I was probably 7 years old when this happened. It was fancy dress competition in our school. My mom, a simple housewife, did not even clearly understand what it meant by fancy dress. My dad, a simple and hard working man, never believed in participating in such events. He always focused more on literary competitions. But I was adamant that I would participate.
I asked my mom to dress me up in whatever fancy dress she thought I had. She took out a bright lanhga chunri. I hated wearing it but this time I draped it without much hesitation.
At the school, mostly girls were dressed as fairies with expensive, shiny, long, satin frocks that had pink, white net feathers on their shoulders. Boys were mostly policeman adorning police uniform and holding plastic guns.
Our class teacher called out our names. When she called mine, I went upto her.
“Who would you become Surabhi?” she asked me politely.
I had no idea of who I was dressing up as, so I said “anyone ma’am. Whoever you say. But I want to participate.”
“Hmm.. ” she paused for a moment and suggested that I could act as Radha. “You can become Radha – Lord Krishana’s wife. You know right that she wears a dress similar to yours?” asked my teacher.
“Yes Ma’am. I have read that in books.”
“Okay then, good. Do you have your speech ready?” she asked.
I did not know what she meant by speech but I did not want to be out of the competition without even participating so I nodded.
“Good girl. Watch out other students as of now and when I call your name on the stage, go from that side and start speaking.” She patted me on my shoulder and left.
I did not know what I would speak when I walk onto the stage but I was sure I wanted to be there.
After a few students did their show, it was my turn.
“And now comes Surabhi Surendra, as Radha” she announced from the dice.
I walked on to the stage in front of hundreds of people, colorful little beings and my teachers.
Mustered the courage to speak, looked at my two young siblings who were watching me from the corner of the stage and I started off.
“I am Radha. I am Lord Krishna’s wife and his best friend. We live in Vrindavan. My Krishna plays the best flute in the world and all the women and girls surround him when he plays it. People worship him and since I am with him all the time, I get worshipped too. You can read about us in book and see our pictures and idols in various temples. If you all also worship me and my husband with pure heart, we will bless you and your wishes will come true.” These are the lines I exactly remember but I know I spoke few more lines and was cut down only when my teacher told me that my time was up!
Amidst a huge round of clap, I walked off the stage in the green room. It was now time for results. I had not received any prize before so I did not know what or how it felt to get a prize and I was not even thinking on those lines. But soon they announced, ‘third prize goes to Surabhi Surendra.’
I was not sure what to do. My teacher held my hand and took me to the stage where I got my first prize ever!
Later she told me that the jury liked my speech and confidence and which is why even though I exceeded my time limit, I was one of the winners. From there on, one place where I feel very confident is – stage. I participated in numerous debates, speeches, extempore competitions and won and even today I like passing my time on stage.
But unlike me, my husband had a fear of public speaking. Though, now he has overcome his fears to a very large extent with his own capabilities, he gives huge credit to me.
With my personal experiences and my husband’s approach, I am now going to tell you three simple ways that will help any one of you to master the art of public speaking. If any of you feels hesitant in standing up and having your say, follow the following basic, simple steps and be ready to stand up and speak.
Be Confident. Whenever you want to say something in a group of people or you are on stage, feel confident. Imagine that you are the smartest of all of them present there, which is why at the moment you are speaking and they are listening. Don’t think what they would think about you. Have confidence in your ability and your words and think it is better that they have an opinion about you than you speak nothing and they have no opinion about you. If you do not agree with the general conclusion of the group, feel happy that you are not the crowd. That you have your own voice and a different opinion.
If you are not confident of your language, let it be. Concentrate on your thoughts and let them flow. If your thoughts are right, they will go in the right direction even if you choose not-so-right words.
Imagine you are on the world stage. Whenever I was on the stage to deliver a speech or to participate in a debate, I always thought that I am on the world stage. I would think that this speech of mine is going to be terrific and it would make news headlines and I would be the next world leader.
Feel that this is the opportunity that will let you voice your opinion. Who knows someone out there hears your views and falls in love with you. Or simply gives you an offer of employment or better still, asks you to be his mentor!
Say the right thing. This one is the key.
If you are sure you are saying the right thing, you would never be afraid to speak even in front of millions of people because you know you are saying it right.
Don’t just speak for the heck of it. But do speak, when you know what you are talking about and when you feel that others should listen to you on this.
Read and stay aware. Spread awareness around. So, speak up. If you know something, let others also know. Just do it politely. Polite is usually right!