Farming background to CA in MNC - How Mahesh conquered his fear of public speaking

If you think you can’t progress because you don’t know English, you are wrong. It’s only your fear of not being able to progress that pulls you down.

And how do you get over this fear? The first step is - Accept that you have a fear.

It’s the fear of the unknown that stops you from taking that first step.

For Mahesh, this fear was presenting himself in front of a crowd.

“I find myself stuck in between a presentation. All eyes are on me, and I suddenly get blank.”
Living in the state for 5 years, having a conversation in English is difficult for me.”
“I see people giving great presentations at the workplace, and I wish to achieve the same for myself.”
“I chose not to go for MBA because I felt it will be difficult for me to give interviews, and speaking a lot in English is difficult for me.”

So, what’s the solution to this? Give into the fear, or give it one more try?

Mahesh took the step to give it one more shot. He took the courage to write his story once again. And it’s always the first step that matters - however small it is. And with a little help from Blackboard Radio, Mahesh found the courage to take that step. Here is Mahesh’s story:

Mahesh is from Hyderabad. He holds an experience of 5 years working as a CA in an MNC. A simple guy who loves traveling - whether it’s Dehradun or Kanyakumari. As a mid-managerial Chartered Accountant in an MNC, he sees himself in leadership roles in the next 4-5 years.

But in the present, he doubts he would be able to get into those leadership roles. He is also aware that poor communication is a big barrier on the path to his growth.

He always visualized himself as someone leading a team in the next 5 years. He knows the power of visualization. And it’s evident with the spark in his eyes when he told the story of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan.

🪖 The NSG Commando Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan saved around 130 lives in the Mumbai blasts. He used to visualize being in the Navy. And he worked towards it by taking the smallest step of watching such movies.

When he failed to join the Navy, he didn’t give up. He found the next best solution and joined Army. He aimed to contribute to the nation’s citizens. And he achieved it when he sacrificed his life for the nation’s security.

Visualizing his aim and the road ahead

Mahesh knew his problem areas were:

  • inability to present his ideas with clarity.
  • lack of positive body language to showcase his command.
  • how to make a topic interesting.
  • customize his communication according to the audience.

As a CA, his job requires daily communication with global clients. At the mid-managerial level, he often has to serve as a connecting link between top management and employees. He regularly evaluates his employees’ performances.

Plus, he also has to make important decisions while creating small opportunities for his employees to keep learning. And most importantly, he has to provide information to the top management to solve past dysfunctional strategies.

Hence, he has to learn how to persuade his employees, motivate them and have empathy to understand their issues. He decided to write his story by taking the first step of getting better at Presentation Skills and Workplace Communication.

Small milestones, small victories

For Mahesh, his learning journey started through some key areas:

  • Learning presentation skills and body language
  • Using voice and pitch to create impact
  • Structuring his thoughts and ideas
  • Controlling his nervousness and jitters

Holding a conversation is an important part of effective communication. Even more important is to gain expertise and command over the topic. Mahesh knew he was good at speaking on a topic at length. However, before he speaks on a foreign topic, he also needs to know who he is.

Who is Mahesh? What are his characteristics? What does he like to do? How he meets people and keeps his close relationships?

Prajakta, the trainer, asked him to talk about his weaknesses and strengths to figure these out.  It also means how you present yourself through body gestures.

Mahesh didn’t know if he was an extrovert. He was confused because he told Prajakta that he likes being around people but takes time to open up. So he thought he was an introvert. However, the trainer helped him figure out that an introvert is someone who likes his own company more than others.

Hence, it gave him a better idea to understand his fears and understanding himself better. Knowing oneself was the first step he took before he learns talking with others. It allowed him to understand where he stands and use it to his advantage while talking to others.

Mahesh got to know an important trait of himself through just the first exercise of simply talking about his strengths and weaknesses. It gave him more confidence now that he knew something about himself that he didn’t know earlier. It was a revelation for him.

Choosing a dream and following his heart

Now that he knew something important about himself, he can use it to his advantage. He can open up his speech with a better chain of thoughts. And that was important for him because he has to present himself around larger sets of people, e.g giving presentations.

This was a small victory for him to make his speeches more impactful, focused, informational, and engaging. The next milestone was learning to prepare the content before speaking through building blocks of related words and ideas.

Mahesh might be a bit hesitant and shy in opening up to people. But he wasn’t shy about choosing a completely different profession than his traditional family farming background. He chose what his heart desired. And he has a dream of opening a business one day.

Yet, he likes to stick to his roots. It was a welcome change when he felt inspired to submit his assignment in a lively environment. He spoke on the topic amidst the trees instead of wall ceilings.

Mahesh’s background was one thing that kept pulling him down. Knowing about his strengths of being a learner and choosing a different path encourages him. He can now let go of his inferiority complexes of coming from a small background. He can use that as fodder to mingle and create strong equations with team members from different backgrounds.

Instead of becoming a challenge, he can use his struggle to relate with people from other backgrounds.

Learning new things

Mahesh now opened up about what stresses him most about communication: jitters and nervousness. For that, he needs to learn to control his emotions while speaking with anyone in an office. For this, Prajakta told him a few easy pointers:

  • Take a few deep breaths to calm your senses.
  • Allow yourself to pause and recollect
  • Listen and participate actively in a meeting
  • Ask questions to show your seriousness and curiosity
  • Give solutions and raise concerns

Now that, emotions were in control, it was time to focus on communication.

The most important part of building up a story is to know how to structure it well. When Mahesh narrated his experience of a trek to Kedarkantha, he realized he hasn’t built up the required momentum, desired impact, and drama.

Telling a story:

Framing the sentences

Stressing specific words in a sentence

Placement and sequence of events

Changes in the pitch and volume

Adding humor and wit

Cracking a light joke

Staying away from forming any stereotypes

Adding a conclusion

Giving takeaways

Mind Mapping

Prajakta told him to use it to find words he doesn’t know by using the words he knew. It creates a chain of thoughts that he can use to frame and build up new sentences. It also plays a key role when you have to speak spontaneously on a topic.

Presentation Skills

The next class focused on what the student learned about presentation skills. And she explained some great pointers like:

  1. Animating the slide points as per your pace
  2. Speaking after presenting a slide or a point
  3. Carrying pointers or cue cards
  4. Taking a few notes of figures, and statistics in cases of any glitches or power issues
  5. Eating and drinking well before the presentation to shift and direct your focus entirely on the presentation

The most important part was the way of practicing or rehearsing your presentation. While speaking in front of the mirror or camera is the most common way, it’s also important to know what to rehearse. And the teacher explained the importance of practicing the ideas rather than word-to-word written on the slides.

An important lesson

But if you practice the exact lines of the content, chances are you will forget the flow. Ideas can keep your flow. But memorizing the lines can land you in trouble if you forget one.

BBR English lets you use your actions and words to help achieve your goals and dreams.

Mahesh came from a farming background, but his goal was to become a Chartered Accountant. He was not sure he would be able to cross the hurdles the language put in his way. In fact, even tried to improve his language skills by taking some video lessons from YouTube.

But the problem was nothing worked. YouTube videos can only take you to the point where you need to practice. But after that, you have to walk ahead on your own to the part that requires practicing. If you align that action with your goal of becoming a team leader in the next five years - you can see it requires a little more effort.

That’s what Mahesh saw with BBR English. He needed a mentor. It gets easier to know your strengths and weaknesses from someone who is able to understand you on your level. BBR English provides live mentoring for each of its students so that they can keep their words and actions always aligned with their goals. Literally.

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