Peringatan dakwah daripada Profesor Khoo

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Sambil mengulang kaji untuk ujian mid-term Colonialism in the Muslim World esok (atau mungkin bukan esok), terjumpa catitan nasihat Profesor Emeritus Khoo Kay Kim di celah-celah cerita sejarah:


[Remember this:]
Islam is for both Muslims and non-Muslims. So when someone comes to you and asks you about Islam, don't say "Mind your own business". You are each of you a mubaligh, you have an obligation to explain to non-Muslims what Islam is all about. Non-Muslims need to understand Islam, so that they can adjust.


Ya Allah, kurniakanlah kami bahagia di dunia dan bahagia di akhirat.

How to speak in public fearlessly

0 comments
I am writing this because it has been "Presentation Week" for the past few weeks in IIUM. I don't mind doing presentations, and most of the time I actually enjoy it, but I know some people positively hate speaking in front of a crowd, no matter how many times they've had done it already. Last week a dear friend asked me, "Macamana nak hilangkan gugup masa presentation ah?" ("How do I deal with my stage fright before presentations?"). I realized then that I could write a whole blog post to answer her question.

Disclaimer:
Before I continue with another 10 or 20 paragraphs of this how-to, you should know this: I am NOT a great public speaker. I don't move my audiences to tears, make them feel like changing into a different person just by listening to my speech, etc. But I'm not afraid of speaking in public, and I know this is the first step towards being a good public speaker.

I don't have a secret to this. I don't enjoy talking, as you might remember, so the same goes for talking in front of many people. But I strangely do not fear it, alhamdulillah. My very first time speaking in public was when I was 11. At the end of my darjah 6 year, a (very garang) teacher at school told me to see her, then told me that I had to tell a story (as a performance, ugh) during the Prize-Giving Day. Mm-hmm. Did I have a choice? Of course not, the teacher in question wasn't the type you dilly-dally around with. She says it, you do it.

So I went along, had to rehearse in front of her (I HATE rehearsing for a public speech of any kind. I speak in public for the one necessary time, which is that time I spend on stage, so no rehearsals-lah please. I avoid rehearsals as much as I possibly can)...and, apprehensive as I was, I did it: Told a story about The Magic Fish in front of the whole school and their parents. Complete with props (like a golden manila fish) and a couple of voice-changes at appropriate moments (big voice for the fisherman, squeaky voice for the fish). That was a landmark event in my life because at that moment I discovered that I don't mind speaking in public.

 Of course this picture has nothing to do with the post.
Just trying to break up the text text text text text.
(I was feeling drowsy in class and needed a bit of sugar rush
and I had a camera in hand so I just snapped a picture, just in case I need 
photographic documentation of (i) me holding a sweet or 
(ii) me falling asleep in class and doing something, anything to wake up
or (iii) maybe I'll need a random photo to use as a text-breaker someday).

So maybe my fearlessness is natural. Actually I'd call it feelingless-ness. Once during my late-teenage years, I received one of those forwarded-texts from a friend, it said (something to this effect): "Describe me in one word. Forward this message to your friends, you'll be surprised at the responses you get". So I replied that SMS and forwarded it to about 20 friends. (Really, you should try this, too, it's very revealing and a form of muhasabah, too, I'd say). The responses I got? Three things: Smart, Calm, and Cat Lover. (I wonder if I'd still get the same answers if I forwarded that text today) The only relevant answer for this post would be CALM. I'm a calm person (most of the time). So what happens when I present topics in class or debate a motion is -- I do it calmly, out of habit.

So is my calmness a product of nature or nurture? I'm sure part of it must have been in me, is who I am, but I also know that I have trained myself not to show what I feel (except through a variety of facial expressions when I feel like it). I value reservedness and self-possession. This I blame on reading too much English (as opposed to American) books since childhood, and on my admiration for Sherlock Holmes. I don't particularly think that the ability to conceal your feelings is a good thing, I just think that it's useful. Anyway, this thing has become a liability for me as public speaker. I don't know how to (or am usually VERY unwilling to, out of habit) let my emotions get through during my speeches.

Told you. My stone face has been there forever. It's not the best thing to have on all occasions, BUT it has helped me enormously in being able to speak in public without my hand shaking, etc. It looks like confidence, but it's just habitual feelingless-ness.

And that is why this post is called "How to speak in public fearlessly", not "How to be an effective public speaker". Two very different things.

(Really good) mango-flavoured ice-cream that I bought
because the MingoMingo shop at Aeon AU2 was closed.
(This was right after our Shawwal gathering last year.)


So how do you stop being scared of speaking in public?

