How To Deliver A Speech Like Dr Chee Soon Juan

By now many would have seen or heard of the great speech delivered by Dr Chee Soon Juan from the Singapore Democratic Party.

The speech was his first in 15 years as he was barred from contesting in the previous two elections due to disqualification.

And boy did he make up for that 15 years in 25 minutes.

Power of Speech

The late Steve Jobs’ 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University has been viewed close to 8 million times on YouTube.

The speech is as powerful for its message–stay hungry, stay foolish–as it is for its structure and delivery. “Today I want to tell you three stories from my life,” he said. “That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.” And with that, viewers are hooked.

With that, emotions were stirred and mindsets shifted.

According to neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, decisions are made base on emotion and seldom on logic. That is why great orators will focus on the power of speech to bring their message across and convince the entire room on their cause.

History has shown us the supremacy a great speech has over the support of people. From Sir Winston Churchill to Barack Obama, each of them has the gift of the gab to mobilize millions of people.

But more than a natural talent, it takes specific planning and story-boarding to make the speech a well-rounded one.

Delivering That Killer Speech

Having given keynotes, speeches and participated as a master of ceremonies, I know how hard it is to deliver a great speech.

I still remember my first back in 2008 at Singapore Book Fair. Foolishly with little preparation and a template deck, I did what I thought was good. Rattling off whatever is in my head and with no clear message or direction.

You would think the crowd couldn’t tell but they can. And they will tell you with their feet. In a short time I was left with an audience of 5 who probably just wanted a place to rest their legs.

Since then I had gone on to deliver others. Most of them with PowerPoints and some without.

And in many of these invitations, I get to witness other speakers. The kind that has the power to put you to sleep very quickly.

Dr Chee certainly didn’t. I have since gone on to watch his speech on 3rd of September 3 times and I highly encourage every public speaker to watch and learn from it.

5 Things He Did Right

Base on my dissection of Dr Chee’s speech, here is 5 key things that I picked up which I certainly believe could make your next speech as rousing as his:

1. Practice makes perfect

The technicality in his delivery is at Toastmaster’s best. Clear diction, stable and powerful voice and you don’t hear any uh or erms at all. Clearly he has done this many times over that the first address to Singaporeans in 15 years doesn’t faze him at all.

This is something I believe comes with experience. I was visibly shaking during my first speech and it was eventually to a crowd of 5. Today I could comfortably deliver to groups of 50 to 100 with ease.

Which is why many good speakers have some form of toastmaster background. That platform allow them to practice and practice, to hit that 10,000 hours and become a master in speech.

If you don’t you just gotta keep rehearsing it. Not just in front of mirrors but tape it down and review it as an audience to spot areas for improvements.

2. Keeping to a single message

It would have been tempting for him to cram in 15 years of material into that 25 minutes. That would have been a huge mistake.

According to Nick Morgan, the president of Public Words, Inc., and author of Trust Me: Four Steps to Authenticity and Charisma, speeches are an inefficient form of communication and people don’t remember much of what they hear, so focus and keep it simple.

Although he did go beyond a single message, the bulk of it is about the cost of living and that led to our unhappiness. He goes on to cite the symptoms that led to this problem and (of course) relating them to poorly conceived policies as the main driver.

3. Back your points with neutral studies

Saying what you think isn’t convincing enough. Everyone could say they are the best but it might not be believable. You need to back it up.

For example when he talked about the stressful lifestyle that came about with the higher cost of living, he cited a 2014 survey done by Credit Lyonnais Securities (Asia). The survey shows that almost half the household in Singapore has no savings.

And when the topic on happiness was touched upon, he cited the study done by Gallup that shows we are the least emotional country in the world and another one by Randstad that shows Singapore employees are the unhappiest in Asia Pacific.

In one of my keynote at MDIS, I mentioned why companies should dump yearly performance reviews and cited examples from companies who are leading this such as Autodesk and Kelly Services USA. That helped to make my point more credible and not something I thought of during a trip to the loo.

4. Make it personal

You do not need to bare your soul, but in almost every short speech there is an opportunity to connect on a personal level with your audience.

He did that really well with his ice cream anecdote – where he shared the price consideration he took even when buying a tub of ice cream.

The crowd could clearly relate to the similar situation and applauded loudly.

In May this year I shared with a room full of strangers on my failures as an entrepreneur. It was really personal but because it is, the crowd connected really well even though I fumbled with my presentation a little.

5. Paint a picture

At the halfway mark, he asked his audience to imagine things being status quo on 11th September after the vote counts.

That all their pains and unhappiness would carry on into the next 6 to 7 years.

This is a trick that many excellent speakers apply. You can see many Ted talk that begins with “Imagine a world…..” and these talks usually end up well.

It gets the audience involved and turn this speech into a journey that involves them as well, a journey that the audience has the power to participate in.


You can write the best script but a poor delivery will get you zero audience. Even billionaire Warren Buffett said his best investment has been the Dale Carnegie course he took on public speaking.

Locally I met with PME who lost their job because of their fear and resistance to presentation. And these are highly intelligent people whom you can entirely rely on.

But if you don’t know how to communicate convincingly and bring your point across, no amount of master degrees and PhDs can make it any better.

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