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Baruch professor comes in top 20 in worldwide speech contest

Dr. Hill Krishnan, a professor at Baruch College, recently placed second at the semifinals for the Toastmaster International 2018 World Championship of Public Speaking in Chicago in August. Krishnan represented District 46 in the semifinals and competed against 10 other contestants from countries including Australia, Nigeria and Singapore. With this victory, Krishnan was given the honor of being one of the 20 best speakers in
the world.

The world championship first started in 1938, and, this year, the contest began with 30,000 participants from 141 countries. Due to the strong diversity, the competition is rich with stories from different cultures. The competition is entirely in English, even though people come from all over the world to vie against one another.

In this competition, only 110 speakers make it to the final rounds at the national level. By the time they reach the national level, these contestants will have already competed in four rounds to qualify for nationals. The four rounds consist of the club level, area level, division and the entire district. All four rounds of the competition and the semifinals requires the same speech, but a new one must be written for the finals, which takes place two days after the semifinals.

Krishnan competed in District 46, which is comprises New York City, Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk County. Once a competitor wins the championship, they are not allowed to compete in it again.

This year was Krishnan’s first time partaking in a contest of this scale, and he did not expect to do so well. He had been practicing his speech for three months in front of clubs to receive feedback and constructive criticism. He is not a fan of competing as much as he is a fan of perfecting the speech, continuing to improve and getting feedback.

He believes that the key to a good speech is to have either a message, a connection or some humor that the speech centers around. A good speech will make the audience laugh, cry or take them on a journey. It will give the audience something new to learn or use in their life and will be beneficial
to them.

Krishnan takes pride in knowing how far he has come; he was born in the small village of Vadukachimathil in India and grew up poor in the rigid Indian caste system. Even when he was younger, Krishnan loved to speak in front of large crowds and perform. He competed in small public speaking competitions, as well as acted as a villain in a Bollywood sitcom. His personal experiences are what he centers his speeches around.

He went to the College of Engineering, Guindy, in Chennai, India. He later received two Master of Science degrees from New York University and a doctoral degree from Boston University. Krishnan now teaches political science
at Baruch.

“You will face failures; life is like a dice, fate rolls the dice and it gives you a number, you can choose to stick with the number or choose to roll the dice again,” Krishnan said. He believes in making his own destiny. When he was younger, Krishnan failed his English test twice, but he persevered and is now competing in a public speaking competition that is entirely in English.

Krishnan is also a motivational speaker both inside and outside the classroom. When he teaches his students, he never uses PowerPoint presentations because it makes for a less interactive learning experience, he said.

His students consistently told him that he was inspiring, so he started making one-minute motivational videos.

Krishnan reads frequently and uses the stories he reads to create analogies to inspire people. Some of the themes he focuses on are the different struggles people go through and human frailties and how to overcome them.

Krishnan has also spoken at a TEDx Talk in 2016, during which he challenged the stereotypes and labels placed on people. Krishnan calls the caste he was born into the “most backward caste” because it was known for poverty, crime and illiteracy. For this reason, he encouraged the audience to narrate their own life stories. and break the stereotypes that are bound to them.

Krishnan encourages everyone to participate in public speaking competitions because public speaking is a tool that is needed in all walks of life. His one piece of advice is to always make good eye contact and practice by looking at one’s eyes in the mirror when rehearsing
a speech.

September 4, 2018

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Sahar Ilyas


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