Well to put it shortly, you crush your fears by identifying their reasons, and then putting them out one by one.

But first, remember this: It's all in the mind. You, and nobody else, must believe that you can do it, and do it well.

#1: Ask yourself, "Why am I scared?" 

You may be afraid of speaking in public for many reasons. Identify those reasons. 

Are you afraid that you can never be as good a speaker as this brother or that sister? [You're not them, so stop trying to be them. You have your own strengths, play them up.]

Are you scared of making eye contact with the audience? Are you held back because you think your English (or whatever language) is not proficient enough? Are you afraid you might forget what you need and want to say once you're in front of everyone? Are you scared of what people will think of you?  

Let's face it, most of our fears of public speaking come from imagining the audience's bad reception of our speech. We'll deal with this in tip #3.

Once you know why public speaking scares the wit out of you, you're one step closer to conquering those fears.

#2: Turn the fear around 

Do this by anticipating every possible failure that can happen, and dealing with each one. Prepare yourself well. Nothing conquers fear better than solid preparation. First, master your topic. If you know that there's nothing you don't know about that topic, do you think you'll be afraid of people questioning your speech/presentation's contents? Sure you won't. Okay of course you can't possibly know EVERYthing about anything, but do what it takes to know as much as possible.

Second, deal with your weaknesses realistically. Nobody's perfect so stop comparing yourself to other students/people. Compare yourself with yourself, it'll be healthier for your self-esteem. Improve the weaknesses you have one-by-one, so that your new self will be better than your old self.

For example, if you have problems with speaking fluently in English, try rehearsing the topic in front of a friend you're comfortable with. The aim here is not to perfect your English overnight, but to increase your confidence in using the language skills you already have. Listen to me: perfect language does not make a perfect presenter. I'm saying this because I have listened to MANY friends expressing their awe at the wonderful presentations of their class-mates, and when I ask them "Why are their presentations good?", they tell me, "Because they can speak English confidently." It's OK to admire a person's good language, but remember remember, it isn't everything! So if your English is not as good as theirs, do not think for an instant that you cannot be a good presenter or public speaker. Personally, I have seen numerous awesome presentations, whose presenters did not speak perfect English or Malay. They were still awesome.

Finally, imagine the worst thing that can happen if you flunk the presentation. What, you'll get low grades? Your class-mates will think you're a loser? The lecturer will hate you? I don't think so. Well, actually the worst thing that can happen to any of us in any situation is if Allah hates us. It never is the end of the world unless and until Allah hates us. So let's put the situation in perspective.

Even if, after all your efforts at improving your public speaking skills, you still don't seem to make any difference, that less-than-okay presentation wouldn't have made you a lesser person. There will be other chances at improving, insha Allah. Keep your head up.

#3: The audience are not your judges.

This is easy. Put yourself in the audience's shoes. You were in the audience countless times. You've watched so many of your friends and class-mates presenting. Remember how you felt? Some of them are very good, some of them not as confident. The thing is, you don't really care how good or bad their presentation was, do you? You don't judge them. They were simply another class-mate/group who came forward to share their knowledge about the topic they got from the lecturer. So why on earth would they judge you when you it's you turn to present? No, they wouldn't, really. You're just imagining things.

So loosen up, imagine that all of them are your close friends, and you're just going to tell them about those  shoes you bought at the Jusco sale. And that new tudung whose colour doesn't really match your baju kurung, dammit. Should've just stuck to black outfits. Shopping for matching outfits is real torture.

All right back to public speaking. Your audience are normal people like you, and you're just going to share with them what you'd learned about Mohammad Hatta and his role in Indonesian politics. And now you know that "Bung" Hatta swore not to get married until Indonesia was granted independence, and he fulfilled that promise...a fact that most of your classmates probably don't know yet. So see? You can tell them.

 Cornflakes and very cold Milo, my ultimate comfort food.
This was over a semester ago, when my desk still had some space for a meal.

#4: Visualize the best things happening

Okay. Picture this:
You are 100% prepared. You speak confidently and clearly. Your PowerPoint slides are perfect. You look at the audience as you speak. The audience is eating up your words. They ask you intelligent questions, and you answer them equally intelligently. You finish up on time. They applaud you at the end. You get full marks for your presentation.

All I'm saying is, dream about it! Then make your dream come true. When you visualize yourself in great situations, you can already see yourself making it happen...and that means you're halfway towards realizing it, because you already believe it could happen. It's all in the MIND, remember? 

#5: Be comfortable.

