With education and entrepreneurship at the core of everything I do, this blog serves to provide you with information from my perspective, based on my knowledge, skills and experience on various issues close to my heart namely, general education, peacebuilding, public speaking, civil society and theatre/ drama.
This past General Elections provided me first hand, on the different roles that are crucial to the success of any candidate or party. Let me break it down for you in terms of the roles and responsibilities:
The right hand man of the candidate. The election agent plays an extremely crucial role and you need to have the following:
– GOOD ORGANISATIONAL SKILLS
– GOOD COORDINATION SKILLS
– GOOD INTERPERSONAL SKILLS
– GOOD ADMINISTRATION SKILLS
Your job is basically to manage all expenses of the candidate which needs to be kept properly. To help organise the schedule as well as plans for the candidate. To coordinate the schedule that has been planned. To manage people that the candidate needs to be in touch with such as media. To be adept at finding resources and be good at negotiating to get the best deal out of it.
PRINCIPAL ELECTION AGENT
Same as above but this person is the OVERALL IN-CHARGE of ALL THE ELECTION AGENTS in the team. In the case of Singapore, we have the GRC. So, the Principal Election Agent’s job is to manage the other Election Agents and ensure things run smoothly and according to what has been planned.
Besides the ELECTON AGENT and PRINCIPAL ELECTION AGENT, the other roles which will go towards the success of the candidate and help ease the candidate’s stress level, as well as help the candidate conserve and focus his energy on the campaign are the following roles.
Each candidate should preferably have a media manager. It is basically someone who will help to manage the media for the candidate. This person should help the candidate receive as much media coverage as possible and to ensure content on released by the concerned media is favourable to the candidate. Media forms include mainstream media as well as social media.
Preferably someone with experience from the media industry with friendly connections.
Each candidate should also have a personal photographer tagged with him. The job of the photographer is to take photos that the media would have otherwise missed as well as to ensure that photos uploaded to social media pages of the candidate are favourable and provides an alternative to photos that other media outlets may upload that may jeopardise the candidate.
The candidate is busy campaigning during the day and may not have time to prepare his own speeches. The speechwriter helps the candidate by going through the news first thing in the morning, updating the candidate on the news that may be of concern and preparing the speech that the candidate needs to deliver at the rallies that will address issues highlighted in the news by the opposing candidate or information highlighted by residents/constituents.
Each candidate should preferably have at least 2 runners. The job of the runner is basically to assist in any other duties that is required by the Election Agent or the candidate. This could be as simple as buying meals or being the advance party in block visits, to prepare constituents to meet the candidate.
With all these that is required for a candidate. Where does one learn and hone his skills in being an ORGANISER, COORDINATOR, MEDIA PERSON, SPEECH WRITER, RUNNER?
That’s where being in Grassroots Committee helps you hone the skills.
Being in Grassroots, you’d need to learn to be a runner, you’d also need to learn how to coordinate and organise events and if you’re really good with people and with words, you get to hone your skills to manage the media and be in the contact with the media frequently.
If you’re good with language, very likely you’ll get to the opportunity to write Press Releases and this is where you get to hone your skills as speech writer as well. Well, not exactly, but at the very least, you’ll know what kind of information the media needs and the knowledge to craft proper words is important as well.
And the photographer?
Well, the more events you’re used to, the more you’ll know how and when to position yourself to take those good shots that could tell the story for the candidate without any need for words.
So, when someone says preparation for the next elections begins now, it really does begin now. If you’re really keen to get started and prepared for the next elections in any of these roles, let me know!
If you believe in something, stand up and fight for it.
I’ve always been the kind of person with such a strong conviction in my beliefs. Like how when I was 5 years old and all my cousins said that it was impossible to go down a flight of stairs with two bicycles, I believed I could and I tried. It worked for the first 2-3 steps before I took a tumble and landed at the bottom of the stairs with two bicycles on top of me.
Stupid? Maybe or perhaps I just hadn’t figured out the right balance to do it back then.
Or perhaps like how someone once told me that I could never go to University of California Los Angeles. Well, I didn’t end up there as a student but I ended up in University of California Irvine as a teaching assistant and advisor to a student group. What made it even more sweeter was that it was on a fellowship by the United States Department of State.
So, now that the dust has somewhat settled on the recent Singapore General Elections, while my team nor party won any seats in parliament, I am certainly proud that we took a huge step to stand up for what we believed in – in Democracy, in speaking up for the voices of Singaporeans and in competing as fairly as we could, even if the decks were stack against us.
