate the audience to start writing.
  7. Did the speech uplift the audience and motivate them as the speaker intended?
    • Excellent
  8. What could have the speaker done differently to make the speech more effective?
    • Perhaps the speaker could have used the visual aids more effectively, show them bit by bit to ensure the audience is not ahead of the speaker.
    • Try not to worry about phrases that are memorised (Skip them if need to)
  9. What did you like about the speech?
    • The speaker’s convincing appeal to get the audience to start writing through her honest narrative of her own experiences, the highs and the frustrations and her eventual self- fulfillment. The speaker used the timing effectively!

So I have completed my Competent Communicator’s module. I do plan to pursue the other modules as well. I will take a couple of months off to improve on what is lacking here, maybe share them here too. Of course, I am grateful for all the support that has been given to me as well.




Toastmaster Project 10: The Journey

Good evening, Ladies and gentlemen. I want to thank each and every one of you for making time to attend my book signing in Singapore.  It’s great to be back here after being away in New York for three years since 2017.

The book that I have written, called ‘Recipes of life’ has won a couple of book awards – One as a New York bestselling author and one as a self-published author. Let’s look at some of the reviews.

It took me 10 years to get to where I am now. The reason why I started writing was because I wanted to document down summaries of the self-development books that I have read. Then I found WordPress, an online community where bloggers write and upload their works for free. After a few posts, I was getting loads of comments. The insecurities I was working through were resonating with strangers online. That was how powerful the online community is! We support one another because we believe!

Ladies and gentlemen, I have struggled to make a difference. I have felt appalled whenever I thought of the civilized world not needing what I have to offer. I have been frustrated by people’s apathy and my own inability to communicate the importance of something that matters to me.

My fellow toastmasters, writing is a fulfilling yet a very lonely process. It’s very isolating because you’re just by yourself. You have to be very self-motivated and get the work done and sometimes you just don’t, and that’s bad.

But what I have also learned, that with resounding hope, my writing does make a difference. There were occasions whereby I had readers commenting that my writings do relate to them and that I should write more.

That little push, however small was enough a catalyst, a spark that propelled and fuelled me to write my own book. I started to write about my own life experiences and came out with a framework on how we can motivate ourselves and fight on. I wrote to multiple publishing companies but received rejections one after another. It felt like I was in high school back again trying to find a date for prom. Hence, I decided to publish my own book. I printed twenty copies and started to distribute them to guests that I met during my university alumni events. I also made the craziest but by far my smartest decision in 2017 to move to New York, the land where the world’s best writers live and thrive.

My dear friends, to me, the self-promotion part is the most difficult thing I had to do (well apart from doing my own laundry and learning to cook every single day. Oh god, I missed my mum) as I was saying, the most difficult part was self-promoting myself, and my book, to get my name out there. Constantly having to go on social media and meeting representatives from publishing companies to talk about myself is very embarrassing experience. I feel so ashamed saying, “Please, read my book!”

You know the feeling of that moment between action and consequence, eternal and fleeting. It’s when whatever you did has occurred but the reaction is yet to come. The seed of embarrassment gets wedged inside me ready to blossom red upon your cheeks.  That experience, ladies and gentlemen, was my personal hall of shame. I have never thought in my entire life, that I had to do a sales pitch.

I thought I was done after I self- published my book. I was so wrong. One fateful day, a representative from a publishing company called to tell me that my book was the most googled book online and she encouraged me to enter the competition ‘Writers Digest Self Published book awards’. I have won two awards since then.

But the most important lesson that I have learnt is that all is matters are the words you write. Nothing else. When you do your thing, it doesn’t matter (and it shouldn’t) what others are going to think about it. You should stop worrying whether have something to say or if people will read it or people will like your work. But it’s about saying in your voice. And that is something we all have.

My dear friends, I urge you to write because its liberating. I persuade you to write because you are unique and I want you to write because no other person who came before you or who will come after you will ever, ever be able to do it in quite the same way that you can.

As Winston Churchill once said, we make a living by what we earn, but we make a life by what we give.”

Take a leap of faith and start writing, wherever you are, tonight. Thank you.


Review on Toastmasters Project 9: Pen it down!

I did my Project 9 on 21st April 2017.

I did not do very well for this project and my mentors and evaluators felt that I did not quite meet the objectives. I have repeated this project a couple of times but still not much of improvements.

The feedback given was the following:

  • There was just too many main topics. I should have focused on three main points and developed from there
  • Not much ‘good vocabulary’ such as rhetorical devices used
  • Body language does not portray much power
  • Vocal variety does not convince others to start writing

Once I am done with Project 10, I will be taking a couple of months off to focus a little bit more on writing, perhaps writing an article or two on Business Intelligence and a couple more reviews on self development books.

At the same time, I would like to focus more on Emotional Intelligence and improve the way I present myself. That way, I will be better prepared for Advanced Toastmasters modules and communicate better with others and at work!