Wear clean, neat, and appropriate clothes that you feel comfortable in. Shoes, too. Don't over-accessorize. This should feel like an everyday thing, not like a my-life-depends-on-these-10-minutes event.

#6: Take control of the room/hall.

This is your presentation, you are the one who will be controlling the flow of events during that 5 or 20 minutes of your turn. Take charge! Once you step up front, look around at all four corners of the lecture hall/wherever the venue is. Let the audience know that you are the one they have to listen to now.  

Are you scared there are people in the audience who are cleverer that you, those people who always seem to know everything about anything? Whatever. You completed this study. You discussed and reviewed that topic with your group members. You learned enough about that subject, so much that you actually made a PowerPoint presentation about it. It's your territory for the next 5 or 20 minutes. Conclusion: you have every right and ability to take control of the audience's attention, and you should.

P.S.: If the lecturer knows more than you do and points out your little mistakes here and there, be happy because that's his/her job.

#7: Criticism is food for improvement

Don't be afraid of criticism. Most of the time after your speech or presentation is over, you'll just return to your seat, no questions from anyone. But occasionally, you'll get a piece or two of advice (or criticism, if you like), from your lecturer or your audience. So what? It won't kill you, and what doesn't kill you will make you stronger. Friedrich Nietzsche said that, and I agree.

If you do get criticized, you'll feel crushed, MOMENTARILY. After that moment, GET UP. Take the criticism as constructive advice, USE IT to improve yourself. And then life will go on as usual.

P.S.: If you've ever debated, you'll learn to get used to it, trust me. We get criticism (positive and negative) after every round. And if it's a silent round (where the judges don't announce the results or give their feedback), you're taught to go find them yourself later, and ASK for criticism. Helps thicken your skin. But I don't really recommend joining debates unless you have plenty of weekends to spare.

So don't let your fear of criticism hold you back. Prevent it from coming at all by preparing well, that's what I say.

I ran out of pictures of yellow food.
These are my newly washed shoes.

#8: Remembrance of Allah calms you down.

This is a no-fail step. Remember Allah through good times, and He will help you through the bad. And if you're scared, or overcome with stage fright jitters, ask Him to make it all right. He will.

Also, don't forget that asking for salawat on the Prophet (SAW) is a tremendous healer of diseases (or symptoms), whether physical, mental, or spiritual. 

I hope this helps! Have fun with your next presentation/public speech!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Peringatan dakwah daripada Profesor Khoo

Sambil mengulang kaji untuk ujian mid-term Colonialism in the Muslim World esok (atau mungkin bukan esok), terjumpa catitan nasihat Profesor Emeritus Khoo Kay Kim di celah-celah cerita sejarah:


[Remember this:]
Islam is for both Muslims and non-Muslims. So when someone comes to you and asks you about Islam, don't say "Mind your own business". You are each of you a mubaligh, you have an obligation to explain to non-Muslims what Islam is all about. Non-Muslims need to understand Islam, so that they can adjust.


Ya Allah, kurniakanlah kami bahagia di dunia dan bahagia di akhirat.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

How to speak in public fearlessly

I am writing this because it has been "Presentation Week" for the past few weeks in IIUM. I don't mind doing presentations, and most of the time I actually enjoy it, but I know some people positively hate speaking in front of a crowd, no matter how many times they've had done it already. Last week a dear friend asked me, "Macamana nak hilangkan gugup masa presentation ah?" ("How do I deal with my stage fright before presentations?"). I realized then that I could write a whole blog post to answer her question.

Disclaimer:
Before I continue with another 10 or 20 paragraphs of this how-to, you should know this: I am NOT a great public speaker. I don't move my audiences to tears, make them feel like changing into a different person just by listening to my speech, etc. But I'm not afraid of speaking in public, and I know this is the first step towards being a good public speaker.

I don't have a secret to this. I don't enjoy talking, as you might remember, so the same goes for talking in front of many people. But I strangely do not fear it, alhamdulillah. My very first time speaking in public was when I was 11. At the end of my darjah 6 year, a (very garang) teacher at school told me to see her, then told me that I had to tell a story (as a performance, ugh) during the Prize-Giving Day. Mm-hmm. Did I have a choice? Of course not, the teacher in question wasn't the type you dilly-dally around with. She says it, you do it.

So I went along, had to rehearse in front of her (I HATE rehearsing for a public speech of any kind. I speak in public for the one necessary time, which is that time I spend on stage, so no rehearsals-lah please. I avoid rehearsals as much as I possibly can)...and, apprehensive as I was, I did it: Told a story about The Magic Fish in front of the whole school and their parents. Complete with props (like a golden manila fish) and a couple of voice-changes at appropriate moments (big voice for the fisherman, squeaky voice for the fish). That was a landmark event in my life because at that moment I discovered that I don't mind speaking in public.

