Monday, December 7, 2009

Project 10 Speech - The Three Essential Qualities of a Toastmaster

[With this speech I completed all the requirements for getting the Competent Communicator Award from the Toastmasters International]

“Say What You Did! Do What You Said”. This is my principle.
I can motivate you to do something only if I have done it myself.
Otherwise my speech will have no credibility. It will sound hollow and will fail to inspire you.
However there is one achievement of mine that I can talk about with some credibility.

In just a little over a year’s time I have managed to give all the 10 speeches from the CC manual.
This is faster than the time normally taken by most of the members in this club.
But there is no great rocket science involved in this achievement.
If I can do it, so can each one of you!

A Toastmasters club can help you to develop self-confidence and public speaking skills.
But there are three essential things that you and only you can bring in as a Toastmaster.
One – Desire to achieve.
Two – Hard work.
Three – Willingness to Learn

You all understand how important public speaking skills are for your career and personal growth.
You have all gathered here because you desire to improve upon it.
But how strong is your desire?

A man once asked Socrates, “What’s the secret to success”?
Socrates instead of replying caught hold of him by his neck, pushed his head under the water and held it there.
The man struggled and gasped for breath, but Socrates did not release him.
When the man almost died, Socrates pulled him out and asked “ What did you want the most when you were under water?” The man replied, “Air”.
Socrates then said, “Only if you want success as badly as you wanted the air, you will get it.”
A burning desire is the starting point of your journey towards success.
A small fire cannot give much heat. Likewise a weak desire cannot produce great results.
Therefore I said to myself, come what may I have to become a CC within one and half years.
Toastmasters, can you cultivate such a strong desire?
Yes, you can! And so you should!

Can a strong desire alone lead you to success? No! You must sweat it out.
You have to plan, prepare and practice the speeches to the best of your ability.
Remember that’s the promise you made when you joined Toastmasters.
In my experience with all our other engagements like office work, studies, and family commitments it is a real challenge to keep up this promise.
But as Epictetus, an ancient Greek philosopher said. “The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it”.
I scheduled the dates for all my 10 speeches well in advance and tried my best to meet the deadlines.
I spent most of my free time searching suitable topics and materials for my speeches.
I wrote and re-wrote each speech at least 5 times, improving upon it every time, till I was fully satisfied.
I used to record the speeches and listen to them while commuting to work.
The week before a speech I used to rehearse at least 2 times everyday before the mirror.
It was not easy. But if you want to become a CC there is no substitute for hard work. I worked hard to internalize the speech so that I could deliver it with ease.
Toastmasters, can you work hard too? Yes, you can! And so you should!

Your desire for success and your hard work must be supported by your willingness to learn.
There was a woodcutter who used to work very hard but could cut only 2 trees per day.
And then one day someone advised him to spend some time in sharpening the axe.
Following this advice the woodcutter was now able to cut 4 trees per day.
So sharpen your speaking skills by being open enough to learn from every Toastmaster, especially your mentors and speech evaluators.
There is no end to learning. However good you are, there is always a scope of improvement.
Even before joining Toastmasters I was quite experienced in public speaking. I had given presentations in my office; had presented papers in conferences; had conducted several training sessions; had delivered invited lectures in IIIT.
Though these were generally well appreciated by the audience, I felt that I still had a long way to go.
So I joined Toastmasters with a mindset of a beginner and with a sense of humility.
I got my speeches reviewed by my mentors and incorporated their feedback.
In fact I had prepared something else for my Project 10 speech.
But on my mentor’s advice I willingly changed the topic and started all over again.
I thankfully accepted the constructive criticisms from my speech evaluators and tried my best to improve on the areas suggested by them.
All these helped me a lot in preparing and delivering my speeches. It also helped me in the presentations at my work.
It was all because I had an attitude of a disciplined student and was willing to learn.
Toastmasters, can you commit to learn? Yes, you can! And so you should!

Let me conclude by reminding you that the Toastmasters program is a serious endeavor.
A Toastmaster club is actually an educational institution not a recreation club though it appears like one.
It provides its members an opportunity to develop oral communication skills, which will in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.
However these are the three expectations from each and every Toastmaster.
You must have a burning desire to become a CC at least!
You must put in hard work while planning, preparing and practicing your speech!
You must be willing to learn from your evaluators and mentors!

If you are already meeting these expectations, then what are you waiting for?
Arise, Awake and Deliver your next speech and the next and the next and Stop Not till you become a Distinguished Toastmaster!

