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Stage fright and overcoming the same

Stage frightHow often do we come across people who may possess a wealth of knowledge but when it comes to sharing that same knowledge from a dais, they are petrified? We all have experienced a situation when we know the speech by rote, know the content too but when we stand up on stage in front of people, we just blank out.

Welcome to the frightful world of stage fear. No I don’t intend to scare anyone but it is true. Most of us if not all are mortally scared of standing on the stage and talking to a group.

How can we overcome this fear? As a Toastmaster, I know there is a platform to speak but then just speaking is not the be all and end all so we need to present. That is where we need presentation skills. We need to make an everlasting impact on the audience. We need to learn more than just how to talk. We ought to know what to talk, how to make it more interesting and also how to engage the audience. Practise, practise and practise. Every opportunity you have grab it with both hands. Learn from specialists who can teach you more than just speaking.

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My P6 Speech at Toastmasters – Projects from the Incompetent Husband’s manual

Woman Shouting with Bullhorn --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis
Woman Shouting with Bullhorn — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

The aims for this speech project ie P6 are to use your voice to complement your message by enhancing your:

  • pace
  • pitch
  • power and
  • pauses.

Your voice is the best tool in your delivery toolbox. You must learn to use it effectively to enhance your presentation.

Also just for the information of the uninitiated, at Toastmasters, we have 2 manuals to start with the Competent Communicator Manual and the Competent Leadership Manual. The speech title was a take off on those manuals.

God created the earth and rested. He created man and rested. But ever since He created woman, neither He nor man have rested.

Toastmaster of the Day, Fellow Toastmasters and guests, like with all married men, my wife too has a laundry list of my shortcomings. But I will sound you on the pitfalls of married life after joining Toastmasters.

Fast forward 20 years of marriage. The year 2013 is when I meet someone by the name of Suneel Agarwal and we hit it off. I enter BTM with him as a guest and become a member. The icebreaker is delivered on January 25, 2014 – How can I forget that day? The only meeting attended by her Highness, Pauravi Kamdar. She is all smiles in the room and so I think I have a platform that meets her approval. As we get into the car, I ask her “What do you make of it?”

“Ice breaker? It’s a head breaker. Looks like a clan of people who have nothing better to do but stand there and talk to each other. You think I will waste my time at this Loudspeaker?”

Kavya interjects “Mom it is Toastmasters and not Loudspeaker”

“Kavya, you keep out of this. They all mean the same. You stand there and talk or you go to Shivaji Park and cry yourself hoarse – no one cares. Atleast not me.”

Gradually, we start having trainings, Leadership Conclaves, contests on Sundays in one remooooooote corner of the world, Thaaaaane.

“You said it was alternate Saturdays. Now you have started going on Sundays too. I am glad you go cycling on Sundays even if you return home and snore away till 5 in the evening. Now this? You say you will return by 4 and knowing you, will sleep till 7. Why do I get a feeling that you have washed your hands off teaching Kavya? If her grades suffer, I am going to shut off this loudspeaker. And leave aside Kavya, what about me? You just ignore me and I will not take it lying down. I have forgotten what a movie hall looks like ever since you have joined this Loudspeaker.”

“Honey, Bajrangi Bhaijaan is being released this week. When would you like to go watch it?” White flag waved.

On Valentine’s Day this year, I find other ways of romancing – I am preparing for my P5. As usual, Kavya is my timer and my wife, the eternal Arnab Goswami

“You want her to sit with you and listen to your Loudspeaker? When is she going to study? In all these years have you ever thought of me? This morning, our neighbour comes over and flaunts the beautiful necklace her husband gave her. And me? I don’t even have a rose to show her.”

“But darling, I am taking you out for a nice dinner tonight.”

“Nice Dinner – my foot. You are taking me for the Club night at Matunga Gymkhana and I jolly well know it is a free event for members and their kids. You think I am so naive?”

I let the argument blow over.

With a spring in my step, I return home “Kavya, I was adjudged the best speaker”

“Yay” High fives, hugs and kisses follow while a pair of roving eyes is staring at me as I feign ignorance. The lights go off and the floodgates open like the swollen Bhakra Nangal dam, “Why is it that all your speeches revolve around Kavya, your sister, your parents? Don’t I exist in your life?”

