Angela Lansbury: What I learned from visiting more than 60 clubs in Singapore

Angela Lansbury has been a Toastmasters for more than 12 years. She was Warren Sheng’s mentor in 2006. Contact her at annalondon8@gmail.com

Singapore has more than 350 clubs, so when I arrive I check the week’s options on “Find A club”, emailing clubs asking for a free slot. I visit clubs every night. If there’s a lunchtime meeting, I do two a day, but rarely three.

I plan my month’s meetings on an A4 sheet. I write dates in the margin, adding columns for club names, meeting times, postcodes, costs, nearest stations, club emails and phones. I keep club cards with officers’ contact details on the back, an A-Z of club agendas containing committee members photos and emails, and the district club directory 2016, alas discontinued.

Toastmasters Club of Singapore

The first three Mondays of the month are easy, because the biggest and oldest club which spawned the others is Toastmasters Club of Singapore. It meets at the glamorous 5-star Sheraton Towers Hotel. Beforehand, I look over the hotel balcony, admiring spotlit waterfalls below. Because of the huge meeting room’s cost and the mini-buffet and coffee, they charge visitors S$20, but this is less than the price of coffee and cake in the hotel.

This venue attracts about 50-70 people to meetings and has a stage. Their membership fee is the highest, about $500 a year, but that’s 3 meetings a month including a light supper. You get jugs of cold water, a Sheraton pen and minipad.

Two banks of chairs have a middle aisle. Visitors are asked to stand up and say their name and a sentence on topics like: Where did you spend Xmas? or, How do you spend your working day? (Smaller clubs let everybody speak.)

You often see Mr Chen, a club founder. He re-appears in the YMCA club which charges about $20 and is central. Totally different, small room, usually everybody around one big table. Visitors can buy his excellent book on public speaking. Members can borrow books from the club library.

Many public Toastmasters Clubs in Singapore meet in Community Clubs, booking the boardroom so everybody sits around a huge table in armchairs. In addition to the water dispenser, clubs give visitors a small bottle of still water (temperature all year in the nineties outside). The keyholder lets you in and switches on the air-con. Committee members provide pot luck suppers, with occasional extras from club sponsors, generous members, or visitors, especially on national holidays e.g. moon cakes in autumn! You pay for hotel Christmas dinners or Chinese New Year dinners. But distant suburban clubs have free food (like our pot luck Xmas dinner meeting at Harrovians in London).

Community Clubs are usually marked on maps in the nearest subway station. The CC buildings have Starbucks or Western food, or Chinese and Malay food downstairs or across the street.

Easily located clubs are opposite the Sheraton Towers Hotel at Cairnhill Community Centre, a Toastmasters hub with 9 clubs. Often free to visitors, especially if you’re a functionary. I enjoy the Vietnamese club, in English, on Saturday mornings. The monthly first Friday evening Francophone club members speak entirely in French, serving great cheeses.

The bilingual Saturday afternoon Malay club had few members, but the couple running it welcome families. Their offspring raced around the room giggling. Despite distracting noise, maybe because the challenge demanded voice projection, their determined mother later won the Singapore district championship. She and her husband agreed, if Darren Tay, A Singaporean Chinese, could win the World Championships in the USA, in 2016, and an Indian Singaporean, Manoj, won in 2017 year, 2018 it’s the Malay Singaporeans’ turn to try.

Braddell Heights Advanced: another Toastmasters hub, Braddell Heights Community Centre, has four clubs. I wanted a mentor for advanced speeches (mine is Kan Kin Fung, the fun can-do man) so I joined Braddell Heights Advanced TMC. I am their VPPR.

“You don’t have to start as an advanced speaker, but you must aim to advance to club contest, area, district and division.” Lots of workshops and briefings teach how to win contests. An individual evaluation of your speech is often followed by a group evaluation by the whole room.

In the UK I was called ‘the queen of props’. In Singapore I am deferred to as ‘our native speaker’. I’m writing a book on better English for speakers of “Singlish”. We meet the first Wednesday and third Saturday (other clubs on other Saturdays). Our club’s room has a schoolroom layout. Manoj, 2017 International winner, coached us and showed his book, The Mousetrap.

Many clubs hold joint meetings. Universities and polys have several clubs, sometimes four simultaneously in adjacent rooms, meeting in lobbies at breaktime for networking (unofficially speed-dating!)

In-house clubs in skyscrapers include accountants, IBM, banks. You pre-register your name, sign in, show your passport, which is photographed or unnervingly kept hostage in exchange for a pass. Club members escort you through ground floor security gates, the upstairs company’s Reception, and unlock toilets.

Short lunchtime meetings are opened by the SAA. Presidents rush in, give a speech, pay the pizza deliverer, dash off.

A long first-timers session is held monthly, with 5-8 icebreaker speeches and evaluations, (no topics, grammarian or GE).

Venues: A member of Thomson club joined them because they had a stage. Thomson’s SAA

writes on a large whiteboard the meeting section, speakers’ names, subject/topic and time. Latecomers, newcomers and daydreamers immediately see what’s happening.

My Most Memorable Meetings

Screens and Music

At Singapore Airlines TMC, the TME introduced each speaker or appointment holder with an informative description and complementary music. I was ‘Angela Lansbury from England, who speaks the Queen’s English,’ accompanied by God Save The Queen.

AIA (American Insurance Association) start by parading their banner. Behind their stage is a screen where they show slides for each meeting section, starting by projecting photos and names of last meeting’s ribbon winners.

The first time I attended their club I tried table topics. A recorded drum-roll precedes the winner announcement. I was astonished to see on screen my name, correctly spelled, with my photo edged by Union Jacks! Their SAA hunches over his laptop throughout the meeting, updating names, typefaces, photos, cartoons, quotations and borders!

Table Signs, Certificates and Gifts

Evaluators sit behind the acrylic EVALUATOR table signs. Evaluators and competition judges often receive a certificate of thanks. Judges nearly always receive a small gift, a notebook from a dollar shop, or pencil from Toastmasters international. One bank gave a handy notebook with an attached pen and the company name on the front.

Photos

At the meeting’s end, the clubs take a collective photo, looking professional, followed by a ‘fun shot’ with big grins, thumbs up, V for victory, leaning at funny angles.

In Singapore you learn something every day. If you are visiting, email me and check these:

Useful Websites

Braddell Heights Advanced Toastmasters Club Facebook https://www.facebook.com/bhatmsg/

Francophone de Singapour TMC toastmasters francophone de singapour

Toastmasters Club of Singapore http://www.toastmasters.org.sg

MRT Singapore station map https://www.transitlink.com.sg/images/eguide/mrt_sys_map.htm

Toastmasters International Find a club https://www.toastmasters.org/find-a-club

YMCA Club, Singapore https://ymcasingapore.toastmastersclubs.org

Harrovians TMC http://www.harrovians.org.uk

HOD TMC https://hod-tv.uk/blog/

Angela on YouTube at Braddell Heights https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwY7mKKc1hU

Websites on speeches by Angela Lansbury on blogger.com

Angela Lansbury books on lulu.com  http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/annalondon8

https://www.amazon.com/Angela-Lansbury/e/B001K82R2A

Angela is secretary of Harrovians, committee member HOD, UK, and VPPR of Braddell Heights Advanced, Singapore

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