[Date delivered: December 5 2009

  • To inspire the audience by appealing to noble motives and challenging the audience to achieve a higher level of beliefs or achievements.
  • Appeal to the audience's needs and emotions, using stories, anecdotes and quotes to add drama.
  • Avoid using notes.
Time: Eight to Ten Minutes
This has been the most difficult speech from topic selection perspective. In my association with Toastmasters for a over a year, I found that most of the speeches given by the Toastmasters tend to be very preachy. Well I don't have anything against it per se, but how many of us practice what we preach.
So till now I had avoided giving such preachy speeches as far as possible because as I said in the beginning of the speech , "Say What You Did ! Do What You Said" has always been my principle.
But this time there was no escape since the Project requirements demanded that I preach !So rather than trying to inspire the audience to do something lofty which I myself have not achieved it, I choose to speak on how I completed the 10 speeches from the CC manual and what qualities a Toastmaster needs to have to achieve this feat.
I was not sure given the trend of speeches being presented for Project 10, whether my simple and sincere speech will be viewed favorably by the evaluators. But on my mentor's advice and encouragement , I decided to go ahead with this.
The rhetoric element "Can You ....? Yes You Can ! And So You Should!" which I repeated several times during my course of the speech was inspired by Barrack Obama's "Yes We Can!" refrain. And I was pleasantly suprised that on one occasion when I posed the rhetoric question "Toastmasters, can you commit to work hard ?", I received a resounding "Yes!" from the audience even before I coud say "Yes You Can !"
On the whole I got good appreciation from the evaluator and the audience.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Project 9 Speech - Sponsor a Girl Child

[Showed the poster of a small girl saying "My Parent's Can't Send Me to School, Can You ?]

Her parents can't send her to school.

But You Can ! And I earnestly call upon you to do so.

Today I am going to talk about a project called "Nanhi Kali".
This project is doing a yeoman service in ensuring the education of underprivileged girl children.

In many parts of India, when a girl is born people mourn not celebrate! They consider them as huge economic burdens. They abandon them at birth. They marry them off as children. They don't see any point in educating them.

Thousands of girls are forced to dropout of schools because their families cannot afford it.
For every 10 girls who enroll in Std I, only 3 complete Std X.

Education for a girl child born in a poor family is still a pipe dream.
The Nanhi Kali project intends to change all this.
Nanhi Kali means "Little Buds". So friends here is your chance to transforms these budding girls to blooming flowers by joining hands with Nanhi Kali project.

How can you help?
Sponsor a girl child. Be her guardian.
Give her the assurance that no matter what trials her family faces, she will never have to drop out of school.
Your sponsorship will provide her with books, stationery and uniforms. It will also be used to train her teachers to create a conducive environment in her school.

You may ask what is the guarantee that my sponsorship money is well spent ?
It is a very valid question ! A project like this has to be run by trustworthy, effective and efficient people.
Nanhi Kali project is jointly managed by the Trusts created by two respected industrial houses - Mahindra & Mahindra and Dr. Reddy's Labs. These have the finest professionals in the development sector working with a sole objective to ensure that every girl child in the country can complete 10 years of formal quality education.

On what basis do they select the girls for sponsorship ?
The girls who are selected are normally the ones who are enrolled in government schools; they belong to the poorest sections of society; their parents are illiterate ; they are the eldest girl in the family and have many siblings; they come from communities where deplorable practices like female infanticide, early marriage etc. are prevalent.

Will you come to know about the girl you are sponsoring ?
Yes. You will receive a profile and a photograph of the child . You will also receive half yearly updates about her.
This is Lata, the child I sponsor and these are her progress reports which I have received over the years. [Showed the Photos and Reports].
It tells me about her academic performance, her extra-curricular activities, her health, her personality and her family conditions.

Ever since its inception in 1996, Nanhi Kali project has supported the education for more than 50,000 underprivileged children. But there is still a long way to go. So I sincerely urge each one of you to sponsor at least one child.

How much it will cost ? It costs Rs. 1800 per year. Just Rs 5, per day.
For you this could just mean forgoing a cup of coffee or walking an extra kilometer instead of using a transport.
But for this child [showed the poster again] this could mean an escape from being housebound; escape from being exploited as a maid or a child prostitute; escape from being married off early and possibly dying during childbirth!

Every moment, millions of underprivileged girl children are living with the hope that someday, some one would reach out to them with love to fulfill their dreams and aspirations.

And each one of you can be that special someone ? Support Nanhi Kali just at the price of a coffee a day !

[Distributed among the audience 1-page fact sheets about Nanhi Kali project which had details on how to send sponsorship money]

[ Date Delivered: Aug 29 2009


  • Persuade listeners to adopt your viewpoint or ideas or to take some action.
  • Appeal to the audience's interests.
  • Use logic and emotion to support your position.
  • Avoid using notes
Time: Five to Seven minutes

Readers of this blog post who would like to know more about Nanhi Kali Project may visit for more details.
Information on how to make donations to this project :
For Indian Residents :
For US Residents:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Project 8 Speech - Wisdom, Wisdom Everywhere

”Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink. " These are the famous lines of Samuel Coleridge. However today's speech is not about drinking water scarcity. It is about acquiring wisdom.
Water is a basic necessity for your survival. It adds to years to your life.
Wisdom is the next level of necessity. It will add life to your years.
You can acquire wisdom from your teachers, friends, enemies, parents, strangers, animals. Almost from anybody.
You just need to be open enough to receive it.
But don't think only living things can teach you something. You can find your Gurus even in common day-to-day things.
One such lesson I learnt from thus LCD projector. I have seen it giving technical problems to the speakers. So I decided not to give a power point presentation.
I have brought my props. So let's get started

