I was writing down my script for the Humorous Speech Contest and it was very uncomfortable writing and delivering humorous content for the first time. It is harder than the usual prepared speeches and contemplating this, I went a trip down memory lane.

Existential Crisis || Not So Happy Days

After a moderate EAMCET result and admission to a TIER3 college in Hyderabad, my 1st year of undergraduate was spent between half-hearted preparation for BITSAT and adjusting to a boisterous college life. This was after 2 years of time at an all boys Narayana College.

Daily commute to college was a pain as I only had the senior bus as an option and I was being ragged for the first 1 year (though they later became great friends). There was also an insecurity in not knowing much about computers and not playing computer games at all especially when I was in Computer Science branch.

(Daily Commute was a feeling of pain and regret)

Being a bit shy and not being well versed with any musical instruments or any extra-curriculars or any special talents didn’t help either. My childhood was mostly spent playing in my apartment complex especially football, a couple of summer camps for swimming and football, guitar, etc but nothing over long stretches of time to hone any skill.

Microsoft Student Partner Program (MSP) || Chance at a Change

And by the end of 1st year, I was not that particularly good at Competitive Programming; I hadn’t yet gotten a laptop yet. The first year just passed by without the desired rank in BITSAT, nor good grades in 1st year exams with a backlog and good amount of regret of being a donkey.

Somewhere at the start of 3rd semester at the end of 2015, I got to know about the Microsoft Student Partner Program. Apart from other criteria, the selection process involved recording a short video clip. Though there were a lot of failed trials, I felt really good making the progress from first couple of attempts to the final submission. That was when I kind of discovered my knack for public speaking and speeches.

Once selected in MSP, it introduced me to a lot of meetups, communities and interesting-driven people. Meetups used to be held almost every other Sunday and the senior members of the program used to walk us through various tech. All these significantly boosted my confidence.

MOC 2016 || A Goal had been set

Somewhere around this time, I heard about a public speaking competition by the name Master Orator Championship from my friend. I registered myself into it but I couldn’t attend the qualifiers. I still wanted to know what the event was all about and I was surprised to know that Vishnu Varma, one of schoolmates was in the finals. ISB being the venue for the finale meant not missing it at all.

I took 3 tickets and went along with my parents. I love going to events such as these. Perspective hits you hard, showing the level of competition and talent there is outside and how much you need to hustle.

Fun N Furore 2016 || New Horizons

Later, I got an invite to Fun’N’Furore and strangely when I attended the meet, I was probably the only one from MOC there. There’s a usual stereotype that adult life is kind of boring. Fun’N’Furore hits that with a ton of bricks. Most of the people there must be above 30’s and all of us were having a lot of fun.

There were standup comedy performances and amazing guest speaker sessions, speech evaluation contests and mainly, the humorous speech contest. I won my first money there; a 100/- cash prize for the best caption. I also took away a lot of things from the meet, be it the structuring of speeches or adding humor or diving the stage presence.

(October 2016)

The Transition || Take Your Time

In the one year between MOC’2016 and MOC’2017, there was more active participation in things around me be it with the college literary club, anchoring chances at fests or elevator pitch competitions.
Lot of business and entrepreneurship books and podcasts were consumed. Especially the Tim Ferriss Show which was really a game changer. I used to cycle on my Razorback on the weekdays and join the Hyderabad Bicycling Club on the weekends listening to podcasts on the way.

There were two significant learning experiences in Mar-Apr’2017. First was my solo trip to Rajasthan for the annual Student Partner Summit where the exposure was at another level and immediately following was me captaining our college football team through a great tournament till the semi finals. The tournament taught me lot of leadership and communication after multiple mistakes and learnings.

I captured all of this transition in my blogpost from 3 years ago. And right before MOC’2017. I did my first 200 km Brevet. And failed! I finished late by 7 mins over the stipulated 13.5 hours target.

(With Vishal on the top of Anantagiri hills on 200 BRM)

MOC 2017 || Qualifiers and Semi-finals

After registering, I miscount the competition dates and missed the event in Hyderabad. With the goal already set, I had no option but to go to Vijaywada. And I didn’t have a 3 minute speech ready yet for the qualifiers 🙂
During the bus journey, I ideated a couple of topics but something hit me. What better story than my recent Brevet experience. I made a good speech and practiced in the morning on the day of qualifiers. I made it through.

The speech for semi-final needed to be 5-7 minutes. I combined my earlier Brevet story with my MOC journey and I felt it was really solid and was pretty confident. Within a week, we got our results.

MOC 2017 || The Finals

The finals went really really well. I had a very confident and stoic approach all throughout. Read more about it here. And also the fact that I knew most of the Toastmasters there made me really comfortable and not a tad bit nervous.

Though, I still think about parts of my speech like the conclusion which others mentioned was not solid enough. But I am really happy that Devayani killed it with her speech.

The Impact and Speaking Gigs

The winning got a lot of hype in college with an article being published in the local newspaper. I also got a couple of chances to speak as a guest speaker at Vignan College for their literary club inaugaration, for one of Guntur Toastmasters meets and also a couple of sessions on technology at Telangana Model School.

I regret not leveraging this enough but that’s a story for another day.

Toastmaster Meets || Finding Fear Again

I wanted to immediately join Toastmasters but my Super Randonnuer Series was clashing for 2 months . I tried to make it to as many events and meets as possible. Furqan went on to become the 2nd Runnerup in Season 3 btw 🙂

ADP Toastmasters

Once I got placed in ADP, among other things I couldn’t wait to join the ADP Toastmasters Club. It’s been one of leading corporate clubs. But, I somehow couldn’t maintain consistency with clashing work meetings in the evenings. Sundays coincided with my longer endurance rides and I didn’t make it to the community club meetings too.

Nevertheless, I did a fair bit of informal anchoring which I am not really good at, with my colleagues Gayatri and Aakanksh passing on some titbits here and there.

Fun and Furore 2019

Between 2018-2019, there was a good gap with Toastmasters and Fun n Furore 2019 was a great place to get the vibes back. Meeting long time buddies Furqan among others felt really good and seeing familiar faces since the past 3 years really proves the longevity and the close knit community toastmasters is.

I also noticed how there was a stark growth in leadership and public speaking ability in the participants in MOC who joined Toastmasters right after.

An attempt at a new start

Like me, my mother has always been having the drive to improve her english and public speaking skills. We both planned on joining the same Toastmasters community Club and help each other out. We went for 3 consecutive meets just before the COVID Crisis and there ended our journey.

(Attending the meet right after HR Club Run 10km #consistency)

As all of the meetings were just online now, I didn’t delay it any further and started consistently going to the ADP Toastmaster meets and finally, I am chartered member of Toastmaster now.

My First Humorous Speech and Evaluation Contest

And that’s how I ended up at the contest, doing one of my favorite things- writing and delivering it. And the meeting went great 🙂 with good standing in both.

Way Forward

It only stinged for a moment after the results were out because more than the result, it was me taking the steps that was important. The progress might be slow but I am looking at 10-15 years down the line when all these incremental gains will make a huge difference then.

MSP and MOC always remind me that though I caught up late there is still a lot of untapped potential waiting to come out. Consistency and Commitment is the way forward.