 Of course this picture has nothing to do with the post.
Just trying to break up the text text text text text.
(I was feeling drowsy in class and needed a bit of sugar rush
and I had a camera in hand so I just snapped a picture, just in case I need 
photographic documentation of (i) me holding a sweet or 
(ii) me falling asleep in class and doing something, anything to wake up
or (iii) maybe I'll need a random photo to use as a text-breaker someday).

So maybe my fearlessness is natural. Actually I'd call it feelingless-ness. Once during my late-teenage years, I received one of those forwarded-texts from a friend, it said (something to this effect): "Describe me in one word. Forward this message to your friends, you'll be surprised at the responses you get". So I replied that SMS and forwarded it to about 20 friends. (Really, you should try this, too, it's very revealing and a form of muhasabah, too, I'd say). The responses I got? Three things: Smart, Calm, and Cat Lover. (I wonder if I'd still get the same answers if I forwarded that text today) The only relevant answer for this post would be CALM. I'm a calm person (most of the time). So what happens when I present topics in class or debate a motion is -- I do it calmly, out of habit.

So is my calmness a product of nature or nurture? I'm sure part of it must have been in me, is who I am, but I also know that I have trained myself not to show what I feel (except through a variety of facial expressions when I feel like it). I value reservedness and self-possession. This I blame on reading too much English (as opposed to American) books since childhood, and on my admiration for Sherlock Holmes. I don't particularly think that the ability to conceal your feelings is a good thing, I just think that it's useful. Anyway, this thing has become a liability for me as public speaker. I don't know how to (or am usually VERY unwilling to, out of habit) let my emotions get through during my speeches.

Told you. My stone face has been there forever. It's not the best thing to have on all occasions, BUT it has helped me enormously in being able to speak in public without my hand shaking, etc. It looks like confidence, but it's just habitual feelingless-ness.

And that is why this post is called "How to speak in public fearlessly", not "How to be an effective public speaker". Two very different things.

(Really good) mango-flavoured ice-cream that I bought
because the MingoMingo shop at Aeon AU2 was closed.
(This was right after our Shawwal gathering last year.)


So how do you stop being scared of speaking in public?

Well to put it shortly, you crush your fears by identifying their reasons, and then putting them out one by one.

But first, remember this: It's all in the mind. You, and nobody else, must believe that you can do it, and do it well.

#1: Ask yourself, "Why am I scared?" 

You may be afraid of speaking in public for many reasons. Identify those reasons. 

Are you afraid that you can never be as good a speaker as this brother or that sister? [You're not them, so stop trying to be them. You have your own strengths, play them up.]

Are you scared of making eye contact with the audience? Are you held back because you think your English (or whatever language) is not proficient enough? Are you afraid you might forget what you need and want to say once you're in front of everyone? Are you scared of what people will think of you?  

Let's face it, most of our fears of public speaking come from imagining the audience's bad reception of our speech. We'll deal with this in tip #3.

Once you know why public speaking scares the wit out of you, you're one step closer to conquering those fears.

#2: Turn the fear around 

Do this by anticipating every possible failure that can happen, and dealing with each one. Prepare yourself well. Nothing conquers fear better than solid preparation. First, master your topic. If you know that there's nothing you don't know about that topic, do you think you'll be afraid of people questioning your speech/presentation's contents? Sure you won't. Okay of course you can't possibly know EVERYthing about anything, but do what it takes to know as much as possible.

Second, deal with your weaknesses realistically. Nobody's perfect so stop comparing yourself to other students/people. Compare yourself with yourself, it'll be healthier for your self-esteem. Improve the weaknesses you have one-by-one, so that your new self will be better than your old self.

For example, if you have problems with speaking fluently in English, try rehearsing the topic in front of a friend you're comfortable with. The aim here is not to perfect your English overnight, but to increase your confidence in using the language skills you already have. Listen to me: perfect language does not make a perfect presenter. I'm saying this because I have listened to MANY friends expressing their awe at the wonderful presentations of their class-mates, and when I ask them "Why are their presentations good?", they tell me, "Because they can speak English confidently." It's OK to admire a person's good language, but remember remember, it isn't everything! So if your English is not as good as theirs, do not think for an instant that you cannot be a good presenter or public speaker. Personally, I have seen numerous awesome presentations, whose presenters did not speak perfect English or Malay. They were still awesome.