<Here I took out a currency note and asked one of the Toastmasters in the audience>
This is a thousand -rupee currency note. Suppose I say I will give it to you. Will you take it? Yes you will.
What if I fold it and give it to you? Will you still take it? Yes you will.
What if crumple it and throw it in a dustbin? Will you still take it? Yes you will.
It doesn't matter what I do to this money. It is still a thousand- rupee currency note. It still has its value.
Similarly so often in your lives, you will be crumpled, trampled, ill-treated, insulted, and yet, despite all that you will be still worth the same. Don't let such things lower your self-esteem. Hold yourself high!
Having held your self-esteem you need to be live in peace with the world. And to live in peace with the world, what better object can there to teach you that be other than this humble pencil.

This pencil can write many correct answers, write interesting stories, and draw beautiful pictures. But can it do it all alone? No, it needs a hand to write.
Similarly you will be doing great things, but you must never forget that there is a hand guiding you. We call that hand God or a Supreme Power and for those who do not believe in God your own consciousness that always guides us.
Now and then, the pencil becomes blunt and can't write properly. So you must stop writing and sharpen it.
This makes the pencil suffer a little, but then, it becomes capable of writing again. So you, too, must learn to bear certain pains, sorrows and setbacks, because they will make you a better person.

What if you make a mistake while writing?
The pencil will always allow you to use an eraser to rub out any mistakes and correct it. This means you must be open to accept your mistakes and correct them.
Snack break is still some time away. But let us learn something from a very common foodstuff.

Bananas! Believe me Bananas can teach you the meaning of life.
I have three of them here - A Rotten one, A Raw one and a Ripe one.

Rotten banana - Its life is gone. It is past. You did not utilize to the full. Now it is now too late!

Raw banana – This is the future. It is not ready yet. To do certain things you need to wait till the moment is right.Learn to be patient where you need to be. They say "Sabr ka fal meetha hota hai". If you are patient, the results will be sweet.

And the Ripe Banana? This is the present moment. Make the best use of it. Just learn how to gobble it up without fear or guilt.

So friends don’t you agree that there is a profound wisdom underlying common objects.
"Wisdom, Wisdom, everywhere,
In everything under the sun;
Wisdom, wisdom, everywhere,
You just need to seek and learn. "
[Date delivered: July 18 2009
  • Select visual aids that are appropriate for your message and the audience
  • Use visual aids correctly with ease and confidence
Time: Five to Seven minutes

This speech is based on several short pieces of writings by Paulo Coelho in the book "Like the Flowing River". I have posted a review of this book in my other blog "Bookworm Reads". It is really a very good read.

The thousand-rupee currency note part was based on the article -
Who Would Like this Twenty-Dollar Bill ?
The pencil part was based on - The Story of the Pencil
The banana part was based on - Rome:Isabella returns from Nepal


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Project 7 Speech - Electronic Voting Machine

How many of you voted in the recent elections?
Conducting free and fair elections in our country, the world’s largest democracy is a Herculean task.
But once again we have done it successfully!
One of the major reasons for the success is the Electronic Voting Machines viz., EVMs.
EVMs did play a very major role in ensuring free and fair elections in a very effective and efficient manner.
Let me share with you some interesting facts to support my viewpoint.
For those of you who voted, these facts would reinforce your belief in our electoral system.
For those who did not vote, it would clarify some of your doubts about our electoral process and the EVMs.

Whenever a new technology is introduced, most of us are skeptical about it. So was the case with EVM too. There were lots of concerns about its reliability, integrity and security. Let me tell you how the process of electronic voting and the features of EVM addressed these concerns.

The first and foremost concern - Is EVM a tamper proof device?
Yes it is! I can neither change the software program embedded in its chip nor manipulate the data in its memory.

What if someone manages to pre-program the chip in one’s favor?
No! This won’t work because EVMs are allocated to polling stations in a random manner. As a programmer I will not know beforehand to which polling station a specific machine will be sent.

As a candidate how can I be sure that everything is OK with EVMs used in my constituency?
Before the polling begins the presiding officer will prove to the candidate’s agents, that the machine’s memory is blank and will also demonstrate the proper working of the device.

What if booth is captured while polling is going on? How can an EVM help here?
EVM as a device cannot eliminate booth capturing, but it minimizes the risk.
A vigilant polling officer, can press the "close" button on the EVM to prevent recording of any vote, if he sees intruders entering the polling station.
Assuming the booth gets captured, in the paper-based voting system the intruders will rapidly stamp hundreds of votes in their candidate’s favor within 5-10 minutes and run away before the police force arrives. But with EVM based voting, the machine will not allow them to cast more than 5 votes per minute. This means it will take 30 minutes to cast 150 votes. This gives police enough time to come and catch them.