I remember when I was in Secondary School, my friends used to say, “Cakap tak guna, tembak tak kena” (No use talking, won’t hit the target when you shoot) or perhaps an easier term more familiar with most Singaporeans would be “No Action, Talk Only”. I always believed that if you wanted to make a change, you’ve got to be the one to make that first move. It has to be an action and not mere words.
Looking back on this experience, I am happy with my performance. I am happy with my team’s performance. In fact, I am happy with the performance of most, if not all the parties that came in to give the People’s Action Party a good fight. We gave options to Singaporeans and we let Singaporeans hear their voices.
Of course, the loss could be attributed to many factors as many have already mentioned, the sympathy over Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s death, SG50 celebrations, pay raises for the civil service, SG50 handouts and the ever controversial, New Citizens voting.
That said, I also realise that Singaporeans are perhaps a group of people that would choose safety and security – a believe that perhaps only a minority would disagree with (especially entrepreneurs) because businessmen like myself have the belief that in order to achieve greater things, one has to be willing to step out of their comfort zone.
Like how, if Bill Gates or Steve Jobs didn’t drop out of school to work on growing their projects, we wouldn’t have seen the Personal Computer or Apple products in the last two decades. But these are things are most Singaporeans aren’t willing to pursue because these are ideals from the west, not an oriental culture.
Most Singaporeans are comfortable with their full-time jobs and as long as they can come home, put food on the table and take well-deserved holidays once in a while, cafe hop and receive pay increments, they are a satisfied lot. Inconveniences like having more people living in Singapore, frequent train breakdowns, raises in GST/ERP, language barriers with service staff are minor inconveniences which most Singaporeans can live with by posting their rants on Facebook.
Moving forward, while most of my friends are devastated by how Singaporeans have voted, I hope those who turned up in support for Workers Party or Singapore Democratic Party rallies in huge numbers would look towards volunteering for these parties because without good ground support, every elections will remain the same.
People speak of machinery and they don’t realise that machinery comes from people. The PAP has a good machinery in place with mainstream media, PCF Kindergarten, People’s Association and PAP branches, all of which are activated the moment General Elections is called and which constantly engage the public throughout the entire 4-5 years prior to the next General Elections.
So, unless the opposition parties is able to build their alternative grassroots to counter what People’s Association has and to begin developing their own Kindergartens which also acts as a party branch, opposition parties will remain on the fringes and will never be seen, no matter how hard they work the ground because they won’t be seen at events and the mainstream media won’t cover their events.
The future of Singapore is really in the hands of Singaporeans, not the PAP nor any of the other political parties.
My suggestion is really for Singaporeans to take an active role in shaping Singapore to be what they want it to be through activism. Volunteering for causes they believe in and standing up for what they believe in beyond just simply expressing them online because clearly, online noise is only rants if it doesn’t translate to what is being seen on the ground.
So, take action for your own future, for the future of your children.
As how George Bernard Shaw put it, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything”.
The National Day Rally is going to be held this coming 23rd August. I have no doubt for sure that perhaps in the week after or so, parliament will be dissolved and we will begin to see political parties campaigning to win the hearts of the voters to put them into parliament for the next 5 years.
All parties have been working hard at looking for new candidates whom they feel can best represent the party and the people they seek to serve at the respective wards that they are contesting for.
And as how the last elections has shown, Singaporeans are less interested in the affairs of the Town Council but are more concerned at what happens at the national level. Elections, is no longer just about municipal issues but national issues.
More than just that, we need the right candidates who can represent the people at the national level.
If anything, I believe that we need to have a political reform in terms of how elections are held. It should no longer be about representing wards alone. It should be about representing the people. What we need is a parliament that works like council members, elected not by wards but by the entire nation or by the community that they seek to represent.
For example, to have a good representation in parliament, we should perhaps try to work on this:
ALL Singapore Malays vote for a selected number of Malay Candidates who have been nominated by their organisations or have chosen to step forward to represent the community.
For instance, AMP, MUIS, MENDAKI, PERGAS, PERTAPIS, etc.. each nominates one member from their organisation whom they feel can best represent the Malay community. If these guys accept the nomination, then they go on to campaign to win votes of the Malay community for the available number of seats and these guys will represent the Malay-Muslim Community.
Let’s say there are 14 seats available for the Malay-Muslim Community and there are 30 guys contending for the seat. Voters can mark the ‘X’ on 14 of these names/faces who they want to represent them.
This way, no candidate shall be subjected to party politics and will truly represent the people and they can represent the people best because there will be diversity in terms of opinions and alliances. These guys, are then the Malay Members of Parliament.