“Sorry Honey. I promise my next speech will be all about you and only you.” My P6 topic is decided.

The level of a Toastmasters commitment reaches a new peak with Oration2015. Meeting Suneel and Atul is a given over weekends. Foodies that we are, whether we work or not, binge we will. One evening on opening the door –

“Don’t they have a wife and family? Every Saturday you have something planned with them. Is this a loudspeaker or a loud eater? Have you bothered to look at yourself in the mirror lately? The bulge is worse than before?” Before I can digest the barrage, I hear “Tomorrow you will take Kavya and me out for a nice dinner.”

Thank God, we’ve smoked the peace pipe.

To all the unmarried Toastmasters out there, never try to understand your wife. No man ever has, no man ever will.

To all the married ones, I fully sympathise with you. It is a herculean task for us to come here braving the wife at home. The rains, traffic, table topics, grammarian’s role – all pale in comparison.

To the ladies out there, have mercy on us men. We are running out of white flags but still will wave whatever is left of them ALWAYS. That is a Toastmasters commitment.

And yes…. I ended up being voted as the Best Speaker of the Day too:-)

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Reblog: Break the Rules

Break The RulesMy post in Toastmasters District 41 blog, Crosstalk.

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90 Tips to help you in your Public Speaking Endeavours

Mind you, these tips can’t replace the Toastmasters experience and learning but could be of help to you in your speaking journey:

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Toastmasters P5 – All shook up

My P5 the 5th speech project from the Toastmasters Competent Communicator Manual. The objectives of P5 were to complement your message with your body during delivery. Specifically, be aware of:

  • posture
  • body movement
  • facial expressions
  • eye contact

Thanks to Kavya I could bring in Lungi Dance into this speech and I enacted it as well. The icing on the cake was when I was selected as the Best Speaker of the Day. God knows what I would do without you, Kavya. Here is the text of my speech.

Kavya completed 10 on November 29, 2014. During the four months in the run up to this date, she’d return home from the numerous birthday parties and would talk about the theme they had be it Snow White or Pirates etc. And I’d think “She is only describing the good time she had there”. Lightning struck me in early November when she asked me “What is the theme you plan for my birthday party?” I was all at sea. As a child, my parents decided on birthday parties but they too would never have thought of themes. Cutting a cake was the only thing I knew aside of inviting some friends. Wake up and smell the coffee, Manish! Times have changed

Toastmaster of the Day, fellow toastmasters and guests, enjoy the time capsule ride.

“If music be the food of love, play on” said William Shakespeare. Gone are the days when we would strain our ears to listen to Ameen Sayani on Radio Ceylon for his Binaca Geet Mala on short wave. As a child I used to think that Ameen Sayani was a Sri Lankan who would play Indian music sitting there. Now we have a plethora of FM stations and Kavya having already met Malishka, insists on listening to 93.5 RedFM only. I for one prefer those soulful melodies sung by my favourite, Kishore Kumar composed by stalwarts like Panchamda and the likes with meaningful lyrics. Today when Kavya and my nephews sing “Char bottle vodka”, I just want to hang my head in shame.

Dance then was a form of art what with the classical ones teaching you movements of fingers not just the hands. Also expressions using the eyes! Now we have Shiamak Davar and other styles which honestly are nothing more than aerobic exercises put to rhythm. But wait! How could I ever forget we also have dances now like Lungi dance which make absolutely no sense but are extremely popular!

Telephones – This generation has never experienced a phone with a rotary dial but I do hope you have noticed the black contraption they show in those antique Hindi films. Yes I grew up with them. I am sure you did not know that there was no direct dialing facility then. You had to book trunk calls, pay double for urgent calls and pay 8 times for lightning calls. During the rains, we experienced something which was called delayed dial tone. All you had to do is pick up the phone and hold on for atleast 2 minutes while saying a silent prayer just to get a dial tone.

And now you have mobile phones. No dial tones, no delays whatsoever and no costs to worry about. Kavya thinks talking to my sister on the phone is so downmarket. She believes only in using FaceTime with my sister so that she can flaunt a new dress, new shoes, trinkets etc. and then also some new dance step she learnt from an upcoming Bollywood movie.