Can EVMs work in a remote area where there is no power?
Absolutely! EVMs run on batteries and have no dependency on the power supply.
But what if the batteries get discharged?
The polled data in the EVM will remain intact even if the batteries get discharged fully!

You saw in these elections that all the results were declared in just half-a-day. I remember the days when it took at least 3 days for all the results to come in. It was the deployment of EVMs that drastically reduced the turn around time.

And now get ready for some more interesting facts and figures.
Do you know that more than 13 lakhs EVMs were deployed in the recent polls? Barring some minor isolated problems, they all worked successfully.
Do you know that the deployment of EVMs saved us nearly Rs 200 crores, as we avoided consuming nearly 10,000 tonnes of ballot paper! Consequently we have saved 2.4 lakh trees! Because each tonne of paper requires 24 trees to be cut down.

So EVMs helped our economy, environment and democracy!

Now for the best part. EVMs are indigenously designed and manufactured in India by BEL, Bangalore and ECIL, Hyderabad. Mr. S. Rangarajan, the electronics engineer in BEL, who headed the EVM development team, was also a very famous author of several Tamil science-fiction thrillers. He wrote under the pen name Sujatha. He once said, “EVM is one invention I shall be as proud of as my writings”.

We too must feel very proud of the way India has effectively and efficiently developed and deployed EVMs and demonstrated its commitment towards ensuring free and fair elections.

However feeling proud is not enough! EVMs on its own cannot ensure a successful democracy. We as responsible citizens of this country should make it a point to vote in each and every election! Let us all convince as many people we can to vote in every election and ensure a successful democracy.


[Date Delivered: June 13 2009


* Collect information about your topic from numerous sources
* Carefully support your points and opinions with specific facts, examples and illustrations gathered through research.

Time: Five to Seven Minutes

Most of the facts and figures presented in the speech are sourced from the website of Election Commision of India and internet archives of many leading newspapers of India.
An ad display in HDFC Bank requesting its customers to opt for receiving account statements through e-mail instead of paper statements, highlighted the fact that 24 trees are cut down to manufacture 1 tonne of paper. I used this information in this speech to highlight the fact that savings of 10,000 tonnes of ballot paper resulted in preventing 2.4 lakhs of trees from being cut down]

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Project 6 Speech - Michael's Story

Today I am going to tell you a story. Just a simple story about a young man called Michael.

Michael was madly in love with a beautiful young lady Michelle. Infatuated by her, he spent all his time trying to woo her. “Michelle, my jewel”, he would say, “I love you! Can’t you see, what you mean to me? I’ll always be true so please love me too”.

Michael’s persistence bore fruit. They got married. But friends, marriage is not a bed of roses. Both the husband and the wife must work hard to make it a success. Michael worked hard to earn money. Michelle too worked hard. Worked hard to blow up Michael’s hard earned money!

And then one day Michelle wanted a diamond ring, which poor Michael could not afford. He tried to talk her out of it. “Michelle, my jewel. Is this our real need now? Why don’t you wish for some simple pleasures in life which requires little money”? Michelle got angry and walked out of the room. Thus seeds of discord were now sown in their happy married life. Michelle started nagging Michael everyday for the diamond ring.

Then one day Michael lost patience. “True, I am not able to get you a diamond ring. But I have been a very considerate and loving husband. I am not demanding as a man, why don’t you love me for what I am. If you are stubborn, I am afraid we will fall apart. Life is very short and there is no time for fighting, my dear. Either we can either work it out or say good bye”.

Next day Michelle left Michael. Michael was heart-broken for he still loved Michelle very much. As time went by Michael lost interest in life. He started drinking to forget his sorrows. He was fired from his job. His debts skyrocketed .He was surrounded with troubles.

He called on his friend and unburdened his sorrows. “ Only the other day all my troubles seemed so far away, now it looks they are here to stay. Oh why she had to go? I said something wrong. Oh I long for those days when we were so happy! Help me if you can I am feeling down. And I do appreciate you being around. Help me get my feet back on the ground. Won’t you please help me?”

The friend took Michael to a life coach. The coach said, “You got no cash, got no style, got no girl to make you smile. But don’t worry be happy! Whenever you worry you come and meet me, I will make you happy”. But inspite of repeated visits to the coach Michael’s worries never ceased. But the coach became richer and happier at Michael’s expense.

Finally Michael decided to end his life. He was about to swallow an overdose of sleeping pills. At that moment he heard a sermon in the radio.
“Pray to God to grant you serenity to accept things you cannot change.
Pray that he grants you courage to change the things you can.
Ask him to teach you how to accept hardships as the pathway to peace.
Trust that he will make all things right for you.
If you surrender to his will you will be a happier man!”