For those individuals who are not nominated, they can campaign as well to win votes. Campaigning can be managed by the Election Department who will organise the ‘Campaign Tours’ to the different neighbourhoods to allow candidates opportunities to speak. Each candidate given a specific amount of time for their speeches. This puts additional pressure on candidates to be concise with what they want to campaign for and not beat around the bush.
Now, after they win and what about the choice for a Minister of Malay Muslim Affairs. The candidates representing the Malay Muslim community can discuss amongst themselves as council members and elect a person whom they feel best fits the job.
What about Town Councils?
Leave the Town Council management to private firms who have no political affiliation or interest. Town Council managers will have to submit their bids and proposals on how they wish to improve the town to the Ministry for National Development who can issue tenders.
In assessing the suitability of the Town Council to be issued or recontracted, MND can have a KPI or checklist or even conduct household surveys to assess performance of each Town Council. Town Councils that fail to meet a certain percentage gives a good red flag that they are perhaps undeserving of a contract extension.
And what then of the People’s Association and it’s CC Advisers?
Leave that to the staff and passionate volunteers of People’s Association. In doing so, we can eradicate party lobbying where volunteers feel obliged/indebted to help/vote their Advisers/MPs or are interested to volunteer because they’d like to be able to receive benefits (whatever that may be).
I know I’ve only mentioned an example for the Malay-Muslim community but this can be replicated for the rest of the communities and causes as well because at the end of the day, we really want to vote for someone who knows the community really well, is committed to serving the community WITHOUT FEAR OR FAVOUR, FOR JUSTICE AND EQUALITY (Borrowed this from the Singapore Police Force pledge).
I certainly do not want to vote for someone whom I know eventually is bounded by party politics and has their hands and mouth tied from speaking up, when that is exactly what they should be doing.
With the General Elections picking up speed, the People’s Action Party (PAP) has been unveiling their candidates at very unique spaces, in the heartlands, where the action is.
Nothing really wrong with that just that I’m curious to know if they had actually obtained permits, and if so, how long did they take to apply and receive the permit?
One thing for sure, according to this website, http://singaporelegaladvice.com/public-assemblies-and-processions-in-singapore-police-permits-and-the-public-order-act/, no permit is required from the Singapore Police Force. Fair enough. It’s not in the park, so NParks permit is not required.
So, that leaves it to HDB and Town Council, but here’s the issue or the challenge that the opposition will face is getting the same kind of permit if they require one from the Town Council.
The Town Council is managed by the PAP MPs.
So, do the PAP MPs apply and approve their own permits?
If they did, wouldn’t it tantamount to an abuse of authority?
If they didn’t approve their own permits but had subordinates approving them, wouldn’t the subordinates feel compelled to approve because these guys are their bosses?
That’s is if the permits required is from the Town Councils but same goes for the opposition as well of course. On a different note, what if they required permits from the Community Centres?
That would really put the opposition at a disadvantage because the Grassroots Advisers to Community Centres are PAP Party Members, either the PAP MPs or the losing candidate.
Thus, going into this elections, I think I need to see clarity and fairness. Separation between politics and community. Authority and control.
5 years ago, around the same time, I blogged about my hopes and dreams for Singapore as part of the National Day Celebrations (‘Live Our Dreams, Fly Our Flag’).
In case you missed it, here’s what I wanted:
“As a Singaporean, one of my dreams is for us to be able to experience a state which encourages the following:
- FREE DOM OF SPEECH & EXPRESSION BEFORE AND AFTER SPEECH & EXPRESSION HAS TAKEN PLACE
- A MORE ACCURATE AND MENTALLY PROVOCATIVE REPORTING OF NEWS BY MEDIA THAT IS IMPARTIAL and
- FOR THE REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE GOVERNMENT AND IT’S AGENCIES TO BE MORE ACCEPTING AND OPEN TO CRITICISM FROM THE OUTSIDE WORLD AND TO ACKNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTAND THAT CRITICISM, WHEN CONSTRUCTIVE SHOULD BE SEEN AS A MEANS TOWARDS IMPROVEMENT
I also have a dream for all Singaporeans:
- TO STAKE A CLAIM IN THE AFFAIRS OF THE STATE AND NOT JUST LEAVE IT TO THE POLITICIANS WHOM WE HAVE VOTED FOR”
How different have my views been over the past 5 years?
Not much really. I still believe in each and every single one of those hopes and dreams that I spoke of. More than just that, I actually have one more to add.