Letters – One thing I would wish returns for the good of all. I have pen friends since 1982 and am in touch regularly with them. We used to write letters and I distinctly remember my longest letter was 22 pages to my friend in Australia. She responded back to me using an audio cassette. Aside of letters, we exchanged currency notes, stamps, coins for our collections and built some weird hobbies. I, for one, collected and still collect postcards, knives, forks, spoons from airlines. That was before 9/11 happened. Now of course we have only plastic knives and forks. My French friend still collects newspapers from different countries. Another friend collects wrappers of different kinds of cheese.

Kavya I doubt would ever realise the joy of letter writing. Her generation is completely electronic what with e mail, Whatsapp etc. I know what is there for homework even before she has reached home as enthusiastic parents post it immediately on the Whatsapp group. Their birthday parties are organised on Whatsapp complete with invitations. Parents beam pictures and videos on the Whatsapp group from the party. As if someone would hang you if you posted the pictures after the party.

Friends, we are living in this weird wired world and the new generation is fast adapting to technology. Children are far more intelligent than we were at that age. Gone are the days when we could say, “Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone.” High time we changed ourselves or our children will move on and we will be left stranded singing I am all shook up, hmm hmm hmm…..

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P4 at Toastmasters – Fasten your seat belt

Flight of fantasyDelivered my P4 on Saturday, November 8, 2014 at BTM. Objectives of P4 are

  • 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: Five to seven minutes

Here is the transcript of my speech. Cruising at 35000 feet, I was reminded of my first flight some 40 years ago. I was all excited but was nervously clinging to my Dad’s finger. To me it was like Neil Armstrong’s mission to the moon.

Toastmaster of the Day, Fellow Toastmasters and guests, welcome aboard my flight full of experiences.

I snapped out of my day dreaming sequence with the pilot rattling off something and I recollected how air travel has changed over the last 40 years from being experiential and exceptional then to becoming a chore now.

To start with the check in – My incline and recline are always towards emergency … the emergency exit seat to accommodate my long legs and jelly belly. But these days, while the staff has become prettier, they ignore my endearing smile and expect me to pay through the nose for that necessity. The thoroughbred Gujju that I am, it goes against the grain to pay for what is rightfully mine. I therefore quietly take an aisle seat nearest to the emergency exit. I park myself into the vacant seat as soon as the doors are shut. Someday let these airlines be more considerate towards challenged people like me.

“Fasten your seat belts please.” reads the sign even before you get into the seat. As our eyes size up the crew, they are confirming all seat belts are fastened along with the head count. The routine drill of demonstrations start after that. And the first thing they teach us is fastening the seat belt! Wondering if they checked everyone was properly fastened or was it some imagination? After take-off the announcement starts – the captain has switched off the seat belt sign. Even before this can get half way, two dozen hands go up on the call bell button. Why? Water! That announcement always beckons people to drink like thirsty camels from the desert! Someday we’ll have automatic seat belts so that all are snugly set into the seats. And just like the tubes and oxygen masks, water would flow like a free and flowing river!

Sniff sniff ….  Tempting aromas waft from the end of the aircraft – It is now time for me to flex my muscles. The tray table can only rest on my little stomach at an incline. I puff my chest like Salman Khan pumping his 6 packs, suck the stomach in hard and hope that I can have the tray table at 180 degrees. Beads of sweat roll down my neck before I can achieve my goal. I now have earned myself a meal. I polish off the entire serving complete with the bread crumbs. With every passing day, the spread has become thinner and my appetite? Well less said the better. Oh these low cost airlines. Someday we will have a free all you can eat buffet mid-air.

Just as I start fidgeting, fretting, fuming I hear the captain’s voice “Crew to your stations for landing” and around that time I also hear phones receiving messages. Didn’t they ask you to switch off those noise making devices? VP Membership, they are perfect for BTM and we meet at a walking distance from Mumbai airport. Let’s go grab them.

The landing is smooth as silk but as the plane is taxi-ing on the runway (MIND YOU the runway and not the parking bay), the sounds of seat belts being unfastened and cell phones ringing are audible. Everyone makes a beeline for the bus and each one wants to stand closest to the door. Getting into the bus doesn’t guarantee you will get out first at the terminal or does it? Finally we arrive at the terminal. Like a child praying to Santa, every time I pray “Please let my luggage be the first to come out”. My prayers have so far been unanswered I know but ….. someday “We shall overcome …. someday”

Air Travel these days leaves a lot to be desired. Airlines have to be more considerate and passengers have to be lighter too. Passengers should be willing to pay more and airlines should be willing to serve more (food as in my case what else). And we must all adhere to rules like we do at Toastmasters.