This stopped Michael. He started praying everyday and tried his best to the teachings of the sermon. Within few months his life changed for better. He had given up alcohol; He had got back his job; He had paid off all his debts. And then he met a woman who was very understanding, considerate and was a great source of strength and support to him. He lived happily and peacefully with her for the rest of his life.
Friends, that woman was none other than Michelle who had realized her shortcomings and had turned over a new leaf.
[Date Delivered : May 16 2009
  • Use voice volume, pitch, rate and quality to reflect and add meaning and interest to your message.
  • Use pauses to enhance your message.
  • Use vocal variety smoothly and naturally.
Time : Five to Seven minutes

The story narrated above in this project speech is my first attempt at story writing. Story seems pretty mundane, a typical soap opera . But it gave me ample opportunity to exhibit a range of vocal variety expressing love, firmness, anger, sadness etc.
My creativity, if I may say so was in stringing together the lyrical content of several popular songs into the story. The dialogs in this speech were inspired by the songs of
The sermon heard by Michael in the radio is based on the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Project 5 Speech - Ragging : A Learning Experience

RAGGING! It is back in the news again. A medical student beaten to death. An engineering student tried to commit suicide! Does ragging always leads to such unfortunate incidents? Let me go back in time by 30 years and tell you how I was ragged and the lessons I learned from it.

As a 17 year-old I joined NITK Surathkal. I was very happy in getting admission to such a prestigious engineering college. But at the same time I was also worried about getting ragged. Then I thought that it was a part and parcel of college life. So I mentally prepared myself for the worst, while hoping for the best.

On the very first day I got a message from the second year students to come to their hostel. There was no question of disobeying their summons. I was nervous but then I thought "Chalo Jo Hoga Dekha Jaayega (let me face it come what may)" and put up a bold front and started walking towards their hostel. As I entered their hostel, I saw the students running away from me in all possible directions. I even saw one fellow rushing into the rest room and shutting himself up. I was wondering what was happening. It seems seeing my big built and the confident style of walking they thought I was a warden who was coming to catch them red-handed ragging the students. So the lesson here is - Appear confident outwardly even if inwardly you are feeling uneasy!

Now let me tell you about three specific instances when I got ragged by seniors. There is a common thread underlying these instances.

I was asked to climb on top of the almirah and jump down from there. I had never done such acrobatics in my life. I being fat and bulky was not at all confident of doing it. I made some half-hearted unsuccessful attempts and then pleaded with them, “Sir, I can’t do it. Please excuse me.” They gave me such a scolding that I was scared out of my wits. And that motivated me to immediately climb to the top and jump down successfully.

On another occasion I was asked to dance. I was feeling very shy and could only manage to do some hesitant steps. Seeing this the seniors yelled, "Hey Fatso! You better dance properly other wise....". At that moment something triggered off in me. I lost all my shyness and broke into what I called as elephant dance. Seeing this innovative dance that suited my bulk, everybody rolled with laughter and really enjoyed it.

In yet another incident I was shown a full-length poster of a stunningly beautiful young lady with a gorgeous figure and was asked “Suppose she walks into your room and you are all alone, what you will do?”. This question had been earlier asked to some other freshers also. One of them had said, “I will tell her to go out’, while another person had said, “I will go out”. When my turn came I gave a spontaneous reply "I will grab the opportunity!". They were really impressed by my quick and witty reply, said I was a smart alec and shook hands with me.

What is the common thread underlying these three incidents that I just talked about? Remember I was under pressure. The lesson here is - A right amount of pressure could bring out the hidden potential in you. You will be able to do things that you never realized that you were capable of.

But not everything was hunky dory. Towards the end of the ragging season, some seniors asked me to come over to their place. But I just ignored them. I had become overconfident and was sure they won’t do anything. My refusal hurt their ego. So they caught me and ragged me thoroughly. Though I was not harmed physically, by the time I was let-off I was really tired and drained out. So what is the takeaway here? Don’t become overconfident; you might get into trouble.

Ragging was a real learning experience for me. I learnt several lessons that were helpful to me in my career.
I learnt to be mentally prepared to face any difficulty, trouble or eventuality. If you are prepared for the worst, you will find that the things actually turn out to be better than what you had imagined.
I learnt that you have to appear confident even if you are not sure about something. This will help you in negotiations, sales presentations and if you are an entrepreneur impressing the venture capitalists. But I also learnt that one should avoid becoming overconfident.
I learnt that an optimum amount of stress brings out the best in you. If you set challenging goals for yourself you will be motivated to achieve them. Achieving such goals can boost your confidence. If you aim for stars, you will at least climb Mt. Everest!

Here I would like to make it very clear that I am totally against ragging which devastates the victim and causes death, suicide or mental imbalance. We were lucky in NITK, Surathkal. Our seniors could very well gauge the endurance limit of each fresher and they never exceeded that limit. So when I look back, I can say on the whole, ragging did benefit me.

