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 www.thelastlecture.com 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]