Friday, October 15, 2010

Feature Toastmaster - Ivan Pei

By Ivan Pei, DDYPC Member

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.”
Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)
US humorist, novelist, short story author, & wit

I recall first stepping on stage, in front of an auditorium with about 300 of my peers. Blood drained from my hands, my palms were sweaty, my mind a daze. I was scared. No, I was terrified. Luckily for me, I was on a debating team and happened to be the 3rd speaker. Thus, the task of breaking the ice was not mine. The first two speakers on my team did an admirable job despite being obviously petrified. It didn’t help that this was a debate, not just a simple speech.

“Point! How do you explain the loss of obvious humanitarian benefits of alleviating famine and hunger in regions such as Africa by choosing to condemn genetically modified crops that can grow in regions that are otherwise barren?” fired the opposition. My dear team mate answered, “Uh, uhm, ur, genetically modified crops are um, ah, have health risks and are unethical, like I mentioned uh, just now”. Capitalizing on our weak response, the opposition again attacked us, “So, basically what you are saying is that you would rather have them starve to death, rather than take the minor risk of suffering small health complications. I ask you, based on your stance of ethics, which is more ethical, starving to death? Or eating genetically modified crops?”

I still vividly remember stepping up to the microphone as the final speaker facing an opposition that was armed to the teeth and unafraid to lash out at any weakness in our arguments. I was terrified before, now I was on the verge of hysteria. I calmed myself and delivered my speech. It wasn’t great I admit, and we definitely did not win that debate, but after going through that, I can’t say I’m afraid of very many things. At that time, I was fifteen.

Fear of public speaking is very common, and nothing to be ashamed of. Mastering fear is part and parcel of public speaking. Toastmasters International helps you do just that. So how does the courage to speak, the courage to stand out, help in life? I would like to share with you my story and how the art of public speaking has helped me.

At sixteen, I attended the PETRONAS scholarship camp, where over a few days; we had to demonstrate our leadership and speaking skills for their consideration in order to obtain a scholarship. Public speaking training in the past gave me the confidence to voice out my opinions, answer questions and lead groups. Some of my good friends, who were academically better than I was, shied away from the spotlight. They had the willpower to study day and night to get their results, but lacked the courage to display their brilliance.

The way I look at it, hard work leads to good results. Public speaking and courage leads to the display of your results. So, what is the point of working hard and achieving results if nobody knows about it? I eventually was lucky enough to receive a scholarship from PETRONAS to further my studies overseas. The only difference between me and my peers was my courage and ability to market myself. A year later, after pre-university studies, I was on a flight to Sydney to study in Australia’s oldest university, The University of Sydney.

Public speaking helped me secure posts in the Malaysian Society of my university and also during my job interview. I finished my studies at the end of 2008 and was pleased to be informed that I was recommended for a post in PETRONAS. I joined DDYPC Toastmasters because I feel that I can improve much more on my speaking skills. I may have tamed my fear, but with toastmasters, I can now learn to master my fear.

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