If you clicked the link to this blog and made it here, I appreciate it very much. I hope my writing doesn’t bore you. And if you don’t know what Toastmasters is all about, click on the link to learn more about it.

Background:

District 98 of Toastmasters International initiated the idea of Master Orator Championship. It gave an opportunity to young students to get into the arena of public speaking and experience the Toastmasters extravaganza, thereby bringing the concept of Toastmasters.

When we took part in the qualifiers round, it not only entailed active participation in it but also encouraged us to go beyond winning.
After MOC, I had never been able to join a Toastmasters Club since I had been living in a small town. But since then, I managed to connect with Toastmasters and attended every conference and meeting in Hyderabad I was invited to. Guess what, on my last conference visit–Fun and Furore–I danced to Michael Jackson.

It always feels heartwarming to see familiar faces from MOC and I also get to meet new people at these Toastmasters events. Now let me walk you through my entire experience at Eloquence 2018.

Here’s my stint at Eloquence:

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A picture I clicked during Ramadan Night Walk.

Eloquence 2018 was an annual conference that held the District Level Table Topics Contest and District Level International Speech Contest. The winners from each division of District 98 were to compete at the district level. This wasn’t all, because a conference had numerous segments like Panel Discussion on Humorous Speeches, Ramadan Night Walk at Charminar (like in the picture), Speakathon, DJ night, Human Library, Pecha Kucha, Entertainment, and the one I registered for–Unconference.

There were six keynote speakers for the conference: Anurag Batra, Shakti Sagar, Geetha Ramanujam, Chendil Kumar, Sunitha Krishnan, and Manoj Vasudevan–The current World Champion of Public Speaking. YES!! The TI World Champion! I was only able to attend three keynotes including Manoj Vasudevan’s.
So, with 50+ guests and 500+ Toastmasters registrants from all over District 98 (which covers Gujarat, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana), the conference was like a deep immersion of learning even for a non-TM like me.

Day 2:

The conference dates on my ticket had only Day 2 and Day 3. I registered through the students pass offer which was half the price of the actual 3-day ticket (saved my pocket).

It was 10 a. m. After I entered the building of HICC, I went to the registration desk to find my conference tag. Then I wandered around until I found myself in the gallery hall where the Speakathon session had already begun and intended to last the whole day.

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The session was held parallelly and nonstop in an attempt to set a Limca Record on impromptu speaking. I booked

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a slot for myself from the provided conference app a few days ago. The participants took a topic each off the table, waited in the line and spoke a minute or two each. It was much of an enthralling time. The Speakathon Limca Record went for a whole day as Day 2 saw more than 400 people take part once, twice, and some even multiple times to raise the bar. That day, a total record time of 11 hours and odd minutes was set throughout the day.

I entered the hall and there was a panel discussion with Toastmaster Chandra Shekhar who invited Chendil Kumar – the keynote speaker, Raja Shekar – a stand up comedian in Hyderabad and also a Toastmaster, Dr. Prasad – President of Vision Toastmasters Club, and lastly, Aditya Maheshwaran – the runner-up from 2015’s WCPS who was keynote speaker at Fun and Furore. The discussion was about humorous speeches.

Right after 2 pm, the District Level Table Topics Contest commenced. On my last conference visit, Fun and Furore, I watched contestants competing at division level in the humorous speech contest and evaluation speech contests. But the table topics contest seemed a little different. All the contestants were escorted to a soundproof room or area. Back in the plenary hall, the topic of the contest was announced to the audience and each contestant was summoned all the way to the stage and was given the topic right on the spot. The topic, by the way, was “Are You Stupid?” Then I whispered to myself, “Oooh, that’s how table topics work?”.

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Followed by that were two keynotes sessions. First one was Chendil Kumar’s session. He is a famous TEDx speaker and touted to have immensely contributed to Toastmasters. His session was about “Change – Do we have a choice?” and though I was very much interested, last night’s sleep deficit caught up with me. Although I took up a couple of snaps of his quotes that would help inspire me later.

The second keynote speaker was the one I was eagerly waiting for. Manoj Vasudevan, the World Champion Himself. His session was on how to craft a winning speech. He explained to us where he lost at which levels in which year and how much time he took to reach the semi-finals of WCPS, 2015. Then he gave us insights of his public speaking academy and the links for applications for those who needed speech reviews online.

