33rd YMCA Plain English Speaking Award (PESA) Competition Finalist

Diploma in Psychology Studies (PSY) student, Isaac Tan, made it to the finals for the 33rd YMCA Plain English Speaking Award (PESA) competition. It was held on 30 August at YMCA Orchard Auditorium. Competing against six other finalists, Isaac gave his best but did not make it to the top three. HSS is proud of how far he has gone and congratulates him on his achievement.

We did a short email interview with Isaac to find out how he got started in public speaking and how having this skill has helped him in life.

Hi Isaac, tell us more about yourself. How did you get started in public speaking?

I am a Year 3 student studying in the Diploma in Psychology Studies. I'm known by my friends as a reserved character who is ironically comfortable in front of large crowds. Hence, public speaking comes almost naturally to me. I haven't had any professional training in public speaking prior to this competition but I observed and picked up these skills from various sources; my mother who has emceed for many events, watching captivating speakers speaking live, and even speeches from movies. So, being exposed to all these throughout my life, it was something that I could do decently well and I made a few speeches myself.

Personally, what is the most challenging thing about public speaking that you had to overcome?

The most challenging thing about public speaking for me isn't really about getting over the fear of crowds. It's more about getting the audience to stay interested in what you have to say and I learned that very early on. If you speak and your audience is not engaged, they will only hear words coming out of your mouth, they won't listen to your message. So, as I went along, I learnt what would keep the audience engaged and what would bore them. I learnt from my experiences each time and did less of the wrong stuff and more of the right things. Eventually, I became a much better speaker and more people paid attention to what I had to say.

You did very well at the 33rd YMCA-PESA Finals but unfortunately did not win. What are your reflections on it?

The truth is that I never set any expectations for myself in the competition. It is also a motto that I live by in other areas of my life. The only expectation that I have for myself is to do my best in whatever I do and have no regrets. The fact that I got into the finals was already an achievement in its own right. But I wasn't proud of getting into the finals. I was proud of the fact that I did my best and that I was willing to give this competition a go. Even though I didn't win, I gave it my all and I'm very proud of myself for doing that. I have no regrets. Overall, my journey throughout the competition was an enriching one where I gained a lot of valuable skills and experience and had an enjoyable time working with the teachers.

Isaac (centre) and CCS lecturers

How did our CCS (Centre for Communication Skills) lecturers train and prepare you for the YMCA-PESA competition? 

The teachers were the most dedicated I had ever seen. Ms Charmaine, Ms Jean and Ms Serene stood by my side throughout the entire journey from Day 1 and they were a support system which was crucial in getting me to the finals. They also knew how to handle me in giving me honest feedback on my progress. They were always encouraging and carefully analytical about my performance and it helped me improve my skills. Seeing my teachers work so hard for me made me want to work hard and I dedicate my success to them.


5) Did public speaking help you in any areas of your life?

It did. Public speaking taught me to deliver my messages effectively. In PSY, I do a lot of research and if I can't effectively communicate my research findings to people, then the point of my research is meaningless. So this skill will help me in that area of my life. 

Also, as I mentioned earlier, I am reserved and before public speaking, I was shy. But public speaking allowed me to get out of my shell and expose myself to large crowds of people. It helped me get past any fear of talking to people in general and I became much braver and less inhibited in life. I am bolder because of it.


Thank you for doing this interview Isaac. We wish you success in all areas of life!