Saro Velrajan works at Aricent, as Director-Technology. He has an MBA in Marketing from University of Phoenix, and 15 years of experience in networking technologies, working for leading companies such as Cisco Systems, Ericsson, and Juniper Networks.
Saro achieved the recognition of Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) from Toastmasters International in 2012. Saro’s interests include blogging, traveling, mentoring and public speaking.
2. How did you come to know about TMI?
“When you really want to achieve something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” says Paulo Coelho. This is very true. My lack of communication skills costed my dream job…. My lack of communication skills affected my career growth. I was seriously looking at ways of improving my communication skills. A close friend of mine introduced me to Toastmasters in the year 2006. It was a love at first sight – I was sold on the first meeting itself. I became a member of SCU MBA Toastmasters Club in Santa Clara.
3. Why did you join Toastmasters?
I had the difficulty of thinking in Tamil, translating that into English and delivering my thoughts. I wanted to overcome that problem and talk confidently in English. Hence, I joined toastmasters.
To give you a sample of how bad I was… let me share with you an incident that happened in the year 1996, during my college days. The place was GCT, Coimbatore … one of the class rooms in the ground floor of the main building… It was a Friday evening. I dropped into a meeting of Literary & Debate Society (also called as LDS). That was my first attempt to develop my communication skills. I saw a bunch of students from various classes and years. I knew some of them, but most of them were strangers to me. I occupied a seat in a remote corner of the room. The meeting started. Suddenly, one of my seniors called me to the stage to be part of a group discussion. I got very nervous… I didn’t want to say “No!” I felt that “Others may think badly of me”. I went to the stage and sat with a group of other students. The topic that was given to us for group discussion was “Brain Drain”. Those days, a number of Indians were leaving to USA at that time for work/studies. So, that was the popular topic at that time. First of all, I didn’t know “What Brain Drain” means… Second of all, I was not adroit at handling impromptu-speaking situations like that.
I assumed that “Brain Drain” means, “Brain losing its memory capacity” and I started talking about “You should eat healthy food for you to have good memory capacity” and everyone in the hall started laughing.
I was shocked. I started sweating… I didn’t know what mistake I did… however, I knew that I’m not making sense to the audience… My lips were sealed… The flow of words from my mouth completely stopped. I didn’t utter any word after that. That was my first and last visit to Literary & Debate Society in our college. My dreams of becoming a better speaker, shattered into pieces, like a jar that was dropped on the floor.
4. What was your expectation before you joined?
I joined toastmasters for only one reason – to talk fluently in English.
5. How has Toastmasters benefited your personal/professional life?
I have been with Toastmasters for the last 7 years. Playing a variety of roles both within the club and outside the club helped me to groom my communication & leadership skills. I was able to apply the skills that I learned from Toastmasters in my workplace. You won’t believe… I got 3 promotions in 4 years. From, just a Technical Marketing Engineer in the year 2009, I became a Product Manager, then a Sr. Product Manager and today, Director – Technology. I attribute that to the skills that I developed in Toastmasters.
6. What is your advice to a new Toastmaster?
You can achieve the fullest benefit of toastmasters program by following the 3Rs:
Being regular is the most important trait of a successful toastmaster. What happens to an athlete, when he/she doesn’t exercise regularly; when he/she doesn’t attend practice sessions regularly? Mastering the art of public speaking is very similar to sports – it requires regular practice. What better platform can you get to regularly practice your skills than a toastmasters club?
· Regularly attend club meetings
· Regularly take a diverse set of roles in the club meeting
· Regularly deliver speeches in your club and in other clubs
· Regularly participate in contests and benchmark your performance
· Regularly take leadership roles in your club and outside your clubs
Performing adequate research is important for any assignment that you do – not just in toastmasters. Charles E. Jones, a famous author said “Five years from now you’ll be the same person you are today except for the books you read and the people you meet”. It is very true.
As a toastmaster, we need to develop habits of reading books, reading newspapers, attending educational programs, listening to podcasts, watching champions’ speech videos, participating in contests and continuously learning new things by research. Research helps us to discover new ways of doing things, it helps us to constantly innovate and discover a BETTER YOU!
Our District 82 Humorous Speech Champions TM Alexandar Babu, and TM Guruprasad delivered a 7 minutes speech to win the prestigious 1st and 3rd positions respectively in the district conference, Reverberations 2012. Can you imagine how many times they would’ve rehearsed before their most memorable performance at the District? They rehearsed at least a 50 times for months together, before their final performance at the district. If great champions have to rehearse for at least 50 times before their performance, how many times should we rehearse before giving our speech at the club? A successful toastmaster, rehearses multiple times before they do any performance in toastmasters.
Follow the 3Rs – Regularity, Research & Rehearsals to maximize the benefits of Toastmasters.