I would really like to see Singaporeans learn more about one another, our cultures, our ethnicities, our faiths, so that we can better engage foreigners who come to live, work and play in Singapore and make this country a better place for not just Singaporeans, but also for them as well.
Government policies aside, we can exercise our vote this coming General Elections, but as a community, a nation, we need to show the rest of the world that we are loving, caring and have the ability to accept people of all backgrounds.
Why am I so focused on this?
Because over the past few years, Singapore has had to deal with many issues related to conflicts arising out of Interfaith-Intercultural misunderstanding or miscommunication (Amy Cheong, Anton Casey, Cook A Pot of Curry). But these issues are not just exclusive to Singapore.
This issue affects each and every single country, globally, all around the world.
In the US, you have had a non-white Miss America winner which caused a huge ruckus. To quite a significant number of ignorant Americans, the typical American had to be blonde and white, which in my personal experience, is far from it. And even for those who have been living in America for a long time or are even Americans, they still face issues that recur time and again (Blackface).
These are issues related to ethnicity, culture and to some extend, faith.
Since 2014, I have been actively trying to engage the community through my own personal endeavour to spread the importance of interfaith-intercultural understanding, a personal commitment arising out of my fellowship in the US. Nonetheless, an issue I strongly believe in and champion for.
I am thankful for the opportunity that I have been given to give lectures and talks on this issue. More than that, I hope that the audience I have engaged in, have a better understanding of the dangers of what social media can do to them. Going forward, we all need to learn how to “RESPOND, NO REACT” to situations that invoke our emotions. We need to rationalise the situation and provide the best response that will create positive outcomes not just for us, but for everyone.
In the words of Zubir Said,
“Mari Kita Rakyat Singapura, Sama-sama Menuju Bahagia”
(Let us all, the citizens of Singapore, move towards happiness)
“Cita-cita Kita Yang Mulia, Berjaya Singapura”
(Together with our noble dreams, hopes, ambitions, success Singapore)
“Marilah Kita Bersatu, Dengan Semangat Yang Baru”
(Let us all unite, with renewed hope/energy)
“Semua Kita Berseru, Majulah Singapura”
(Let us all proclaim, Onward Singapore)
We all need to internalize the lyrics of our National Anthem and work towards it. The lyrics resonate with us even today as we struggle with issues and as we seek to find renewed hope/energy. But we can only achieve success and happiness, if our ambitions, dreams and hopes are noble.
So, my dear Singaporeans, this National Day, let us focus on these lyrics. Let’s remember this lyric as we enter the General Elections and vote for the candidate/party that will be able to bring everyone together to achieve our noble dreams, ambitions and hopes for our success and happiness, and most importantly, to bring Singapore forward.
The Cannon Bald Fellowship 2015 is the first fun and affordable Life Coaching, Networking and series of Developmental training programme designed to prepare and launch fellows towards a smoother journey in life.
This fellowship will begin on 5th March 2015.
Fellows will receive 20 hours of training in the following areas:
- Public Speaking
- Body Language
- Programme Management
- Programme Development
- Classroom Management
- Relationship Management
- Cultural Intelligence
- Events Management
Training will be conducted weekly in the evening, 2000hrs – 2200hrs at A’Posh BizHub, #04-23, 1 Yishun Industrial St 1, S(768160).
Fellows will be required to clock 20 hours of assessed apprenticeship in one or more of the following areas that they have been trained in and will be renumerated for 10 hours of the apprenticeship.
All fellows will receive professional mentorship and FREE life coaching over a 12-month period upon successful sign up.
Participating in this fellowship requires a high time commitment and fellows are expected to be able to commit to complete the training sessions and apprenticeship.
- Minimum age of 21 years (Interested fellows below 21 will be assessed on a case-by-case basis)
- Passionate about learning
- Passionate about life
- Open to sharing experiences
Interested fellows can email their CV and indicate their interest to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put the email subject head as “Cannon Bald Fellowship 2015”. All applications must be received by 18 February 2015 at midnight.
Only successful applicants will be notified. A maximum of 15 fellows will start this fellowship. Applicants who are not successful will have an opportunity at the next fellowship.
A participation fee of SGD$1,000 is applicable upon successful application.
I’ve been emceeing for 10 years now covering many different types of events from Kindergarten Shows to Product Launches to Dinner & Dance to Campaigns to Community Events. That pretty much covers the whole entire spectrum of what one could get when they embark on their emceeing journey. I even coached other emcees.
Emceeing plays an important role for the organisers as you are the face of the organisers and you basically represent them which is why picking a good emcee is always important simply because YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE MISREPRESENTED.