Toastmasters Project 9: Pen it down!

Can you imagine a life where creativity is considered a shameful activity that should be done behind closed doors? Can you imagine a world where self-expression is viewed as irrational, emotional and often frowned upon?

Ladies and gentlemen, writing is  part of our everyday life. At its most basic, writing is a way of communication. It is the one inalienable characteristic of writing itself, whether you’re communicating with a colleague or friend or you’re communicating with yourself – through a to do list, for instance.

Aside from the fact that writing is an inescapable part of everyday life, there are many good reasons you should make a good session of writing part of your daily routine, even if it’s just a few hundred words. You don’t have to be a pro to reap the benefits of creating the written word.

Facts on writing:

  • Research by Laura King mentioned that Writing and happiness are correlated:
    • Expressive writing such as jotting down your emotions and goals has therapeutic effects such as improved mood, reduced stress levels for those who write regularly
  • Research by Adam Grant mentioned that Writing helps one to cope with trauma and bad times better:
    • Sometimes we are unable to verbally communicate our trauma or emotions, and it is much easier to write
    • Engineers were retrenched and 52% of them who wrote who reemployed full time in 8 months as compared to 19% of those who don’t

When I first started out,

  • I was afraid of people judging me, not so much of strangers, but of families and friends if they were to read my blog
  • I was afraid of writing unworthy stories, as language was not my cup of tea

But I chose to write anyway and I have been writing summaries on self development books. A couple of times I have got comments saying that my writings help readers who don’t have the time to read and apparently, a couple of my former bosses came across my blog and encouraged me to increase on the quantity. It’s little things like that will push you on and go a long way.

I cant guarantee you will get your next best gig or if you can make money from your writing, but at least you get the following benefits:

  • Knowing what you want
    • Making it clear on what outcome you want to achieve from a situation, activity or goal
  • Develop your analytical skills
    • Working through your problems with a piece of paper encourages you think through logical and creative ways
    • People tend to react to problems rather than responding to it, but if you’re used to solving them by processing each component of the problem in writing, you’ll develop a better approach and skillset.
    • You’ll at least pause to think through the situation before hitting the panic button next time something comes up!
  • Meeting yourself all over again
    • Life is so fast paced that its easy to lose yourself
    • By letting words flow out of your brain unedited can introduce you to a part of yourself you’d been censoring from yourself to cope with everyday life.

Discontentment, disillusionment, and unhappiness often come from forgetting why we’re doing something (for instance, on a different track, not having a good reason for living a certain way) and it is important to keep those simple reasons at the forefront of your mind or you run the risk of letting your life becoming mundane.

It’s not only important to remind yourself of your motives for your current actions; it’s important to monitor your actions to see if they are aligned with your life goals or if there is a need to change them if needed. Sometimes, the only way to keep such a close monitor on your actions and goals is to write about them every day.

Friends, as William Faulkner said ‘Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.’

Review on Toastmasters Project 8: My love affair

I did my Project 8 on the 17th March 2017.

I personally felt better during this presentation than I did the previous one. I will probably need to focus more on the start and ending of my speeches in the future to ensure I start and end with a bang. I will need to work on my creativity to use visual aids better in the future.

My evaluator graded me based on the following acronyms:

  1. What was mentioned: In love with Netflix
  2. What was memorable: Sense of humor in words such as rheoterical devices and irony
  3. What was mendable: Limit props and use them throughout the entire presentation

What cound the speaker have done differently to make the speech more effective?

  • Use or choose a prop or two that could exemplify your message to make it more memorable rather than one off event
  • Link the props to your key message in your conclusion

What did you like about the speech?

  • Fun topic
  • Good use of language and humor
  • Audience enjoyed your speech



Toastmasters Project 8: My Love Affair

Club President, Fellow Toastmasters and Guests, I spent most of my Saturday afternoons, spending time with my virtual lover. He entertains me with stories from Stranger things, master of none and the fall. You name it. I can spend up to 12h, being a potato couch, in his presence. Have you guessed who my virtual lover is? Anyone?

My dear fellow toastmasters, It is Netflix. How many of you have signed up for an account with Netflix since they expanded to Singapore? How many of you have an account via other means before they were made available? It will stay within this four walls, so you don’t have to worry.

Ok, Netflix has changed the face of television. We are now.. almost cordless (Action: cut cord string). They have expanded to over 130 countries in Jan 2016 and we can watch the shows via our mobile phones, ipads while on the move. It is so convenient now isn’t it? It has connected the world, through its best storytellers all in one place.

Action: (Sit on a chair and use shawl as a blanket)

But for me, I prefer watching Netflix on my sofa or in the comfort of my bed, all wrapped up in my blanket or pillows…

Ever since I have Netflix, I have ditched my television. The televisions in my home are now owned by my parents. I no longer bother fighting with my dad over which channel we should watch on Saturday nights.

