Stand up

Stand up

The favourite toy of my daughter is “Miffy” the rabbit.

Miffy likes to draw and play with her friends.

My daughter loves to draw and play with her friends.

Did you have a special toy when you were growing up?

Contest chair, fellow Toastmasters and guests

I still remember that day in my primary school.

I was 6 years old and I was excited.

Excited, because it was the day we could take our favourite toy with us.

My favourite toy was “Steve” the monkey.

Steve had been part of me for many an adventure. In my imagination we had slept on roads, flown on airplanes and sailed on ships. Where this is an adventure, there is a villain!

The villain in this story was Big Sid. Big Sid was a bully. Not an ordinary bully, a toy stealing bully!

One day, Big Sid grabbed Steve. I pulled. He pulled. I let go. I did not want Steve to get hurt.

I was angry! Steve was my toy. I felt it was my duty to protect him.

How do I stand up to him? You see, Big Sid was two heads taller than me.

Nobody else in the school dared to stand up to Sid the Bully.

I mustered up some courage. I walked up to Big Sid, fear in my eyes, my teeth chattering and my legs shaking and squeaked “Please give Steve back to me”

Sid glared at me, looked at me like I was a fly and flicked me.

I flew and landed on my behind!

I did not know what to do.

Fast forward to the present.

My daughter who likes “Miffy” the rabbit also likes to fight. She attends a martial arts school for Brazilian Ju-Jitsu. We went to Chemnitz in the East of Germany for a contest.

My daughter and two of her white belt friends were in category A.

3 girls from a gym in Berlin turned up for category A.

These girls had braided hair and stared into space.

Friend 1 in Category A.

Braided hair girl wins the game with an arm bar in 45 seconds.

Friend 1 walks back with a visibly hurting arm.

Friend 2 in Category A.

Space staring girl wins the game with a rear naked choke.

Friend 2 walks back massaging her neck.

I look down at my daughter and her eyes are glazing. She does not want to fight. She does stand a chance against these braided and space staring fighters. I can see a teardrop forming in her eyes, rolling down her cheek and falling down.

My daughter’s coach walks up to her and holds her two hands and says the following.

  • It does not matter if the opponent is stronger.
  • It matters that you stand up to this opponent.

These words fire up my daughter and she walks up to the ring and faces her opponent.

My daughter in Category A!

The fight is over in 15 seconds with a triangle choke. My daughter walks back with a smile on her face. She lost the fight.

But on that day she stood up to her opponent and that has made all the difference.

Rewind to my primary school.

You remember Big Sid who had stolen my monkey Steve and also flicked me.

My music teacher Mr. Patrick had watched this exchange between me and Big Sid. He sat next to me and said

“In life, you and me. We face bullies. We face opponents who are stronger than us. But we can overcome the fear and stand up to them. He realized that I was too small to stand up by myself. So he added wisely – you can stand up with the help of your friends”

I looked up at Mr. Patrick and the realization dawned on me.

I asked a friend to help me. He knew how important Steve was to me. He convinced some friends and they gathered around me and stood up with me facing Big Sid.

And for the first time, I saw fear in the eyes of Big Sid.

Big Sid knew that the game was over and handed back Steve to me.

My daughter’s Jujitsu coach asked her to stand up to her opponent.

My music teacher Mr. Patrick asked me to stand up to my opponent with the help of my friends.

I encourage each and every one of you to

stand up for yourself

stand up for your friends

and stand up for those you love.


Is there a Gratwanderer in you?

View from Heimgarten to Herzogstand, Bavaria, Germany

A Gratwanderung is “Walking along mountain ridges”

I imagine walking along mountain ridges from movies.

  • Like in the Lord of the Rings when the group keeps walking from one mountain to another

I had been on simple treks with a few metres towards the end with ridges. Last weekend me and my sister were faced with a walk that would take 2 hours and 15 minutes one way with an elevation difference of 200m.

Both of us do not like heights

Both of us considered ourselves to be avid hikers and trekkers but not necessarily gratwanderers!

Here are a few things the German Alpine Organisation (DAV) recommends

  • Local weather conditions
    • 20-22 degrees Celsius
  • Elevation difference during the ascent and descent
    • Herzogstand 1731m
    • Heimgarten 1790m
  • Length and Timing for the tour
    • 2 hours 15 minutes for international tourists
    • 1 hour 30 minutes for local hikers
    • 1 hour for sporty hikers
  • Type of terrain
    • Walking along mountain ridges
    • DAV calls it BLACK
  • Huts to eat and drink
    • Heimgarten has a small hut heavy on sausages and pea soup for vegetarians

We decided to do it.

The first 10 minutes were difficult but after that our lungs got used to the new breathing and our legs to the new terrain.

When we arrived at Heimgarten we saw a guy wearing a pink bunny costume and singing Oktoberfest songs.

The beer was cold and the pea soup was just right to get us ready for the way back.

We took 2 hours on each way.

The way back felt easier because our lungs and legs knew what was in store.

