World Champion of Public Speaking 2014: Dananjaya Hettiarachchi (Video and Transcript)

Grace: I thought this was a fantastic speech, so I’m sharing it with you! 😀 Make sure you watch the video…

‘I See Something’

“You and I are not very different from this flower. Just like this flower is unique, you are unique. All of us have something special that makes us as beautiful. Do you know what makes you special?

Now the answer to that can be a little difficult to find, because sometimes life has a cruel way of picking out your petals, breaking you in two and throwing you into the trash. Now when you’re broken, it’s very difficult to feel special.

Mr Contest Chair, my fellow flowers, I can remember the first time I broke. I was seventeen years old. I had already flunked high school and managed to get myself arrested. Now, I wasn’t afraid of the cops, but there was one person I was very afraid of, and that was my mama. Raise your hand if you had an emotional mother. Let me see. Put them all together, you get my mama. I can hear her scream outside the police station. Even the cops were afraid. She came up to me, held the iron bars, looked into my eyes and I saw a tear coming down her face.

Now I’ve seen my mama crying before, but mothers cry three types of tear: tears of joy, tears of sorrow and tears of shame. And when a son sees a mother cry tears of shame, that’s a life-changing moment. She looked at me and said “Son, I want you to be a better man”. That night when I drove home, my dad was waiting for me at home.

Now my dad is a cool dad. Raise your hand if you have a cool dad. Put them all together, you get my dad. My dad came up to me and said “Son, it’s okay. You flunked your exams. You already got arrested. That’s fine. You get that from your mother’s side. I want you to start working immediately”. And I said, “Okay”.

So my dad took me to meet one of his friends called Sam. Now, Sam was an accountant who had an accounting firm and had generously decided to make me his personal assistant and there he was. He looked like a teddy bear, but this man was special.

I looked at him and he looked at me and then he said the most amazing thing. He said “Son, I see something in you, but I don’t know what it is. If you decide to work with me, I can help you find that something”. And I was like, wow, that’s the first time in my whole life somebody has ever told they see something in me and I started working for Sam. And everyday after work he used to tell me stories about the world, about history, about culture, about philosophy and it was much more interesting than what I learned in school. And I discovered I can dream and I started dreaming, ladies and gentlemen. After one year I went back into high school, completed my exams and went into college.

After successfully completing college, I found a great girl, but not a job. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Have you ever had that problem? And when you’re lost it’s difficult to feel special. So I went back to my cool dad and I said “Dad, I feel lost”. He said “You are like your mother.” So my dad introduced me to this strange club that had a strange name, with strange people… talking.

On the first meeting they told me to do something called a table topic. I aced it! But while I was speaking I see a strange man seated in the back row; humble, simple, the unfailing quality of kindness in his eyes. As soon I finished he walked up to me, looked me dead straight in the eye and said, “Son, I see something in you, but I don’t know what it is. If you come here twice a month maybe we can find that something.”

And ladies and gentlemen, I discovered I could speak and I love speaking and that led me to become a teacher. I know what it’s like to not have enough money in your bank account. I know what it’s like to worry when the bills start coming in. And sometimes in the middle of the night I wake up my beautiful wife and ask her “Honey, why did you marry me?” She says, “I saw something in you, but I still don’t know what it is!”

Ladies and gentlemen, today I’m a dreamer, I’m a speaker and I learned the unfailing quality of unconditional love from my wife.

I was broken and I’ve been broken, lost and broke many times in my life, but the people in my life were able to reach into the trash can and make me whole again. If it was up to me, I would have never been able to do it. And this is why if you have great people in your life, no matter how broke, how lost or how broken you become they can piece you back again.

Ladies and gentleman, when I look at you I see something in you, but I don’t know what it is? Over to you.”

Interview with Ramesh Muthusamy

Ramesh Muthusamy

Head of Corporate Training, Adam Khoo Learning Technologies Group


1) Why did you choose this profession and what do you love most about your job?

