In Commencement Speech, HUMOR, Public Speaking

Everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes”- Andy Warhol.

I had my fifteen minutes of fame last Thursday, 20th March. I was the chief guest at my Alma mater, Manipal Institute of Technology (MIT),ICAS Manipal, ranked among the top ten engineering colleges in India. ICAS is an offshoot of MIT and offers a twinning program with renowned schools in the US like Illinois Institute of Technology. The occasion was their annual day. Almost like a commencement speech !

Ronald Regan once said “But there are advantages to being elected President. The day after I was elected, I had my high school grades classified Top Secret.” I didn’t have this luxury and was terrified to see Dr. GMJ Bhat, who taught us Maths, on the dais. He was about to give the welcome address when I pulled him aside and made him take an oath that he would not reveal my Maths grades to the audience. After getting his reassuring nod,I was confidence personified !

Now, my challenge was “what do I tell a bunch of smart kids ?” I didn’t want to sound preachy but excite, link and involve and here is a gist of what I spoke

  • I wanted to give you some advice. And I realised Socrates went around giving good advice. They poisoned him !

  • I then thought of talking to you about management principles. I was again reminded of the time a Frenchman, Japanese and an American were caught at gunpoint and asked to spell out their last wish. The Frenchman said ” I want to recite my national anthem”. He was allowed.

  • The Japanese said ” I want to give a lecture on Japanese management”. Immediately, the American pleaded ,”shoot me first. I can’t stand one more lecture on Japanese management!” So, no lectures either.
  • I asked “How many of you have heard of Indra Nooyi !” Almost all hands went up ! the mercurial CEO of PEPSICO is a daughter-in-law of the soil ! Yes, Mr Nooyi is a Mangalorean !

  • I then talked about the 5Cs that shaped Indra’s career, adding my bit of anecdotes to illustrate the Cs

  • Competence – Knowing what to do !

  • Confidence – Self confidence is important. Confidence in others is vital

  • Communication Skills – Make sure your intent and content match each other. Otherwise the impact will be dramatically different ! And I gave the example of a Professor telling his class ” Why are you looking outside at the monkeys when I am here ?” I am fond of telling this example often and I get a terrific response each time !

  • Compass – “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there”- Yogi Berra

  • Conscience – “Character is what you are in the dark” – John Whorfin

I briefly elaborated (oxymoron?) on each of them and focused on communication skills as many of our campus recruits are technically brilliant but their ability to articulate their thoughts in a crisp and clear manner is suspect.

The response was gratifying. The Pro chancellor Dr K S Ballal was magnanimous in his praise and wanted me to become a visiting faculty at the University ! I couldn’t believe my ears ! From an academically challenged alumnus to a visiting faculty !!! The Lord moves in mysterious ways His wonders to perform !

You must take comfort from the knowledge that I will be a visiting faculty not in Applied Mechanics or Theory of structures but Business Communication in which I can reasonably do my bit !

An unforgettable experience- to be feted by your peers and professors !

And my lesson in public speaking ? Establishing rapport with the audience is crucial for survival. Once you get the audience to like you by using humor or by appealing to their interest, you can make a tremendous impact !

Andy Warhol was proved right and I did bask in my fifteen minutes of fame !!!

For more pics, check out my photo album

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  • Malora Fernandes

    mCK – great post. Looking sharp in that suit. Looks like you had a lot of fun!

  • Sowmya

    Enjoy CK. You deserve every bit of the praise…. Wish I was there to see you performing…

    If there is such an opportunity in Bangalore, do let me know…….

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