When we came back to Herzogstand we added a BLACK rated hike as a feather on our caps.

We were proud of ourselves.

Are we walking blue and red rated hikes at work?

  • Is there a black rated hike that we are postponing or hiding from our teams?
  • Can we take it on with proper preparation and bit of courage?
  • Do we know the hikers and trekkers in the team waiting to become gratwanderers?

Is there a Gratwanderer in you?

Are you ready for your first or next BLACK hike?


1 + 1 = 3

I believe that 1 plus 1 can be 3 if the synergy of Evaluation is provided to a Speech.

I had the opportunity to evaluate a speech on Math for the District 95 (Germany, Denmark, Norway and Sweden) Evaluation contest finals.

We had 8 Speech Evaluators from clubs all around District 95 finding the good things with examples and things to improve with suggestions.

I hope our target speaker went home enriched with all the positive Evaluations.

I won the contest for the second time at the District Level and here is the video of my Evaluation:


Impromptu Speaking

How many times have you been caught by surprise in a business meeting and have been asked to give your opinion?

How many times have you answered with no structure?

Here are three simple structures for Impromptu Speaking:

  • 1-2-3
  • Past, Present & Future
  • Good, Better & Best

Let us say you work for a chocolate company which is considering to explore “FAIRTRADE” for their products and they ask you for your opinion.

Structure “1-2-3”:

Firstly “fairtrade” is not something we need to consider but it needs to be ingrained in every product we sell.

Secondly “fairtrade” helps us ensure that we take care of our suppliers all the way to the cocoa picker.

Thirdly “fairtrade” gives us the opportunity to let our customers consume chocolate not only for the taste but everything that went in creating it

Structure “Past, Present & Future”:

In the past, we created chocolate by keeping our suppliers and their working conditions a secret.

In the present, our customers are willing to pay for a product which not only tastes good but also is good in the production process.

In the future, by subscribing to “fairtrade” we have the opportunity to be fairer to our suppliers and provide good value to our conscious customers.

Structure “Good, Better & Best”:

Good chocolate had good cocoa beans in them.

Better chocolate had better chocolatiers working with them.

Best chocolate is when “fairtrade” is added to the recipe.

Try out these structures next time you are called to speak Impromptu!

What is your favorite structure for Impromptu speaking?


Speech Energy

Photo by Nicholas Green on Unsplash

Where do you get your Energy for a speech?

I normally get it from three places – Content, Stage and Audience.

If my content has something that I feel should be expressed with HIGH energy then I use HIGH energy in my expressions, voice and gestures.

eg: “Hold on to your beliefs and your dreams will come true!”

If my physical stage encourages me to make my speech bigger in feeling.

eg: Do you feel the BIGness of a speech change when you are on a 5m stage compared to a 15m stage?

If my audience is silent then maybe there are two reasons.

  • One they are listening intently and reflecting
  • Two they are lost and in a different world

I need to increase energy if they are lost and get them into the speech

If my audience is NOT silent then

  • One they are chuckling or laughing and having a good time
  • Two they are booing and want me off the stage

I need to take corrective action to change the booers into believers

My online audience is on MUTE. They are silent both ways!!

The content is still the same if it is a prepared speech.

If it is standup comedy, you may change it based on audience feedback.

When the stage is virtual, I am romancing the web camera.

  • I look 1cm to the right of the web camera for the audience to my right
  • I look 1cm to the left of the web camera for the audience to my left
  • I look 1cm to the top of the web camera if I am looking for godly inspiration
  • I look 1cm to the bottom of the web camera if I am looking down in sadness

My neck is training in a range of 1cm micro movements to keep my focus with the online audience.

It is difficult to feel the energy from a muted online audience.

It is possible to look at encouraging and nodding faces but you don’t always get it because you are looking at the web camera.

The energy has to come from within.

The energy has to be imagined and increased and decreased on cue.

I love the Energy from the physical audience. My speech takes on new levels with a physical audience.

I am learning to love the Online audience. The Energy is locked away with the online audience. It is my responsibility to take my speech to new levels to get the attention of an online audience.

Where you do get your energy for your speeches?


Message first or Story first

Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash

How do we start putting together a speech?

Message first or Story first?

I very often have a story that happened to me in the past. I feel like I learnt something from that story that I would like to share. I then take it and make it part of my speech and then build the speech around it. I find this approach organic. Sometimes getting a supporting frame to this story is challenging.

Having a message first reminds of me of being called to make an Impromptu speech. I have a phrase or challenge thrown at me and I need to build from there. In this case as I get warmed up with a first few sentences, my mind is chugging away in the background trying to put together stories that happened in my life and try to relate them with the topic. The moment any story matches a bit, I bring it in. During my story narration, I keep looking for a nice to loop back to the message. The advantage of this approach is that the message is known and everything is built on it.

What is your approach when you write your speeches?


Know your audience

Toastmasters International – Fact Sheet (2020-21)

When making a speech to an audience it is important to know them.


Let us take the Toastmasters organization as an example. The statistics presented here are from the fact sheets published by Toastmasters International.

