As I’ve mentioned in Letters to Myself over the past few weeks, I’ve joined Toastmasters International, which is an international leadership and public speaking organization. As part of the club development programme, I’m required to give prepared speeches periodically with increasingly difficult objectives. This helps me develop writing and speaking skills, as well as focus on body language, message delivery, audience captivation, and voice strengthening.
This past Thursday, I delivered my first prepared speech, which required me to introduce myself. What follows is the speech script I wrote, as well as a video of my performance.
The Showman Breathes
“Breathe. <showman> Ladies and Gentlemen, dear guests and members of this august audience, welcome to the Toastmasters show! Live from 9C001, Oracle Campus, Bangalore! Your host for today, me! And we have a great show lined up for you today that will leave you enchanted, enthralled, and at the edge of your seats! Are you ready? Let’s go! </showman>
… The person you just saw is not me, at least not completely. Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Vaibhav Gupta, and what you just witnessed was the showman, a character to represent my extrovert qualities for your entertainment pleasure.
My objective today is to introduce myself to you – to show you who I am. I … don’t know who I am, at least not completely. Identity is the oldest issue – isn’t it? Who are we? Why are we here, alive?
Like many others before me, I have used the framework of the world – history, principles, skills and interests – to craft a caricature of myself, which I present to you today.
Let’s start with history, selectively. Born in Calcutta, to a disciplined and driven father, and to the most compassionate and selfless woman I’ve ever met, I have big shoes to fill. I don’t necessarily fill those shoes, and if my best friends are to be believed, I am a boorish, brash, brazen, and boring bicentennial, but with a heart of gold, and chords of steel.
My relationships with my friends, family, and teachers define me. My history with them is the progenitor of my principles, which are:
- Don’t lie – I hate lying. In my experience, I’ve always found it easier to deal with the consequences of being honest against the deceit of lying.
- Don’t hold back – I am a loudmouth, and it is hard for me to be considerate towards others’ perception of me, because I’m always too focused on speaking my mind. I firmly believe that it is better out in the world than in my head – whether it be an idea, or a positive or negative thought.
- Don’t stagnate – I am morbidly afraid of stagnation. I have a compulsive need to constantly make progress and make myself better, for fear of being left behind.
To uphold these principles, I created a mantra for myself, which I haven’t shared with anyone. I won’t share it with you today, but I can tell you that it starts by telling me to breathe, which is what you saw at the beginning today.
I don’t always manage to live by the mantra – at least not completely. But I’m happy that I am at least trying to.
The mantra and the third principle of progress have pushed me to pursue several interests, and develop some skills, which I enumerate for you now.
- Writing – Foremost, I am a professional writer. No seriously, twice over – A technical writer for Oracle and a freelance content writer. I also write and maintain a blog, which I’ve had for almost five years now.
- Cooking – It started as an extra credit course during my Bachelor’s degree, and the habit stuck. Through lots of research and practice, I developed my cooking skill to the point where I can proudly say, my food is not rubbish.
- Teaching – Despite being a loudmouthed brute, I revel in helping people, and never more so than in the form of teaching. In the few lucky opportunities I’ve had to tutor someone, I have felt a satisfaction that I’ve never felt before, and I want to feel it again.
- And finally Design – I’m not very good at it yet, but I will be. It is my focus in the current year, and will be for the next few years to come as I study it.
There are other things I’ve tried, or that I do occasionally, but today, I’m just happy to consolidate these four, because identifying them was a huge step forward for me in discovering my identity.
So why am I telling you all this? Why am I here in Toastmasters? I’m here in Toastmasters to implement those three principles – to not lie and be honest through my prepared speeches, to not hold back and brain-dump through table topics, and to always make progress through the Toastmasters progress tracks. It’ll help me be who I am, at least somewhat completely.
A final note on identity – I once asked my younger sister, whom I love very much, to throw some adjectives at me – adjectives she thinks describe me. From the five or six she gave me, I picked Thorough and Unkempt. I really like that, which is why that is what I named my blog. Thorough and Unkempt – Thorough meaning complete, planned, structured, but still Unkempt, meaning raw and unpolished. Complete, yet incomplete – I think that is the best description of me.
The showman in me wants me to keep talking, and keep talking, and talk some more. But for now, I’ll hold him back. I can only reflect on everything I’ve said today, and all I can do is breathe.
Just watching the video was enough for me to identify key issues in my speech, and hopefully I can work on them and deliver a better speech for project 2. 🙂
Thank you for reading / watching.