Cabin Crew – Disarm all doors.

Over to you Toastmaster.

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My P3 at Toastmasters finally – The Relationship Cycle

MyHercules ACT 110 Project 3 Speech was kind of jinxed as it took me quite some time to write down and then when I was due to give it, I had to call it off as had to travel outside town. Finally on September 5, 2014, I gave it as a Test Speaker at a corporate club, Recall. Thanks to all who made this possible. I finally got the monkey off my back. Here is the transcript of my speech.

The Relationship Cycle

In 1976, a 9-year-old boy accompanied by his father was out to buy his first bicycle! There it stood in the corner, a BSA resplendent in maroon beckoning him as he was all set to spread his wings and fly. His eyes gleamed as he was only too eager to escape from the clutches of his sister’s hand-me-down bicycle. That child is slightly overgrown now as you can see but his love for the bicycle remains unchanged.

Contest Chair, fellow toastmasters and guests, join me on my two-wheeled excursions.

I continued to cycle in and around the building. 2 years down, started cycling to school with Mom’s stern warnings about the traffic. The short distances gradually increased but the maximum I rode was 6 kms away to Siddhivinayak temple. For 7 years, this bicycle remained an inseparable part of mine till someone stole it from Dadar. I was devastated as I cried my way to the Police Station. Alas it was never found. At the end of the academic year, I begged my parents for a new bicycle and bought the same maroon BSA. This cycle was with me till the second year of Engineering when 2 more wheels got added and I began driving in 1986.

Driving a car is indeed different from riding a bicycle. I buried my love for the 2 wheels somewhere deep in my heart for 27 years. Finally on March 29, 2013, after a lot of deliberation, I bought a shining blue Hercules. Like the new-found possession in 1976, I started cycling the very next morning. Mom being Mom continued to warn me every morning. What started as an exercise, soon became fun as I rekindled an old flame. I got hooked to Mapmyride on the phone which measured the distance covered with the speed. It posted the stats to Twitter and Facebook so I could brag about it to all my connections. More importantly, it made me accountable as friends questioned if they didn’t see such posts. This added to the pressure.

Having pedalled for over a year all alone, I mustered the courage to cycle with a group. I was shy and always thought others were fast riders but this group was headed to see the flamingos in Sewree, my backyard. This was transformational. Made so many new friends and began learning. I learnt that my low-speed was because I was riding in the wrong gear for the whole year!

Social media got people to support my passion for cycling. It was now time for me, the cyclist to give back to society. On May 25, 2014, for the first time I cycled for a cause to support the Multiple Sclerosis Society of India. About 50 cyclists from across Mumbai rode in maroon T-shirts. Some of the patients travelled in vehicles and one of them was so enthusiastic that he let his young son pedal with us all the way to Haji Ali and back. It culminated with two senior neurologists explaining to us about the disorder. I decided then I would organise a ride on World Parkinson’s day in April 2015 to highlight the cause of my Dad and others suffering from Parkinson’s.

Now that I have told you about my cycling journeys, let me also tell you about my first love, food! I always relished the local breakfast be it the fresh karela juice at Yeoor Hills, the delectable Mushroom and cheese Omelette at Mondegar or the freshly baked Mawa cakes with Brun paav at the century old B Merwans, Grant Road. Along with food, I also discovered the grandeur of Colaba’s Afghan Church, the greenery of Aarey Milk Colony and the steep hills of Yeoor in Thane to cite some spots.

In conclusion, don’t let your childhood passions be buried somewhere in the corners of your mind. Get out and take the first step – Rent a cycle from the neighbourhood cycle shop. Cycling is the new Golf for networking. Join a group if you can but remember you are not participating in a race but just for fun. Don’t forget to invest in a proper helmet to protect your head and a pair of decent gloves to avoid blisters. Pedal for a cause and I am sure you will be pedalling for life.

The video recording of my speech is here. Sorry but taken on the phone.