Sunday, January 15, 2012

Project 10 Speech - No Mountain So Steep

[Here is the Project 10 Speech (CC Manual) by Pannaga Prasad  a fellow member of my club. This speech has so far been the best Project 10 Speech, I have ever heard in Daffodils Toastmasters Club]

This is a photo of me as a 5 year old, speaking at our school’s Annual Day function in front of 100 students and 200 parents. I stepped down to resounding applause. Little did I realize that the next time I would speak so well was 15 years later.

Good evening Toastmasters and guests.

I was born at the same time 3 of my cousins were born. We spent all our holidays together, eating from the same plate, sleeping in the same big bed and playing only those games which needed 4 players. On one such holiday, my cousin Janu spoke to me in a weird way, pausing and exerting a lot of force to get the first syllable of a word out. So if her pet name was Janu, it was J – j – j - janu. She told me this was the new stylish way of speaking. A five year old’s mind is the softest sponge, absorbing every little thing that falls on it and since this tenet came from a beloved cousin of mine, the deeper I let it sink. Thus began the end of my fluent speech.

I loved school except for the first day of the academic year when the teachers asked us to introduce ourselves. I would be seated somewhere in the middle of the class. As the introductions started from one corner, my nervousness would increase with each student who finished her turn. It would reach a crescendo when the girl sitting next to me stood up, spoke out her name, loud and clear. I stood up, looked at the teacher and started to say my name. P – p – p – p. No. It never came. My eyes shone with humiliation, pleading with my teacher for forgiveness. I couldn’t say my name. Someone else would say my name and I’d sit down, distraught, disconsolate and desolate.

It is said that the key to happiness is good health and a bad memory. Since I was blessed with both, I was generally a happy child, despite being mocked at every time I stood up to read. On these days, I would come back home and read out aloud in front of the mirror, enunciating each word distinctly and with perfect diction. I said to myself, “Pannaga, the class doesn’t know what a fantastic reader you are. Show them”. Toastmasters, I finished my schooling without reading aloud a single paragraph in class.
However, there were strokes of luck; like when I took part in the debate contest in the 9th std. My class teacher guessed that I could speak well. She also guessed I was not going to enter the contest. So she spoke to my mother and I was compelled to participate. I debated with a power I’d never known I had, speaking with gumption and gusto, coming first for all three sections. Everyone was astonished and couldn’t believe their eyes and ears. That day my heart sang with joy.

Flying high, high, I’m a bird in the sky. I’m an eagle that rides on the breeze.
High, high, what a feeling to fly, Over mountains and forests and seas.
And to go anywhere that I please.

But this was only a flash in the pan, Toastmasters. The soaring eagle folded its magnificent wings and was tottering on the ground again. My parents and friends gave me a lot of suggestions which I could never implement. I decided to seek professional help. I first went to a clinical psychologist, then to a special center for people with stuttering and finally turned to hypnotism and Neuro Linguistic Programming. Though these methods helped me to an extent, they did not provide a conducive environment for me to get over my arcane fears. I was surrounded by people who had problems and this unnerved me. So I got out of there and defiantly resigned to my fate. Who said that fluent speech was the be all and end all of the world? So what if I couldn’t speak well? I was a good human and that’s all that mattered. Or so I said to console myself.

Then one day I met a friend of my parents’ who spoke about Toastmasters being a good place to learn public speaking. I, who was still on the lookout for that elusive cure, immediately looked up and found Daffodils. In my first meeting here, as is custom, the President asked the guests to introduce themselves. It was déjà vu for me. Those who were present at that meeting may not remember but it took me an eon to say my name. But I was happy because this was a platform for normal people. Here I was competing with people who not only spoke fluently but also with simplicity and style. My self-esteem went up a mighty notch and I knew this was where I could get back to being normal. If before I was met with sneers and jeers every time I stood up to speak, here I was met only with cheers and more cheers. Daffodils was in many ways, the proverbial teacher who appears when the student is ready. I was raring to go!

I started attending meetings and began taking up the grammarian and ah counter roles. Though I was far from fluent, I patted myself on the back because I was mustering up the courage to come back and try again. And every time I fell, my Club laid out a bed of Daffodils to soften the impact. Gradually with the help of my mentor, I gained the confidence to deliver my Ice Breaker. I spoke well Toastmasters, fluently and without a trace of a stutter! I went home, elated, ecstatic and euphoric that I had returned from my self-imposed exile of 15 years. A quote by Albert Camus sums up my story. “In the depths of winter, I finally learned, there was in me an invincible summer”.

Toastmasters, this speech is not about me. It’s not about what happened to me. It is about having a problem and overcoming it. We need to accept the challenges so we may feel the exhilaration of victory. There were days when I would wallow in self-pity, unable to fathom why it was that I couldn’t speak when everyone else could. And when they spoke, I would stare at their faces, marveling at how the words flowed freely from their mouths and feeling immeasurably sad that the same words formed a whirlpool inside mine and refused to come out. But now I can make them go as long as the river Nile, which flows across many a mile, spreading cheer and many a smile.

“As a mountain you cannot grow. But as a human I can.” These were Edmund Hillary’s words to Mt. Everest after he failed to conquer it twice. Toastmasters, fluent speech was my Mt. Everest and today, I stand on top of the world.

[Objectives of the Speech:

  • 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

Comments: Touching and inspiring content with excellent delivery. 

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