My International Speech Contest Journey

It was somewhere in the end of January this year that an idea popped up! I wanted to express my gratitude to my teachers, and friends at Toastmasters who had been encouraging me. It was not meant to be a speech for a speech contest.  My mentor, Abhijeet, went through the first draft and asked me to change it a little and use it for my Contest Speech!

The basic script remained the same but definitely kept becoming better, better and better with the help of input  from my mentor, other evaluators, Samantha, Khushboo and Renee! Though the script kept changing, the emotions remained the same. The story was a simple story of motivation, speech worthy. Stories with personal struggle brings out the real emotion of sorrow and joy. There were days when practicing, I had tears in my eyes, I wondered if it was an allergic reaction to my new hair gel which I stopped using thereafter. But, on the day of the District Speech competition, I had tears…That’s when I realized how much my teacher had influenced me. My Teacher, “Ms. Krishnan” existed not only in my life but in other people’s lives, too. So, the story was very relatable.

The journey was not an easy one, but definitely an enjoyable and a memorable one. When I won at the club level, I was thrilled. When I won at the Area level contest, I started thinking as to what was the thing that I did differently to win. I realized that along with the speech, I was also focusing on the small working area I had for Zoom meetings. Also, dressing up professionally helped my confidence. The competition was increasing at every level. I knew it would be tough at the Division level contest. But, I didn’t give up. I wanted to give a good fight! So, I kept practicing.

Practice was the key. I practiced at least 5-6 times a day initially and then by the time I reached the District Level Contest, it was more than 10 times a day. Abhijeet, Samantha and my family knew the speech by heart! Wherever there was a speech slot available, I went there (luckily it was all on zoom) and tried getting feedback from evaluators!  From experience I can tell you why it helped me, just before the Area and the Division contest, I had some family emergencies. If I had not practiced enough, I wouldn’t have been confident.

This speech contest has helped me find new friends from different parts of the world! Even the contestants became friends and we continuously encouraged each other and gave feedback. I learned a few tricks from other contestants which I will be using in the future to make my speeches more effective. My Journey at the contest ended at the Division level where I was placed second. But, this Ms. Cellophane has come a long way! I feel that contest preparation has accelerated my Toastmasters journey by 6 months.

I would take this opportunity to encourage everybody at Women L.E.A.D. to take part in contests, not thinking it as something competitive but for one’s own self-growth.

speech contest, My International Speech Contest Journey

No Longer The Worthless, Ms.Cellophane

Cellophane

Mr. (In my case) Ms.Cellophane

Should have been my name

Ms.Cellophane

Cause you can look right through me

Walk right by me

And never know I am there…..

How many of you can relate to this song from the musical, Chicago?  I used to belong to this category as a kid.

I was a well-behaved and academically average student when growing up. I was not the ‘intelligent type’ hence my teachers who were keen on academics did not know me. I was not the ‘mischievous kind’ so obviously they didn’t know me as they didn’t have to call out my name for disrupting the class.

I hated school as I felt invisible and it was painful. I did try my best to study hard and get good grades, so as to impress my teachers…but it never happened.

My parents encouraged me to explore other fields like music and dance. Being the obedient kid that I was, I went to music and dance class where again I was mediocre at the former and an absolute disaster at the latter! Still nobody turned and looked at me. I felt worthless.

Then, Ms.Krishnan came into my life! She was my 9th grade math teacher. I remember getting 15/35 in her class. She called me out,”Lakshmi.” I was surprised to hear that as I was just used to hearing “Ms.Sridhar” and that, too, only during the class attendance! I went to her, with a terrified look. She smiled, and said, “I am amazed at your ability to think out of the box! I would have solved this problem in 3 steps, you did it in 15 logical steps. It is OK. Maybe that was the reason, you couldn’t complete the test. I plan to give you just 1 problem a day for your Homework. You can use any method to solve it.”

I was shocked to hear my teacher praise me even though I scored so poorly. But it was highly motivating. The first thing I did when I reached home was to complete my math Homework! Though, it took me an hour to complete.

The next day, I waited eagerly for my teacher to go through my H.W. She graded it and complimented me! She then did the proof using her method next to mine. She smiled and told me,”You have put in a lot of hard work by solving the problem.” I had used 9 proofs to get to the solution. This became an everyday interesting interaction between the student and the teacher. My proof lengths kept becoming smaller, smaller and smaller. My confidence kept ballooning – bigger, bigger and bigger! Ms.Krishnan found a spark in me and ignited my passion for mathematics and hard work.

I never became a straight “A” student.  But she taught me how to solve problems with confidence. I completed my Masters in Statistics. Whenever I felt demotivated, I remembered her smile..and then I didn’t feel worthless anymore!

Years later, I became a teacher…..and as a teacher, I have been on the lookout for students who belong to this category. Annabel, with her gloomy eyes reminded me of my younger self. I empathized with her, talked and listened to her. I highlighted her strengths and complimented her, just like Ms.Krishnan did years ago. The glow in her eyes was divine!     

Can I ask you all something?  Can you all try giving just 5 minutes a day to a fellow human being with whom you are associated by being compassionate and motivating?  Your kind action might motivate the person who felt as invisible as a cellophane, feel worthier!

Written by member, Lakshmi Sridhar

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