After winning the title of the best public speaker in India, Aditya Maheswaran went on to represent the country in the 2015 world championship in Las Vegas (USA) and was declared 1st runner up.
Read how this IT-professional-turned-consultant made a mark at the international level: Indian MBA graduate shines in World Championship of Public Speaking.
Raw talent, passion for the art and a desire to excel are the basic ingredients that any champion must have. But unless there’s a guide or mentor who can channelize it all in the right direction, you’ll never discover the magic proportion.
The secret weapon in Aditya’s training toolkit which helped him do exactly that was a volunteer-run organisation called Toastmasters. It may sound like a wine-tasting club to those who haven’t heard about it earlier. It’s not. Its aim is to help members improve their public speaking and leadership skills.
Even if you aren’t preparing for an public speaking competition, you can still benefit from having strong communication skills and interpersonal skills. The ability to grip an audience and give them a peek into your brilliant mind is an invaluable and powerful skill to have.
We invited Aditya to share some insights on how the Toastmasters process works. He also talks about how he helps professionals tap into their dormant leadership potential.
Polish your communication skills & become a leader
Interview with Aditya Maheswaran
Careerizma: Hi Aditya, can you share a little about yourself?
Aditya Maheswaran: I’ve been a professional speaker for the last few years and it’s been an enriching experience for me. That coupled with delivering keynotes for rotary, TEDx, and other international conferences has been a thrill and an opportunity to change lives.
I’m also a leadership coach. Because of my background as a consultant and an MBA, my clients find that I bring the business angle in addition to my capability as a behavioural consultant. My aim to be tap people and organization potential of my clients.
How Toastmasters helps in improving public speaking skills
Careerizma: How does the Toastmasters process work in India? Is there a fee to get involved? How are the various operations/activities funded?
Aditya: Toastmasters has caught on in India like a bee to a honeycomb! The best way to get involved is to visit www.toastmasters.org and find a club closest to you.
Careerizma: What kind of folks does it attract and what personal development issues are they trying to tackle?
Aditya: It attracts people from all professions, age groups, and communities. Self-development goes beyond profession and interests. It mainly focuses on honing public speaking and leadership skills.
Careerizma: What the (communication / leadership) tracks that members can choose?
Aditya: Members start with Basic communication and leadership tracks (called CC and CL), then move on to advanced tracks where they choose what they want to specialize in.
Careerizma: What the top reasons why members drop out?
Aditya: Members drop out because they sometimes expect instant gratification, like what you get in an expensive 2 day training program. Toastmasters follows an adult learning process – which is learning by doing.
Careerizma: What level of commitment is needed to really get some value out of it? How does one track the progress?
Aditya: It is a self-learning process. You come. You speak. You receive feedback. You speak again. You receive feedback again. You speak again.
This, in my opinion is the only way to master a skill. There are mechanisms to track progress, but none more gratifying than you seeing a change in yourself. As I did.
Careerizma: What are 5 big communication and leadership challenges faced by employees in their day-to-day work?
Aditya: 1. Finding a purpose/meaning in what they are doing.
2. Trying to link everything to monetary benefits.
3. Over-usage of virtual communication and lack of face to face meetings.
4. Assuming work happens behind a laptop when best work actually happens over brainstorming.
5. Wanting to be the alpha-male leader during a time when leadership is about building relationships.
Careerizma: How does this restrict them from reaching their full potential?
Aditya: It restricts their potential because they are unable to find their true potential. An IT employee will never see how his code is actually changing lives or making the world a better place.
But a doctor can. And therefore doctors can unleash more discretionary effort while IT employees keep complaining about work.
No amount of employee engagement initiatives can substitute the ability to see purpose/impact/meaning of work being done.
Careerizma: What’s the typical profile of professionals who attend your workshops?
Aditya: I coach professionals in the mid and senior management profiles. I coach teams and individuals apart from conducting skill building workshops. These professionals are from MNCs, start-ups, top teams of NGOs, public sector and all other types of organizations.
Careerizma: What exactly do you cover in your workshops? What do you bring to the table that the official HR teams can’t?
Aditya: I bring a combination of knowledge in management, consulting, people which my clients derive value out of. I believe that learning happens as a by-product. So my workshops don’t focus on knowledge, it focusses on skill building.
Careerizma: What’s been the most dramatic improvement story you’ve come across from folks who’ve attended the workshops?
Aditya: A top team of a manufacturing unit had been working as a defunct top team for years. They were working in silos and therefore could not leverage inter-departmental synergies.
I coached them by norming top team objectives, both behaviourally and functionally and today, they work seamlessly as a top team and not just an aggregation of department heads. This has resulted in over 30% productivity increase and over 15% cost saving.
Careerizma: How do you manage this along with your hectic schedule? Any plans of moving into it on a full-time basis?
Aditya: Time has also been the only limiting factor in the last 10 years. I’ve been fortunate to have had immense and diverse experiences over the years. I’ve been able to juggle all of them well because I do only what I derive meaning from.
My objective is to add value to business teams and organizations, which I’ll continue to do either as part of a firm or on my own.
Careerizma: How can folks who are interested in future workshops get in touch with you?
Aditya: I connect with my fans, well-wishers, and potential clients on my Facebook page Adityaspeaks. I use this platform for continuous learning, by providing techniques and tips on human excellence, leadership and public speaking. That’s the quickest way to connect with me.
As a close second, I’m accessible over email Aditya.email@example.com
Careerizma: For those who can’t attend a workshop, any tips on how they can continue to build their communication and leadership skills?
Aditya: 1. I offer 1-1 coaching to people who want a more personalized growth-platform and those who are really serious about accelerated growth. I can be reached on my email id or FB page to initiate this.
2. I keep posting my perspectives on leadership and communication skills on my Facebook page which is a free and useful platform to learn.
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