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Then there was the Entertainment segment. I saw them toastmasters perform dances through deliberate practice. Kudos to them!

It was tea break. There stood Manoj Vasudevan at the other end of the hall talking with a small group of people and I joined them asking questions to him. Then he turned generous enough to know each one of us, shook hands and exchanged pleasantries before taking pictures.

IMG_20180519_165158.jpgManoj Vasudevan, the man himself.

“I hope you’ll be joining us at the Unconference starting any moment now”, I asked.

“Sure, Mohammed. Will see you there.” Manoj said.

Momentarily, I was summoned by the Unconference team to the gallery area. When I reached, there were tables being arranged for the “Unconferencers” and straight at 5 pm, the Unconference segment began. Unconferencing is where a person demonstrates his craftwork and his area of hobbies and teaches them to everybody.

The Unconference list had Photography, Graphday, Crocket Jewellery, Maze building, Snake and Ladders, Pani Puri Challenge, Treasure Hunt and Rubik’s cube, which was mine.

They asked us to get ready to start. I took off my jacket, dug into my backpack and put my Rubik’s cubes on my table. It was simple… All four cubes on the table, a laptop and I are good to go.

As the session began, people scattered everywhere touring around every table. Some people approached my table. I demonstrated them how Rubik’s cubes were solved, explained to them how speedcubing also turned out to be a sport and showcased my speedcubing skills. With their hyped astonishments, people got curious to learn. So they picked a cube as I began teaching.

This went on until Manoj Vasudevan approached my table.

Manoj: Hello, Mohammed. Impress me. 🙂

Me: Do you know how to solve a Rubik’s cube?

Manoj: No but my son knows. 🙂

Me: Do you know what Speedcubing is?

Manoj: Yes, I do. Can you solve a 4×4?

Me: No, but the events I regularly take part in during competitions are the 3×3, 3×3 One-Handed, and the 3×3 Blindfolded.

Manoj: Can you solve the cube blindfolded for me (scrambles my cube)?

Me: Uh, yeah I can but I just started with it. I take six minutes to memorize one. But I still end up with flaws.

Manoj: Doesn’t matter (with a polite smile, hands me the scramble). You’ll grow, you’ll learn.

He put his backpack on my chair with a gesture that he would return to my table after touring around the remaining part of the unconference. Meanwhile, I memorized the cube.

(Six minutes later)

Manoj: So are you ready, Mohammed?

Me: (nervous and smiling) Yeah, I am.

With the crowd and Manoj staring at my shaky hands, I messed it up.

Manoj: Doesn’t matter (the crowd claps a little). You were concentrating on the crowd who were watching you, weren’t you?

Me: Yeah, my focus was on people. My mistake.

Manoj: Try one more time.

Crowd laughed.

Manoj: It’s alright. Show me your normal cubing time.

In the meantime where someone scrambled my cube, I and the World Champion had a chat.

Manoj: You said you were from KSA, Are you based in Riyadh?

Me: No, I WAS in Riyadh.

Manoj: Now where do you live?

Me: I live in Kurnool which is in Andhra Pradesh.

Manoj: What do you do?

Me: I’m a student. Pursuing engineering in Computer Science.

Manoj: Which university?

Me: JNTU Anantapur, which is affiliated with a college I study in.

My cube comes back scrambled. Then I demonstrated how the cube timer app in my phone functioned and it’s similarity with the actual cube competitions. And there you go, a smooth 14 seconds solve.

I wasn’t looking for fame that day. But indeed I was elated that the World Champion of WCPS got to know me and watched me Speedcubing. TWICE.

Day 3:

10 am sharp, just like the previous day. There was another Entertainment segment when I entered the plenary hall. A big group of people performed a dubbed comedy skit. I didn’t know what the performance was actually about but it did look like a scene of Toastmasters Club in the army version. The humorous levels of the drama were damn high and our laughs and hollers reached the same peak. My mobile camera shook uncontrollably when I laughed.

Then there was another keynote session by Geeta Ramanujan. Geeta Ramanujan happens to be a storyteller and a TED Talk speaker. She narrated a set of short, humorous and inspiring stories with all the skills that a professional storyteller holds. During here QnA session, I raised my hand only to tell her that I had turned into a fan of her storytelling at the moment.