Age appropriate speeches for an audience are very important. When the average age is 46 years, making speeches about “nursery rhymes” might not be relevant. Maybe for a small group of the members who are parents.

When 78% of the audience have a Bachelor’s or Higher degree then it is safe to assume that the audience is intellectual and will be moved by intelligent argumentation and logic. Not to forget a personal story and emotional connection every now and then.

Toastmasters International – Fact Sheet (2020-21)

Till District (Country/Countries) level, your speech will have to also reflect some understanding of local culture and traditions for the connection with the audience. Once you cross the District border and your speech is being made in front of an international audience it is good to know that 52 percent of the audience is from the Americas. The story, the development, the humor and the message should be able to cross borders.

Knowing your audience and making a speech that fits is a challenge.

But getting your facts right and being prepared is half the job done!


I, me and myself

Jafar (Aladdin) – Wikipedia

In the Disney movie “Aladdin” the villain Jafar comes out with a line wherein he says “Tell me about myself”.

I love this line!

How many of us love to talk about ourselves?

Especially when given the chance to make a speech with a personal story or with a hero’s journey.

I like to do the following exercise with my speeches.

Make a count of the number of “I”s, “Me”s and “Myself”s in your speech.

Here is a sample from one of my speeches:

Spoons and Forks – Ranjith Venkatesh | Speaker Shine

Number of “I”s: 21

Number of “Me”s: 7

Number of “Myself”s: 3

This speech has 659 words in all. Let us skip the “Me”s and “Myself”s.

The number of “I”s is 3% of the words in the speech.

If it crossed 10% the speech would make Jafar proud.

At 3% it is not high but still one has to see if there is a reason for “I”s to be where they are in the speech and if they are adding value.

How about your speech?

Is it about you or is it about your audience?


Story Cubes

I like games.

I like stories.

I like games which encourage storytelling.

I picked a game called “Rory’s Story Cubes” for my daughter recently.

You throw dice and start your story with the classic “Once upon a time”

And here goes:

Once upon a time

  • there was a bee called “Walter”
  • Walter lived in a tree on the topmost branch.
  • One day he flew down to smell a flower.
  • Walter noticed a big scary shadow from the side of his eyes.
  • BAZOOM! A shooting star just streaked past the sky!
  • From behind the tree walked a man wearing a mask.
  • He was singing a tune about how happy he was!
  • Walter gave a timid smile and only realized
  • There was LOVE in the air!

We even play the games in different variants

  • Each one says one sentence on one dice and the other one continues
  • We change languages – English one round and German another round
  • We change endings – Happy and Sad ending

Do you have a game which encourages storytelling?

Are you using storytelling at work to grab the attention and increase retention of the idea with your team members and stakeholders?


Agile Vlogmas – Apps and Hardware

I decided to do a Vlogmas for Christmas last year.

24 short videos over 24 days from December 1 to December 24, 2021.

After trying a few different tools, I settled down with two Apps inbuilt in Windows namely the Camera and the Video Editor App.

Hardware used: (links below)

I use the Logitech 4K Pro Webcam and I am happy with the video quality.

I use an external mike namely the RODE NT-USB Mini and I am happy with the audio quality.

I use a table top external ring light namely the Neewer LED Ring Light and I am happy with the light quality.

Step 1:

Recording the video using the Camera App.

Two settings which helped me were the Framing Grid and the Video quality.

I used the “Rule of thirds” for the framing grid and ensured that my head moved around in the middle box.

The Video quality was set to 1080p (Full HD). If your laptop does not have Full HD, get yourself a Full HD webcamera. It is worth the video quality.

I decided on an idea for the video and storyboarded in my mind. As the video length is aimed at 2 to 3 minutes, it is easier to storyboard it in the head. Anything longer might need a storyboard on paper or the equivalent.

Once the video was recorded, the only thing that it needed was to be trimmed in the beginning and the end for a few seconds.

I first did it with YouTube video editor but then realised that there is an Windows inbuilt video editor which is easier and faster.

Step 2:

Editing the video using the Video Editor App

Create a new video project and import the untrimmed video from earlier.

The video trimmer is very basic and I like it for this kind of video.

The first few seconds are the ones where you click on the record button and get ready. These seconds need to be trimmed. You may either move the trim control or use the arrow buttons to move step by step. I realised that I have a special look in my face before I start talking and I wait for that short span before the mouth opens and catch that point for the initial trim.

The last few seconds are the ones where you click on the stop record button. Your eyes are looking at the stop button and these seconds need to be trimmed too.

Once the trimming is done, you may finish the video and remember to select the 1080p for Full HD video quality.

Now you have a video ready for publishing in different platforms like YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.


Camera App

Create films with Video Editor


Logitech 4K Pro Webcam with HDR and RightLight 3

Logitech G HUB – Logitech Support + Download

NT-USB Mini | Studio Quality USB Microphone | RØDE Microphones (

RØDE Connect | Podcasting & Streaming Software | RØDE Microphones (

Table Top Ring Light –