'Spontaneity a two-edged sword'

A Valedictorian's speech has to be vetted by his school before the ceremony.

But problems arise when valedictorians like Mr Darren Woo do not stick closely to their script.

Mr Gary Guwe, managing director of Speak! Ventures, thinks Mr Woo's attempt at spontaneity backfired.

"I can appreciate his attempts at being candid, spontaneous and even trying to be different.

"But spontaneity is a two-edged sword. If used well, it can paint a picture of sincerity and personality for the speaker. However, it can also result in disastrous consequences when the intended message is lost," he said.

Mr Guwe, a public speaking coach for the past eight years, added: "When it comes to public speaking, it's not the speakers' intention that counts, but how the audience receives the message that matters."


Nonetheless, last year's School of Humanities and Social Science valedictorian Velda Khoo, 25, a linguistics and multilingual studies major, highlighted the challenges of writing a speech that would resonate with the whole cohort.

"Although we are a school, we all study different things. It was a lot of work thinking about how I was going to speak for everyone graduating, as I didn't know about psychology or sociology or Chinese. So I decided I will speak from my own experience and I thought people would reflect on their own."

Ms Jackeline Carter, who runs J Carter Centre for Public Speaking, said future valedictorians should not ad-lib, especially if they are not experienced public speakers.

"It's a great honour to be a valedictorian. You shouldn't be taking liberties and embarrassing yourself, your peers and your university...

"It's a mistake that you make in the innocence of youth, but you'll have to live with it forever."

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