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Just kidding. I had a question for her.

I exited the hall since it was time to head for the Unconference again. When I walked out, I bumped into Manoj Vasudevan again and this time he shook hands with me, “Hi, Furqan. How are you doing today?”

I smiled, nodded and continued walking. My hype inside me started sparkling.

Back to Unconference at 1 pm, people had already scattered again, with the crowd cheering at the Pani Puri Challenge corner. It was awesome! But I couldn’t watch the whole unconference because I was running my part on my own table. Thereby I missed Pecha Kucha and Human Library.

On my table, there were a few people who had learnt the Rubik’s cubes halfway already. Some were easy going, some sweating off at the “cross” (the first step). There was this one Toastmaster lady named Anjali who got very curious to learn.

“How do I solve one side of the cube?” She asked.

“Easy, ma’am. Let me show you.” I tutored her the cross part. And within no time, she was able to do it! Without hesitation!

“One more time, if you don’t mind” as I scrambled the cube and handed here. 5 minutes later, she did it.

“Woah, madam! You seem quick” and I tutored here the completion of the white part and first layer (the second step). She did that too!

“I got the first layer, now show me the whole solution”

Then someone shouted, “Everyone! It’s time for the International Speech contest, the time we’ve all been waiting for. Please do find your seats at the plenary hall. We are starting in 5 minutes.”

Toastmaster Anjali took my cube,”You’re teaching me after the contest”.

The International Speech Contest was about to start. The plenary hall was indeed crowded. One never fails to enjoy this segment. I repeat, NEVER!

The real reason we love this part is that we not only watch the contest to witness who would win and fly to Chicago for the Semi-Finals of WCPS but also to listen to the speeches that leave us with their lessons and messages touching us.

Toastmasters, according to me is never complete without this. The art of delivering a speech is what that makes you a beautiful storyteller. And, don’t we all just love listening to stories?

Toastmaster Anjali found me after the contest. She got my cube and persuaded me to teach her the Rubik’s cube solution. She had brought a diary and a pen with her. She scribbled all the solutions of the cube as I kept tutoring.

“Thanks! I have a flight early today, so I had to write them all down. I’ll send you the video.”

“Sure, ma’am. I’d be very happy to see your accomplishment.”

I did teach my 8-year-old cousin but never encountered someone who was able to learn in one complete day. After she reached home, she did send me a picture of her solved cube.

After the awards ceremony, celebrations for the winners of Table Topics and International Speech Contest, and hollering for the word “District 98” in the plenary hall, it was time for departure. We walked out and posed for pictures and selfies at the booth and socialized for the rest of the evening.

Before I left, I took one last chance to meet Aditya Maheshwaran. I told him that I had met him at Fun and Furore. He was surprised by the fact that I was not a Toastmaster yet. We had a chat and I left after my Uber arrived.

IMG_20180520_183438.jpgDeepak bhai, Aditya Maheshwaran and Me.

This was what when Toastmaster Venkata Ramana told me this, “Any conference, whether you be a guest or a Toastmaster. Attend, attend, attend!

Toastmaster Venkata sir is known to be the backbone of Toastmasters in Hyderabad. He has been a Toastmaster for over 15 years and contested as a speaker at many levels. He has been given the President’s Citation as a unique honor handed by Toastmasters International. He is the only Indian till now to have been given this kind of recognition. MOC was his brainchild initiative and I’m so much thankful from the bottom of my heart to this person for such great start and I hope he continues helping other young students and many more to explore the world of Toastmasters.

To all the introverts out there, I know how it feels to be like a battery drained person. But when you step out and follow your passion (like public speaking for me), you’ll see people with similar eccentricities. When you’re battery drained, people will approach and meet you and you’re battery charged you try to approach and meet others and vice versa.

To all the Toastmasters reading this, I hope you get to hold MOC very soon. Will be very pumped to compete, invite my friends and make the most out of the Championship.

Cheerios.

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7 thoughts on “Eloquence 2018 | My First Annual Conference Visit

  1. Next time you are attending such conferences you are taking me with you. After reading all this even I want to be experiencing this atleast once.

    Like

  2. That was awesome. Your narration about the event inspired me to attend such events and I am sure that I would definitely attend this kind of events in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

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