How often have you attended a lecture or speech by a prominent member of society, only to find them tow the usual line – thanking all the guests for the opportunity, quoting a famous individual from the past, conveying the message of righteousness, and concluding by stating a motivating parting thought?? That seems imaginable; more importantly, there’s nothing wrong with it either. The only downside to it is that you go in expecting it, come out with the expectations met with probably a few key phrases used in the messaging, and very conveniently forget it a week after (okay, a bit longer, if your memory and retention span is better than mine!).
The one speech I personally loved, albeit not attended live, was made by Mr. CV Narasimhan as part of introducing MS Subbulakshmi to the United Nations audience. It epitomized brevity, but stayed with me for a long time. It took me many years to relate to what it was about the message that stayed with me for that long. Eventually, it dawned upon me that it wasn’t the hidden message, because there was none! The simplicity in the message, the clarity of conveying the same, and the unpolluted mind that was speaking the thought was the magic bullet.
I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to address a group of graduating students. Though not in the scale of the cherished and prized names and faces, it was an opportunity for me to pick on what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. For without that opportunity, the whole thought of how to convey a message that stays in people’s minds longer, wouldn’t have dawned upon me at all. People speak of preparations for a speech and holding the audience’s attention, etc – I have never had problems with any of it, and even humbly claim to have excelled in delivering technical and technology notes, but messaging a personal thought or addressing an audience with the goal of motivating them for their lives ahead was a different matter altogether.
It was the spring of 2006 and as circumstances would have it, I was requested to talk on stage to the graduating masters’ class of VTU (Visweswariah Technological University, the umbrella of engineering schools, in Karnataka – a province in Southern India). Half way through the preparation of the slides, I was left pondering – “these students have had the opportunity to attend some of the best schools in the province, and they aren’t looking for any more expertise there; neither am I qualified to make grand speeches of yore…so what do I talk about and more so, what do I want them to remember from today?”
Eventually, I spoke of the humble beginnings in my career, how people around me played a part in my growth and the importance of networking well, how I made the choice to join my employer from campus nearly a decade earlier, and more interestingly – how I made the transition from acquiring theoretical knowledge to applying them to practical experiences. In hindsight, that wasn’t the best message I could have delivered that day.
Instead, if I could just have gotten up on stage and uttered the two words that mattered to me in my career, and ones I try to live upon everyday, that would have possibly driven home my take on beginning a professional career in their chosen fields. It was well appreciated as I got to hear later, but the personal satisfaction wasn’t there – it was at the back of my mind, and sure enough, gained prominence when I became exposed to the graduation and commencement speeches this season.
CNBC, whose blogs I follow ardently, (thanks to the plethora of tools that make them stare in your face) had one article on the same lines. Instantly, it made an impact on me and I am indebted to the author for clarifying a nascent thought within me, that was seeking light of the day. In a country where graduation speeches are hounded by political and economic media – for economists or politicians are the chosen messiahs to deliver messages, more often than not – with the same fervor as paparazzi chasing the social news makers, there is no dearth of graduation messages at this time of the year.
Wonder if the prominent and noteworthy orators consider it worth their salt to take a leaf out of Churchill’s book, without of course quoting him!
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