Express to Impress

  • Source: Event
  • Article Date: 24/1/2018

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Never judge a book by its cover – or so they say. How many of us have been guilty of this?

I certainly have been. Just recently, Strategic Communications was tasked with the organising of a workshop and a keynote on public speaking in conjunction with the Communications Academy graduation. We invited a certain 28-year-old Singaporean, whom on picture, to be honest, didn't look a day over 21. This Singaporean, Darren Tay Wen Jie, was supposedly the 2016 World Champion in Public Speaking.


Fast forward to the day of the event, 15 December 2017 at the KL Convention Centre, at 9:45AM; barely 15 minutes into the workshop, Express to Impress, I realised that I had misjudged the book based purely on its cover.

Darren Tay, truly had expressed and impressed. He was engaging – getting the attendees all stitched up and participating as he shared pointers on how to be an effective speaker, to over 110 participants, some coming from as far away as Pengerang, Johor. Even PETRONAS ICT CEO Redza Goh was in attendance.


Darren started with an introduction of himself by explaining how he believes that the term 'Nurture over Nature' transformed him from a nerdish 14-year-old to become what he is today; a master orator. He described how his English teacher threatened to fail him if he did not come good on a presentation and how he, in his own 'Results Matter' moment, rehearsed over 20 times in front of the mirror in order to ace that presentation, resulting in glowing remarks from said teacher.

To Darren's amazement, his English teacher then asked him to replicate his presentation which was actually a book review on Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone to the rest of the school. The teacher had also taken the time to publicise Darren's book review to include posters of his face around the school, even in the toilets. But on the day of the event, no one turned up as it coincided with recess time.


The following week, the teacher forced the rest of her students from three different English classes to attend Darren's book review in the library, much to their dismay. According to Darren, he was hated by his peers as they were forced to skip recess just to listen to him do a book review on something they could easily have gotten from a movie.

By this time at the workshop, Darren had already captured the attention of the attendees through his humour and delivery of his points. He went on to talk about his experience in winning the coveted World Championship of Public Speaking in 2016 which was held in Washington D.C., and how he only received SGD 45 from the Singaporean Government whilst a certain Joseph Schooling was awarded one million for his Olympic exploits. Darren received encouragement from his mentor, the 2000 World Champion of Public Speaking, Ed Tate, who told him to focus on giving value first, and that money will come later.


As part of his eight-step blueprint to keep the audience engaged, Darren also expresses the importance of telling a story to make a point; something that most of us at PETRONAS could relate to since Focused Storytelling is part of our PETRONAS Cultural Beliefs. According to Darren, "Facts tell, but stories sell", going on to elaborate that stories will sell if the speaker can relate it well.


The other steps of his blueprint included having activities or exercises, using easy to remember acronyms, not overloading the audience with information, getting the audience to echo and complete sentences, using analogies, and also to motivate the audience using "pain" or "pleasure" techniques.

The second part of the workshop, after a short intermission, saw Darren explain about the common pronunciation and language mistakes made by speakers. He then covered three out of his 10 tips on World-Class Delivery Skills where he talked about how hand gestures, stage positioning and power poses can help improve one's speech delivery; incorporating exercises for the attendees to practice before delivering their speeches.


At the end of the workshop, the fanfare was evident. Attendees stayed back to purchase autographed books of Darren's Singapore Best Seller, Express to Impress; and for photo opportunities.

The overall sentiment on the ground was that although it was just a half-day workshop, it was entertaining and informative, at the same time leaving attendees hungry for more sessions in the future. Darren had truly Expressed to Impress.