Having heard me, what are your views on ragging? Remember that the bright sun has sunspots and the dark clouds have silver linings. Should we allow a lightweight ragging that can be a learning experience or should we rather throw out the baby with the bathwater by totally banning the practice of ragging?
[Date Delivered : April 4, 2009

  • Use stance, movement, gestures, facial expressions and eye contact to express your message and achieve your speech's purpose.
  • Make your body language smooth and natural
Time allotted : Five to Seven minutes

This speech gave me ample opportunity use body language to convey vividly the experience I was narrating. Here are the some of the portions in my speech where I effectively used the body language :

  • "...put up a bold front and started walking towards their hostel. As I entered their hostel, I saw the students running away from me in all possible directions. I even saw one fellow rushing into the rest room and shutting himself up"
  • "I made some half-hearted unsuccessful attempts and then pleaded with them..."
  • "I lost all my shyness and broke into what I called as elephant dance"
  • " the time I was let-off I was really tired and drained out."
  • "I will grab the opportunity!".
  • "If you aim for stars, you will at least climb Mt. Everest!"
  • "..should we rather throw out the baby with the bathwater by totally banning the practice of ragging?"

Monday, March 2, 2009

Project 4 Speech - Daffodils

“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high over vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;”
These lines of Wordsworth have motivated me to speak about Daffodils today. Till recently Daffodils were an arcane subject for me. Other than the fact that a Daffodil is a kind of flower, I hardly knew anything else about it. But I felt that, being a member of Daffodils Toastmasters club I definitely needed to learn more about Daffodil the flower. Today I will share with all of you what I learnt about daffodils.

So let me start with a story. Narcissus, a character in Greek mythology, was very much in love with himself. You might have heard about Narcissus syndrome. Once he saw his reflection in water. He stood their stunned, stupified and spellbound admiring at it for a long long time, till he passed away. It is said that later Daffodils bloomed on that spot. That’s the reason the botanical name for Daffodils is Narcissus.

Daffodils are delightful, gorgeous flowers with a sweet fragrance. They have inspired many poets to write about them. In Hindi they are called Nargis. In several old Hindi film songs, the beauty and charm of the heroines are compared to that of Nargis i.e. Daffodils. I can recollect a couple of them here - “Kisi Nargisi Nazar ko Dil Denge Hum” (I will loose my heart to someone wiho gazes like a Daffodil) and “Aye Nargis – E- Mastana, Bus Itni Shikayat Hai” (O Merry Daffodil, I have just one complaint!).

Daffodils were first grown in second century B.C., near Mediterranean Sea. Egyptians used them in funerals to honor their dead. Romans grew them in greenhouses to decorate their homes. By early nineteenth century around the time Wordsworth wrote the famous poem on Daffodils, they had become very popular in Europe, Britain and America. They were grown in almost in all the homes and meadows.

Daffodils are generally golden yellow in color. But some varieties may have different shades of yellows, golds and whites. Daffodil plants are about 2 feet tall with 5-inch blooms. They are poisonous, so they escape being eaten by pests. Their stems are thin and triangular in crossection. This shape enables them to twist and turn easily. So when the wind blows over them, it looks as if the daffodils are dancing. They present a spectacular sight, which inspired Wordsworth to write
“Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.”

Shelly wrote, “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”. After a dull cold winter, the first flowers to bloom and lead you into the colorful spring are Daffodils. In a way they are very similar to a Toastmasters club. Just like Daffodils, the Toastmasters club leads you from winter of nervousness and stage fright to the spring of public speaking excellence. There is one more similarity between Daffodils and Toastmasters clubs. A Daffodil flower looks like a loudspeaker of a vintage record player. It looks as if it is urging you to shed your inhibition and speak out your views, your thoughts and your experiences that are recorded within you. In my opinion the founders could not have chosen a better name for our club.

I have heard people say that they enjoy and have more fun in Daffodils Toastmasters club as compared to other clubs. So here is a tribute to the jovial spirit of all Daffodilites. These lines are again by Wordsworth, slightly modified by me:
“The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
I could not but be merry, [Original: A poet could not but be gay]
In such a jocund company:
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And Dances with the daffodils”
[Date Delivered: 28 February 2009

  • Select the right words and sentence structure to communicate your ideas clearly, accurately and vividly.
  • Use rhetorical devices to enhance and emphasize ideas.
  • Eliminate jargon and unnecessary words. Use correct grammar.
Time Allotted: Five to seven minutes.



Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Theme of the Day Speech - 1

Theme :
"If Liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they don't want to hear" - George Orwell

This quote is from the Preface of the George Orwell's well known book 'The Animal Farm". This book written in 1945 is a satire on Stalin's policies in USSR. Ironically the British government edited out this preface since it did not want to antagonize USSR , its ally in World War II.

All of us are fortunate to be born in India where most of the time we can exercise our freedom of speech without the fear of getting tortured or executed.
However Liberty does not mean character assassination, abusing a person, putting down a person. And I don't think Orwell meant it this way. I would interpret his statement as Liberty being a right to give a constructive feedback to people without any fear of victimisation.

Here in Toastmasters club each and every member, whether a new member or a long time member, young man or an elderly gentleman, an undergraduate student or a Ph.D, an unemployed person or a highly successful professional is treated equally and has a complete liberty to give the gift of feedback to any of its members. And fortunately we toastmasters really want to hear the feedback so that we can make progress towards being excellent communicators and leaders. We have well defined process to achieve this.

