Wednesday, December 2, 2009
The 1st time I went up on stage was when I was 13. It was a school concert in St. Patricks, Kulim and I went up to render a Hindi number from the movie Humraaz. My classmates liked it and I felt thrilled after that……and proud too. I realized that I liked being in the lime-light and was not afraid of crowds. When I was 14, I won the school elocution contest, beating even the 5th Formers. I represented the school debating team as their 1st Speaker while still in Form 3. Then I moved to BM High School where the Debating Society was not active. I tried reviving it by speaking to the seniors but no one showed any interest. They just held regular meetings with little follow up. We only had inter-class debates and I was placed as the 3rd Speaker. The famous sixth former MPL Vengadasalam used to be the 1st. Thereafter I was selected to represent the class once while doing my Form 6 in JB.
I realised that I had a penchant for such pursuits......a kind of a passion even. I thrived in such matters. I was not loud but controlled and I knew exactly when to pause and when to thunder. Breathing techniques helped me do that. And the crowd loved it. Their constant applause sometimes didn’t give me enough time to present my whole text. The times I checked back with the judges to see how I scored, I found that I was always the highest scorer in style and delivery. All these public speaking helped me in my career. I remember when I was in Rothmans I was asked to give an impromptu speech in front of all the trainees in my batch as well as the sales force…about 200 of them. And my bosses were impressed. They admitted that they had underestimated me. Another time was when I was in NST and it was my turn to do a presentation in front of the whole marketing team. Once again I did extremely well. From then on, I was ‘noticed’ by the top guns, so to speak.
There was an incident once in Ipoh when I was with RCI, a manufacturer of white cement. The company was bought over by a Danish firm and as the HR Manager, I was appointed as the MC during the signing ceremony. My new bosses had actually thought that I was an external professional. The new Chairman of the company approached me later and congratulated me for a job well done. During dinner that night, I was quietly piling my plate with some bites, intending to sneak away to some obscure corner to enjoy my beers when the same Chairman sought me out and made sure I sat beside him throughout the night. The GM (Chinaman), with whom I had had a fallout then, was not too happy about it. I further rubbed it in by engaging the Chairman in a lengthy conversation, completely sidelining the GM in the process. I was really elated to see the reaction on his face…….it made my day.
While working in Kedah, I used to organize their annual dinners and as usual I was the MC. I remember once when I organized the whole function for the 1200 employees single handedly! The MD was all praise for a job well done as we had 100 % attendance, excluding gate-crashing by ex-employees. What I had done was unconventional. It was a habit of these multinationals in Kulim to hold their annual dinners at some posh hotel in Penang. They would then ferry their workers to the venue and return after the function late at night. But the next day would be a working day. So usually many employees kept away from attending resulting in only about 60% attendance. When I took over, I changed all that, preferring to do it right adjacent to the factory itself where we had a large piece of empty land. I transformed the whole place into a carnival atmosphere. Leveled the ground and put up a large tent to sit 1200 people. I lit up the whole area and put up a huge stage. I engaged 2 live bands; one to play English and Malay numbers and the other for Tamil and Hindi selection. It went well with the crowd. And I had also slotted in employee performance ……..singing, dancing etc. The crowd just loved it. At the end of the day, I saved about 50 % of the cost as compared to previous years. For my efforts, I was selected as the Best Employee of the year, earning a promotion along the way.
In spite of all these experience behind me, I still have butterflies in my stomach before I take to the stage. I am not sure of the others but I still feel a little nervous before I step onto the stage. No one notices it as outwardly I strike a confident pose. But once I start, then I’m in control. Thereafter the feeling just wanes away. So it was no different when I addressed the crowd last Saturday during Rashnaraj’s (Sargu’s son) wedding dinner. It was a massive crowd and the drinks were free flowing. I volunteered the arduous task of subduing them and bringing them to focus in the 3 or 4 minutes of my opening address before I hand over the mike to Theishini (Imbaraj’s daughter). And from the accolades that I received after I stepped down, especially from Dato Kanda who is generally a man of few words, I realize I must have done fairly well. Even my wife and kids couldn't hide their approval over my performance. This was also Theishini’s debut exposure in front of such a huge crowd but she did well. I’m quite certain that she would have had butterflies in her stomach too before taking the mike. No one noticed though……as she bottled up all signs of stage fright and went about her job like a pro.
Posted by aravind at 12:03 AM