To explain how I came into this profession I think it would be good to start at the very beginning. The first major influence was cartoons. When I was a chubby young kid I relished watching cartoons. ALL of THEM. Hardly missed any of them, even those which were a bit boring (hence the chubby as well). I memorised the entire weeks’ worth of cartoon timings and was diligent in not missing any of the good ones like He-Man, Gummy Bears  and Transformers. After watching them I would role-play the characters either by myself or with my neighbors. I imitate the accents and their phrasing to great detail. Soon it became easy for me to rattle off paragraphs of words with great ease.

The second major influence was school. In school I volunteered at every opportunity to present and also took part in an insane number of speaking competitions, debates and drama. Eventually, I honed my sensibilities for the spoken English language and communication as a whole. I also often had the opportunities to share with my peers and juniors ideas which  I do believe where the imparting of knowledge came in to play.

Despite all of this, I never consciously chose this profession. It was when I was in the States about to begin my studies and my family went into financial troubles, I came back to Singapore and started off as a debates coach in a secondary school. One thing led to another and poof! I am now a Professional Speaker and Faciliatator.

I love the discovery part of my work. I have met over 150 organisations across so many industries that I am continually learning and discovering new things about the work around me.
2) What is your mission in Life?
To drive a Ferrari. And to contribute to the human consciousness.  (I am not joking about the ferrari)

3) You often seem so happy and relaxed. How do you manage stress?

Haha… Oh you cannot be further from the truth. Guess you always catch me in the high moments.
But the secret is SLEEP, EXERCISE, MUSIC, FRIENDS, ARTS,  and FOOD!!

4) As a trainer, how do you help employees reignite their passion for their jobs?

Often I ask them what they are looking for? Their priorities and personal vision in Life. As I guide them through a series of clarification exercises they usually make a reconnection within themselves which is often what I notice allows their passion to shine through. When they see the deeper meaning in what they do they will find the passion.

5) You’ve done a lot of debating and speaking. What is one message you’d like to share with everyone?

SILENCE. Pausing is the key to power. I lost in the 2006 World Championships primarily because I was not confident in pausing. I was afraid of the silence. Now I use it more than ever….. Before.

Grace says: Ramesh is easily one of the most well-liked trainers in AKLTG. He makes me and my colleagues laugh… A LOT. And no, I have not seen him looking stressed before. 😀 And he’s always so busy with training assignments (I waited close to a month to get this interview), I think it’ll not be long before he buys a Ferrari. I wanna ride in it too!!!


Interview with Jim Key

(photo from

Jim Key

2003 World Champion of Public Speaking

1) Why did you choose to become a keynote speaker and what do you love most about what you do?

Many years ago, I saw a couple of other well known keynote speakers who had a very strong, positive impact on the audience.  I don’t just mean during the time that they were speaking; I was able to see how the attendees were continually implementing the principles they’d heard from those speakers.  It was at that point, that I knew I wanted to be a keynote speaker.  The think I love most about it is being able to have a positive, lasting, and meaningful impact in the lives of my audience members.
2) Your 2003 winning speech’s key message is that it’s never too late to follow your dreams. What are some of the dreams you are currently pursuing? Have there been dreams that you’ve had to abandon by choice or circumstance?

Have there been dreams I’ve had to abandon?  Hasn’t everyone?  There is one that readily comes to mind from my childhood, when I dreamed of being a professional basketball player in the NBA.  I only lacked one thing: sufficient ability. 🙂  Seriously, I did play during high school, but I had to work full time jobs while attending university.  Because of that, was not able to continue playing.  Aside from that particular dream, I’ve had some other dreams that I’ve not been able to realize.  Those were painful and personal, and will remain private.

As to what dreams I’m currently pursuing, some are business related, and some are personal.  My personal ones involve seeing my children continuing to mature as adults, and to one day becoming a grandfather.  I’m really looking forward to the day those dreams are realized!  Regarding my business dreams, I am working towards building a global speaking and consulting business, and to helping people world-wide reach higher levels of personal and professional excellence.
3) What is your mission in Life?

This may sound a bit cliche, but my two missions are; 1) to be a good husband and father, and love my family without restraint, and 2) to leave the world a better place than it currently is.
4) What are some of the key messages that you have included in your speeches time and again?

