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Updated on November 30, 2013

Priests, Board Members & Masters of Ceremonies

It's always good to see women in leadership roles at the mandirs. Traditionally women have been in charge of the kitchen, but more and more women are becoming board members, serving as priests and teachers, besides being masters of ceremonies at shows and yagnas.

It is good to have a diverse group of people in these roles, including youth, women, elders and those with various skills and abilities. Having diversity means better decisions will be made in serving the whole community.

Encouraging people of all backgrounds to aspire to these roles is very important. Women in politics were surveyed in the United States. Almost all of them ran for office because people encouraged them to do so. Having mentors, friends and teachers encouraging this kind of diversity is important.

Having childcare available would also be helpful for young families. Teens and college students could provide childcare at the mandir for those families who need it during meetings and events.

Having a scholarship fund for memberships would be helpful for high school and college students who are 18 and older. This would also be helpful for for adults who have lower incomes who are talented and capable individuals who can not afford the cost of membership.

We need to foster an environment which encourages women to aspire to the top roles, such as Vice President and President of the mandir. We need to get away from the "good ole' boy mentality" of just voting for someone you know personally. We need to encourage people to vote for the best qualified person based on their experience, merit and abilities. I have seen men get elected who did not have any previous experience on the board over women who had a lot of experience on the board. It would be good to have each person who is running for the board to give a short summary of their experience and qualifications at the time of the election. The person also could submit a resume to be posted prior to the election, so that people could vote more intelligently.

Unfortunately, not enough women are chosen for Masters of Ceremonies even though there are many capable, intelligent women who are excellent public speakers who can fill these roles. I would encourage asking for volunteers at yagnas and events. When you do that, you have many more women coming forward then when you just ask someone you know. Our mandir did that and we got three women who came forward for this role at a yagna. Also it is good to have women and youth introduce the pandit. I have been extremely impressed with the quality of the job that women and youth have done when they do take on these roles. Details are important when summarizing the yagnas and making announcements. Summarizing is important for those who could not attend previous sessions.

Having a speakers' program where both adults and youth give speeches every week also gives people experience being in front of people. Having a sign up sheet would very helpful, so that the mandir has a variety of people performing this task weekly. Space on the sheet could be given for the phone number and e-mail address of each person signing up for a speech for a particular week. A pool of speakers would soon be developed, so that you would have contact information for future events.


There is a difference between a great, good or mediocre speech. This is a check list I have developed for speakers who wish to be great public speakers.

A. Know your audience. Are you speaking to adults, children, men, women or youth? Keep in mind the environment you are speaking in.

B. Use a stand or podium to hold your materials. A priest uses the arsn for this purpose. This allows you to focus on your audience and have better eye contact with them. This frees up your hands, so that you can use them to communicate well with your audience. All great public speakers use their hands to communicate well. It is very annoying to hear paper rattling in the speaker's microphone. Using a stand helps you avoid this problem.

C. Have a hard, printed out copy of your speech, materials, notes or power point presentation. Technology is not always reliable. Holding a smart phone when delivering a speech does not allow you to have good eye contact with the audience or allow you to use your hands to communicate with your audience.

D. Do not yell into the microphone. Let the microphone work for you. If you constantly yell into the microphone, you will become hoarse. Not a good thing for a public speaker to do!

E. Hold the microphone a little distance away from your mouth. Otherwise you will distort the sound quality of your voice.

F. Avoid phrases like ah, um, you know and you guys. It is better to pause. In fact, many great speakers can effectively use the pause well. President Obama is an example of someone who knows how to use the pause well to communicate to the audience.

G. Be inclusive of both men and women. Better to use words like humanity, humankind, humans, people, individuals, we or us. Gurus come in both genders, so you need to include that in the presentation. To give you an example, it is better to say, "Your guru, he or she, can help you with spiritual questions." If you only recognize the male gender, it gives people the impression we only have male priests and gurus, which is not the case.

H. Make your talk real, relevant and interesting. Give real life examples from your own experience or tell a good story which illustrates the idea or concept you want to communicate. Be creative and get beyond what has traditionally been done before. Some great topics: The Vedas & Ecology, Female Sages, Hinduism & Women, The Divine Mother Includes All in Rituals, Women and Instruments. There are many interesting topics rarely presented at the mandir. Go for the interesting topics! Even conventional topics can be done creatively. Use theater, music and objects to enhance your presentation. Humor is one way to engage your audience. Expressing your feelings is so important in delivering a great speech. It is good to show different emotions when delivering a speech. It makes it more interesting.

I. Do your research and ask questions which you want to have answered. Remember all great disciples ask good questions. Remember Arjuna and Gargi? Both asked great questions.

Now go out and be the change you want to see in the world!




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