[This is an extract from my first speech as a Toastmaster of the Day. It was delivered on Jan 24 2009]

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Project 3 Speech : The Last Lecture

A lady used to introduce her young son to people like this. She would say, “This is my son. He is a doctor. But not the kind who helps people. He is a PhD”. But this young proved his mother wrong. Many years later he inspired thousands of people across the globe by helping them to handle their problems with courage and to enjoy their lives to it’s fullest. He achieved this by giving just one lecture, by writing just one book and in just one year’s time – the last year of his life. He was Prof. Randy Pausch of Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh. Today I am going to talk about his Last Lecture and try and get you interested enough to watch it on the Internet.

Many US universities ask their professors to deliver a so-called “Last Lecture”. Speakers need to imagine that it will be their last lecture before they die and must talk about what matters to them most. When Randy gave such a lecture he was already diagnosed with incurable pancreatic cancer and had been given a maximum of six months to live.

But the way he cheerfully delivered the lecture, you have to see it to believe it. He first announced as a matter of fact that he was dying of illness and he joked, “ We cannot change the card we are dealt, just how we play the hand. If I don’t seem as depressed or morose as I should be, sorry to disappoint you”. He then went on to talk about
· His childhood dreams and how he achieved them.
· People who helped him to achieve his dreams
· His values – honesty, integrity and gratitude.
· The lessons he learnt in his life.
The dying professor’s lecture was all about how to make most out of one’s life. It was delivered with such a terrific sense of humor, that it kept the audience laughing and applauding all along.

This lecture’s video was made available on the internet and over 10 million people have viewed it till date. It has made a profound impact on most of the viewers. Many of them said that after watching the lecture they stopped complaining about trivial matters, indulging in self-pity and feel motivated to take concrete actions to make things better for them. Many said that the lecture has prompted them to pay more attention to their families. Parents said that the lecture has made them realize the need for encouraging creativity in their children. For many terminally ill patients this lecture was a lesson in facing death with courage and making the best use of the remaining life.

When I watched this lecture I felt that apart from its inspirational value it could also be an excellent educational material for the Toastmasters. If you watch this lecture you will come to know
· How to communicate the scope of your speech
· How to speak enthusiastically with a sense of humor
· How to use body language and visual aids
· How to lend a personal touch to your speech
· How to conclude strongly and make a lasting impact on the audience

You will find this lecture very helpful in preparing and delivering your project speeches.
So I urge each one of you to visit the site and watch the video of the lecture, which is a free, download. I also suggest an educational session where we watch this video together and have an experienced Toastmaster comment on it. If you want to know more about Randy’s personal and professional life, I would strongly recommend reading his book “The Last Lecture”. It was a No.1 Best seller.

Randy passed away last July. He leaves behind his wife and 3 small kids. Randy said that his last lecture and his book were meant only for his kids. He wanted to leave a message for them to understand once they grew up. In his book’s introduction Randy says “Under the ruse of giving an academic lecture, I was trying to put myself in a bottle that would one day wash up on the beach for my children. If I were a painter, I would have painted for them. If I were a musician, I would have composed music. But I am a lecturer. So I lectured”.

Randy’ lecture might have meant only for his kids. But it also lent a healing touch of optimism and pragmatism for thousands of troubled souls. No wonder his close friends used to pull his leg and call him “St. Randy of Pittsburgh”!

[Date Delivered: 17 January 2009


  • Select a speech topic and determine its general and specific purposes
  • Organize the speech in a manner that best achieves those purposes
  • Ensure the beginning, body and conclusion reinforce the purposes
  • Project sincerity and conviction and control any nervousness you may feel
  • Strive not to use notes
Time Alloted: Five to Seven minutes]

Project 2 Speech : Mobile Phones - The Early Days

We take many things in our life for granted. One such thing is the mobile phone. It has become a part and parcel of our lives, almost an extension to our hands and ears. And yet we take it for granted! Perhaps if we could learn something about how it evolved we would appreciate it better. So today I am going to talk about the history of mobile phones.

By 1920s, telephones and radios had become popular means of communication. Telephones enabled one-to-one, two-way communication through electric wires. Radio communication was mainly one-to-many, one-way through wireless medium. Both the telephone and the radio were not portable enough to be carried around and could be used only from a fixed location.

But people wanted to listen to their favorite radio programs even when they were on move. This led to car radios and portable transistors. Now they wanted to use telephones also on the move. This was almost impossible using wired communication systems. You can’t just walk or drive around in the city with a telephone and a long wire trailing behind you. So they invented hand-held walkie-talkies that used radio technology. A conventional radio just had a receiver. But a walkie-talkie had both a transmitter and a receiver. This made one-to-one, two-way conversation possible while on move.

But the walkie-talkies could operate only within a range of 1.5 kms. For longer ranges it required a more powerful and hence bulkier transmitter to be carried around. Now this would have been fine for weightlifters but was certainly not for everyone else. Hence they installed these huge transmitters weighing nearly 40 kilograms in cars. This enabled car-to-car communication while on move. A single central radio tower in the city coordinated the communication up to a range of 80 kilometers.