My dad would say ‘I need to watch my soccer now. Its Blackburn versus Liverpool tonight while I want to watch Criminal Minds.

(Mimic conversation with Dad)

Baba: Kakak, go upstairs. I want to watch my soccer game now..

Me: Cannot, I come down first so the tv is mine..

Now, I only have to pay $12 for a peace of mind and a peaceful home. Especially when you have three women and one man in the house.

There is more…

  1. God bless Netflix for NO COMMERCIALS!!!

Do you know the amount of things I can do during the commercial break while watching a show on cable tv? I can walk to my bathroom and wash up to get ready for bed. That’s how long it is. With Netflix, the same show on cable tv will take only 40mins to be streamed online unlike the typical 60mins.  That’s a good 20mins to spare for the next episode.

  1. My lover knows how to satisfy me, the way I like it..

Netflix uses the art of recommendation to learn what I like and adapts to my preferences. Through user ratings and tracking history of what I watch, Netflix is able to suggest the next suitable best show for me to watch. They are pretty accurate. If I give a five star rating on one show, I will like the next show that it recommends. That is some awesome analytics done there! That is knowing what a woman wants!

  1. Netflix promotes love and sharing

Netflix account can be used on multiple devices. My account can be used by my parents and sister as well. It’s just $12 per month and I love giving to my family, so what’s better than that? Other than watching live sports events on tv, my extended family enjoys watching movies on Netflix. It does not have to be the latest one, just the one we all love.

If all that is not enough to satisfy me, my virtual lover keeps on evolving to keep me excited and give me things to look forward to. Their new technology will allow viewers to decide on the flow of the entire story. Imagine being given the choice to decide how a drama should end?

What happens if the storyline is simple?

If the storyline is simple, such as children’s shows, then it will be like an adventure games for kids.

But if the storyline is more complex such as House of Cards or Orange is new black, then viewers will have an option of connecting plot points in a variety of ways to determine the ending of the drama using their remote control. Actors will have to work harder by filming multiple scenarios in advance in order to align with Netflix’s interactive goals. To some of us, it may boost our creative juices, to others, it may be too much work especially when all you want to do is to relax. The child in me is very excited for that to happen. At least, we have options right?

Now if you excuse me, I will need to get back to my lover and binge watch Suits right from the first season again.

Oh….. if any of you have not experienced Netflix yet, I am willing to share…. I urge you to watch a movie on Netflix and I would love to hear about your experience.

Thank you, back to you Toastmaster of the Day.


Review on Toastmasters Project 7: Impending Future of Business Intelligence (BI)

I did my Project 7 on the 17th Feb 2017.

I was not exactly happy with the progress for this theme. It could be due to nasty stressful week that led to me forgetting about nearly one third of the content. I definitely was anxious and unable to control my loud volume. I didnt smile and light up as much as I wanted as it was an area close to my heart. Lastly, I did not use my powerpoint slides as we did not have a clicker at that moment. If I had used it, my words would have carried more words. Overall, lesson learnt and time to move on and do better!

Apart from the feedback from the evaluator, I had a few other feedback from the audience as well which I think is a good practice for the club to keep.

Feedback from Audience

  • Content is good with supporting facts and examples
  • Could have slowed down a bit and use pauses
  • Present confidently despite the light on
  • Knowledgeable on the topic presented
  • Got to simplify technical jargon to English
  • Topic is a little bit diversified, should have narrowed down the focus
  • There were some instances of nervousness during some parts of the speech

Feedback from Evaluator

  • How well did the speaker’s topic apply to the audience?

The topic was very enlightening. I wanted to hear more about how BI is used.

  • Was the topic well researched?

The topic was adequately researched.

  • How well did the speaker support her main points?

Main points were supported with examples and stories. Would love to see more visuals.

  • Was the support materials appropriate for the point made?

The support materials were appropriate and informative. I was surprised to learn about how business analyse our actions.

  • Did the speaker vary the types of support materials?

The support material was verbal only and based on her professional experience.

  • How clear was the speaker’s purpose?

I was quite clear of the purpose. Perhaps it was to inform us about the mechanics of BI.

  • Was the speech effectively organized?

Organization was okay. Could have improved on the conclusion more.

  • Did the speaker take advantage of the body language and vocal variety?

Body language and vocal variety were adequate for the speech. Mostly used hand gestures. Vocal variety had bits of pitch changes when delivering different facts.

  • What could the speaker have done differently to improve the speech?

Use some visual aids and state sources of information

  • What did you like about the speech?

I like the topic and would like to know more about BI measurements and metrics. Although you were stressed talking, ironically, you did not look nervous. Anxious, yes but NOT nervous.

  • Other feedback from evaluator:
  1. Limit the amount of information
  2. State the outline beforehand
  3. List and identify the sources of information
  4. Use different tyoes if supporting materials such as visual aids, statistics, testimonies, examples, stories, readings etc