But that’s what happened to me just last week when I had perhaps misrepresented a client.
Truth be told, this was the first emceeing gig I did without having a good understanding of the client. Usually, I’d have a sit-down meeting with the client to learn more about them, their values as well as who their audience will be and to get a good sense of what to expect from the audience. This is my research phase (YES! Being a good emcee requires some form of research first).
This research phase also includes me tailoring my style of delivery as well as games/activities that need to be conducted to ensure that it is suitable for the audience.
But last week, I met the client just about an hour before the event. This was out of my comfort zone because I was engaged by an events management company and wasn’t provided with the information I required but since I was quite familiar with the audience profile (or so I thought), I knew I could get a homerun with this but boy was I wrong.
The audience profile had changed so much!
When years ago, the audience would have been the rowdy type, this time, it was nowhere near rowdy. Crowd was reserved and wasn’t the type that would poke fun at one another, not at anyone, AT ALL.
Definitely out of my comfort zone and I knew that the games/activities I had prepared could either make it or break it. There was no safe zone in my games/activities and I didn’t have enough time to prepare a different set of games/activities because I needed to be in focus (This is why having someone you trust as an assistant is important, they will help you think of something else while you focus for the stage).
I’d say the whole night started out pretty well although we started 15 minutes late because guests were being reseated elsewhere. Energy was the audience was not too bad, a little low but it could be built up and we kicked off the night with a birthday celebration of someone from the audience.
Dinner came and I had hoped that by feeding the audience first, they’d have some energy to play. Well, they always do! Food always helps to make people happy. So, the first game played and this is when everything seems to go wrong for me. Participants were a bit too perfectionists and too shy to play. It’s really an easy game to play, don’t need to think too much because you’re supposed to in no other better word, “Just Do It!” but we got through the first game well enough.
Long silences on stage because participants didn’t want to start – we know that’s not too good but the emcee can’t be speaking too much either because the focus is on the game right now. No worries on this one.
Break for food and then second segment.
This is when everything just went horribly wrong with the second game. This game has been played many times, over and over again, the participants usually more enthusiastic and the crowd goes wild on this game. NO – total opposite.
Giving credit when due – first line of participants were responsive but the moment the next group of participants, all hell broke loose for me. They were too worried and too shy.
Now, this is when it gets a bit difficult for any emcee because you can’t just stop the games and you just can’t change the game (well, you could but that’s why knowing how the audience is like initially will prepare you sufficiently for it). So, this whole segment goes on for a good 30 minutes or so, which is considered to be A LONG TIME but that’s what I was asked to do anyway – to stretch the segment.
Games are always good to be kept at 15-20 minutes max. Any longer and the audience bores out.
At this point, I was ready to throw in the towel and just stop everything but I knew that it would just suck too much from there so I held on and continued telling myself, “Let’s just try to get them to cooperate for this and then we’re done”, the same way I’d talk to my students who are super naughty and under the watchful eyes of their teachers who hate them for their guts.
Apparently, this strategy worked and the game moved on and completed but the audience wasn’t as thrilled and the energy died out a bit. Thankfully, there was one last segment which couldn’t go wrong because it was the highlight of the entire night.
That ran smoothly at least.
By the end of the night, I was demoralised and the weather was a good expression of how I was feeling – WET, COLD and RAINING.
But this episode taught me a few things now that I’ve had a few days to think it through and talk it out to myself and a few other people that have worked with me, have seen me emcee and have engaged me (clients):
- I’ve NEVER FAILED in emceeing before. So, having this failure is a huge dent to what I’ve always enjoyed doing.
- Whatever I’ve always done, before the day itself is crucial. The research and preparation work. The need to sit down with the client to understand them or at least have as much information as possible on the programme and activities. THIS CANNOT BE LEFT OUT.
- On bigger occassions such as this, have your trusted assistant with you to help you mitigate and think through of other strategies that you could work on while you’re on stage delivering.
- Most importantly, if you don’t think it’s a good idea to do it. Then don’t. I’m not saying don’t try though.
Regardless, this was a good humbling experience for me and though it had me questioning my ability to emcee, I think I’m convinced that this was just one of those times where you just gotta fall and learn to pick yourself back up again.
Well, I’ve fallen down and now, I’m sitting down thinking about it. It just sucks because just like that, I lost two other emceeing jobs though I guess I shouldn’t be complaining because it might have just been worst for me.
I hope the one who took over me can do a better job though!
At the end of the day, 10 years of emceeing is clearly not good enough. Time to get back out there and learn more.
At least I’ve got this costume to hide behind for a while now when I’m on stage.