Finally, imagine the worst thing that can happen if you flunk the presentation. What, you'll get low grades? Your class-mates will think you're a loser? The lecturer will hate you? I don't think so. Well, actually the worst thing that can happen to any of us in any situation is if Allah hates us. It never is the end of the world unless and until Allah hates us. So let's put the situation in perspective.

Even if, after all your efforts at improving your public speaking skills, you still don't seem to make any difference, that less-than-okay presentation wouldn't have made you a lesser person. There will be other chances at improving, insha Allah. Keep your head up.

#3: The audience are not your judges.

This is easy. Put yourself in the audience's shoes. You were in the audience countless times. You've watched so many of your friends and class-mates presenting. Remember how you felt? Some of them are very good, some of them not as confident. The thing is, you don't really care how good or bad their presentation was, do you? You don't judge them. They were simply another class-mate/group who came forward to share their knowledge about the topic they got from the lecturer. So why on earth would they judge you when you it's you turn to present? No, they wouldn't, really. You're just imagining things.

So loosen up, imagine that all of them are your close friends, and you're just going to tell them about those  shoes you bought at the Jusco sale. And that new tudung whose colour doesn't really match your baju kurung, dammit. Should've just stuck to black outfits. Shopping for matching outfits is real torture.

All right back to public speaking. Your audience are normal people like you, and you're just going to share with them what you'd learned about Mohammad Hatta and his role in Indonesian politics. And now you know that "Bung" Hatta swore not to get married until Indonesia was granted independence, and he fulfilled that promise...a fact that most of your classmates probably don't know yet. So see? You can tell them.

 Cornflakes and very cold Milo, my ultimate comfort food.
This was over a semester ago, when my desk still had some space for a meal.

#4: Visualize the best things happening

Okay. Picture this:
You are 100% prepared. You speak confidently and clearly. Your PowerPoint slides are perfect. You look at the audience as you speak. The audience is eating up your words. They ask you intelligent questions, and you answer them equally intelligently. You finish up on time. They applaud you at the end. You get full marks for your presentation.

All I'm saying is, dream about it! Then make your dream come true. When you visualize yourself in great situations, you can already see yourself making it happen...and that means you're halfway towards realizing it, because you already believe it could happen. It's all in the MIND, remember? 

#5: Be comfortable.

Wear clean, neat, and appropriate clothes that you feel comfortable in. Shoes, too. Don't over-accessorize. This should feel like an everyday thing, not like a my-life-depends-on-these-10-minutes event.

#6: Take control of the room/hall.

This is your presentation, you are the one who will be controlling the flow of events during that 5 or 20 minutes of your turn. Take charge! Once you step up front, look around at all four corners of the lecture hall/wherever the venue is. Let the audience know that you are the one they have to listen to now.  

Are you scared there are people in the audience who are cleverer that you, those people who always seem to know everything about anything? Whatever. You completed this study. You discussed and reviewed that topic with your group members. You learned enough about that subject, so much that you actually made a PowerPoint presentation about it. It's your territory for the next 5 or 20 minutes. Conclusion: you have every right and ability to take control of the audience's attention, and you should.

P.S.: If the lecturer knows more than you do and points out your little mistakes here and there, be happy because that's his/her job.

#7: Criticism is food for improvement

Don't be afraid of criticism. Most of the time after your speech or presentation is over, you'll just return to your seat, no questions from anyone. But occasionally, you'll get a piece or two of advice (or criticism, if you like), from your lecturer or your audience. So what? It won't kill you, and what doesn't kill you will make you stronger. Friedrich Nietzsche said that, and I agree.

If you do get criticized, you'll feel crushed, MOMENTARILY. After that moment, GET UP. Take the criticism as constructive advice, USE IT to improve yourself. And then life will go on as usual.

P.S.: If you've ever debated, you'll learn to get used to it, trust me. We get criticism (positive and negative) after every round. And if it's a silent round (where the judges don't announce the results or give their feedback), you're taught to go find them yourself later, and ASK for criticism. Helps thicken your skin. But I don't really recommend joining debates unless you have plenty of weekends to spare.

So don't let your fear of criticism hold you back. Prevent it from coming at all by preparing well, that's what I say.

I ran out of pictures of yellow food.
These are my newly washed shoes.

#8: Remembrance of Allah calms you down.

This is a no-fail step. Remember Allah through good times, and He will help you through the bad. And if you're scared, or overcome with stage fright jitters, ask Him to make it all right. He will.

Also, don't forget that asking for salawat on the Prophet (SAW) is a tremendous healer of diseases (or symptoms), whether physical, mental, or spiritual. 

I hope this helps! Have fun with your next presentation/public speech!