And then someone had a bright idea to connect car phone to land phone calls. This was the first Mobile Telephone system.

However the problem was far from over. Firstly, how do you provide long-range connectivity to people walking around without expecting them to carry bulky mobile transmitters? Secondly, the mobile phone operators were authorized to use just around 400 channels. Therefore only 400 calls were possible at one time. This was certainly not enough for a big city.

Introduction of cellular concept solved both these problems. The city was divided into small cells of about an area of 25 square kilometers each. Instead of a single central tower for the entire city, each cell had its own base station. All the base stations in the city formed a wireless network to relay the calls to longer distances. So the mobile phone transmitters needed to be just powerful enough for its transmission to reach its nearest base station. This reduced the size of mobile phones and made them portable.

Cellular concept enabled reuse of channels. The available channels were allocated to the cells in such a manner that two adjacent cells did not have any channel in common. But non-adjacent cells could reuse the channels without any signal interference. This method enabled much more people to talk simultaneously.

This was the birth of first generation cell phones in early 1980s. Second-generation technologies like TDMA, CDMA increased the capacity of the cell phones to handle thousands of simultaneous calls.

You very well know what today’s cell phones are capable of. The next generation phones will have high quality audio /video content being transferred at high broadband speeds. We will have features like video chatting, mobile TV, high-definition video TV content, Digital Video Broadcasting. There is lot more to look forward to. As Sharukh Khan says in Om Shanti Om, “Picture abhi baaki hai mere dost!(Show is not over yet !)”
[Date Delivered : December 20, 2008

  • Select an appropriate outline which allows listeners to easily follow and understand your speech
  • Make your message clear, with supporting material directly contributing to that message
  • Use appropriate transitions when moving from one idea to another
  • Create a strong opening and conclusion
Time Alloted : Five to Seven minutes]

Project 1 Speech - Cherished Childhood Moments

William Shakespeare wrote - “All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances;” I made my entry 45 years ago. My grandma was very happy and excited. She barged into her elder brother’s room and conveyed the good news with all enthusiasm. My grand uncle was deeply engrossed in repairing his radio set. He was a slightly capricious old man. Annoyed at being disturbed he muttered “ That is the only thing which is lacking!” He then suddenly picked up the radio set and smashed it on the ground. So, the news of my birth was literally breaking news!

I was a chubby and healthy baby. A well-known baby food company wanted me to model for their product. But my superstitious grandma refused fearing an evil eye. So my modeling career was aborted and I missed the chance of being well known throughout India as Glaxo baby. Many years later, I did get a chance again and I grabbed it. I did modeling for 5 years. And I was pretty successful at it. I can see some disbelieving looks among you. Well actually I was doing mathematical modeling, which got me a PhD from IIT-Madras.

As a kid I was dangerously naughty. Once my uncle gave me a cricket bat with high hopes that I will become another Nawab of Pataudi, India’s hottest cricket star in those days. Today he is probably better known as Saif Ali Khan’s father. I went out to play, when I saw our cook who was sitting down and grinding masalas. I gave her a nice hard whack on her head with the bat. I may have been around 3 years that time but I vaguely remember that poor old lady having ice packs on her head and emitting painful groans at regular intervals. The law of karma made me pay for this act 15 years later. I was playing cricket in my college, NITK-Surathkal. I was batting. I received a bouncer. The ball avoided my bat and preferred to meet my spectacles instead. I got a deep cut below my eye. That ended my cricketing days.

I grew up in Laloo Prasad Yadav’s state – Bihar! So I picked up Hindi very naturally and was better it than my mother tongue, Tamil. But I was not at all fluent in English. Once I met a very distinguished old Englishman. He was a former captain of England cricket team. He was Sir Leonard Hutton. He signed my autograph book and asked me something. I just blinked. I could not follow his accent at all. I wanted him to repeat the question. I said, “Hum samjhe nahin. Phir se boliye! “(I don’t understand. Could you please repeat?). And now it was Sir Leonard who blinked. After this incident my dad put me to a better school to improve my English.

After finishing my school, I did B.E. from NITK-Surathkal and followed it up with an M.Tech from IIT-Madras. In 1986, I began my career with TVS-Motor Company as an R&D Engineer.

During 20 years of my career, I have made several technical presentations; presented papers in conferences; conducted training sessions. But I know that I have a long way to go as a speaker. And that’s why I have joined Toastmasters Club to improve my speaking skills and help others to do the same. So let us all work together, learn from each other and become excellent speakers.
[This is the first prepared speech (of 4 to 6 minutes duration) also called Ice Breaker speech which new members of a toast master's club delivers. It is generally about introducing themselves. The objective of the speech is to - 1) Begin speaking before an audience; 2) To discover speaking skills you already have and skills that need some attention.
I delivered this speech on November 9, 2008]