When I give speeches, I have the opportunity to expound more on these key messages, but I’d have to say that the three key messages that I frequently include in my speeches are these:

1.  Excellence doesn’t happen by accident; it must be specifically targeted and worked towards.
2.  If you want to achieve anything of significance, you must be willing to work and sacrifice.  But…it’s worth it!
3.  The best (and proper) use of our authority as speakers and leaders can be summarized in one word:  serve.

5) You identify yourself as an optimist, besides being a husband, a father, and the 2003 World Champion of Public Speaking. How do you stay optimistic in trying times?

We are definitely living in trying times.  I would say that there are two things that help me stay optimistic.  First, I recognize that today’s trying times are based on today’s circumstances.  I have to continually remind myself that those may not be tomorrow’s circumstances.  If we look at history, we can see some very dark periods of time, but those dark times did not last forever.  People changed the circumstances of their day, and thereby created a better tomorrow for themselves.  I look for ways to change my circumstances for the better.  If I can do that, I can create a better tomorrow for myself.  That constant understanding helps me to be optimistic.

Secondly, and just as importantly, is that I am a person of faith.  My sense of happiness and optimism have its deepest roots there.

Grace says: I got to know more about Jim only via Facebook and have not heard him speak before. I really like his winning speech, though, and you can read it here:

A big “Thank You!” to Jim for so graciously agreeing to this interview.


Interview with Dr Barry Tan

Dr Barry Tan

1) Why did you choose this profession and what do you love most about your job?

It was an unplanned route actually. After my A level examinations, I applied for a few courses from local and overseas universities. At the same time I applied for several scholarships as well.

One fine day in June I received news that I have been awarded a scholarship and I could go to one of the universities in London for further studies. At the same time, NUS sent their acceptance letter for me to study medicine. It was a tough decision initially but I chose to stay in Singapore to study as I didn’t want to stay away from my family, and that was how it started!

I’m working in the department of accident and emergency in one of the hospitals in Singapore currently as a medical officer. The thing I love best about my job is to be able to solve patient’s acute medical issues! It’s rewarding to see patients feeling better after their visit to the hospital!

2) What is one memorable experience you have had with helping a patient?

I guess it has to be that one fine day in October 2009 when I was still a house officer (houseman). I had this elderly lady who fell and landed in hospital. Being the houseman in-charge of the ward which she was in, my daily task was to retrieve blood samples from her for testing. Slowly we got acquainted and she got used to me coming every morning with the blood-taking tray in my hands. On the last day before she got discharged, she actually got something for me which gave me a surprise.  (Grace says: More about the surprise in another post)

3) What is your mission in Life?

To excel and be the best in what I do! It hasn’t changed since my junior college days!

4) How do you create a work-life balance for yourself?

I started early, during my days as a university undergraduate. I still remember being involved heavily as a toastmaster, taking up various leadership roles from 2006 onwards. It was tough initially, to struggle both studies and the various committments as a leader in toastmasters and that involved late nights and early mornings! Sleeping time was always compromised but I survived those days!

Now as a full-time working professional, much more time has to be devoted to work, and of course whatever time I have will be left for family members, girlfriend, and my committments in toastmasters and grassroots work! I have got only 24 hours a day, working hours are a must, and so the only time I can cut down will be sleeping time! But of course, it’s important not to bite off more than you can chew, and hence now as I am having a full-time job, I have to cut down on the time I take to sleep and be involved in my committments outside of work, and I’m still learning to create the perfect balance!


5) Would you agree that women face more challenges in this profession? Is Life as a doctor really easier for male doctors?

I guess it all boils down to time management! =)

Grace says: I got to know Barry through Toastmasters and noticed he was quite a perfectionist. The kind of person you’d like your doctor to be, I’m sure. What most people immediately noticed about him was the bowtie he always wore. (I’m not sure if he still wears one! Haha!) I’m still in awe of how he can juggle work, dating, family, AND Toastmasters. That’s one skill I need to learn! 😀