Define or Defy

Tag: Master Orator Championship

Lost But Won ft. Devayani Reddi

They say that the difference in Winning and Losing, is most often Not Quitting.

From being the second runner up in Master Orator Championship 2016 to winning the championship the next year, Devayani Reddi has showed that success never comes easy but it definitely does in the end.

Her experience, in her own words…


Some things just happen in a total blur. There seems to be no beginning or end to such events that you can pinpoint in your mind and say, yes, this is where it all began – and this is finally where I bid adieu. But the space between these enigmatic beginnings and endings is filled with moments and memories in sharp focus. For me it’s usually food – I never know when I started eating those French fries, and when the plate got magically empty. Naturally, the Master Orator Championship was a welcome change.

No matter how hard I try, I can’t remember any of the registration procedure, or how I got to the venue, nothing at all. My memories begin the moment the first speaker from my designated room stepped onto the stage. The moment when all your energies are focused on something is truly invigorating. It was that moment – the reason I decided to participate in the contest materialized. The love for public speaking. Over the course of the qualifiers, the semi-finals, and the finals, I must have listened to at least fifty speeches crafted by people from just as many backgrounds. The way personal stories leave their imprint on every story that someone chooses to tell was something I hadn’t experienced on such a large scale, and that too among strangers. The organisers created such a safe and simultaneously fun environment for us that there was simply no holding back. Equally defining was the moment I placed third in MOC 2016. First it was joy that I got something I worked so hard for and deserved. Next was a moment of pride for both the other winners, because they really did have outstanding speeches. (Here I must admit to a slight sting of jealousy). Last was deciding that I would come back next year and place first. That I would be the one with the biggest trophy, that my name would be on that huge placard, that I would be the one getting the most attention. I know it sounds a little drama-queen-esque, but motivation comes in many forms. And in accordance with my drama-queen-soap-opera-type dramatic decision, I applied for MOC 2017 the moment the application portal opened.




And like I said, there is no clear ending to MOC 2016 that I can confidently pinpoint – it just segued into my decision, into my re-application, into the drafting of my new speeches. You can’t help but carry forward the motifs of a great experience, especially when you’re about to relive it. The most impactful thing about MOC 2017, besides the speeches and the people, was the fact that I didn’t feel any repetition whatsoever. Not for a moment did I encounter a similar speech from 2016, nor a similar perspective. The human kaleidoscope is something that we grossly underestimate. I would be lying if I said the kaleidoscope was the most exciting thing though.





I could write a very properly selfless paragraph, but I will use this sentence to brag about me winning first place. To be recognised for your hard work and dedication is an emotion unto itself. And the “end” of MOC 2017 neatly transitioned into a certain phone call that I can only describe as being the most exciting phone call I have ever received in my life. When most of the calls you receive are your friends asking you to come to the canteen or to give proxy attendance, you can safely say that Toastmaster Venkata telling you to get ready to travel to Seoul is the most exciting call ever. (Here you should know that I’m a huge K-Pop fan, so my excitement was almost hazardous to my physical surroundings). Seoul – the city that every K-Pop/K-Drama fan hopes to visit someday, and a Toastmasters Conference – an event that every aspiring orator/leader hopes to attend – and I got to do both. Mom put it down to divine interference – see, everything happens for a reason. Yes, the gods of K-Pop wanted this to happen.


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The District 93 Annual Conference was perhaps one of the most well-organised events I have ever attended. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I could’ve set my watch to Korean Standard Time by following the event schedule – it was that punctual. From the venue to the stage to the music to even the organisers’ T shirts, everything was spectacular. The workshops curated were truly a wealth in knowledge. And as a socially anxious person who tries to avoid multiple conversations, I found myself willingly talking to people and answering questions in more than three syllables at a time. Perhaps that is the warmth that Toastmasters cultivate. My family and I were so well looked after that we forgot the fact that we’d only known them for a day. A special mention for Toastmaster Sonia Kim, without whom I wouldn’t have enjoyed my stay in Seoul – she came sightseeing with us, visited our hotel to spend time with us, and left us wanting to invite her back home and make biryani for her.




And yet again, I encountered a diverse set of people with equally diverse speeches. The delivery was of course more sophisticated, but the strength of an idea is universal. The highlight of the event, however, was getting to meet World Champion of Public Speaking, Mohammed Qahtani. Interacting off stage with someone you’ve only seen on stage is an indescribable experience. I will now use this sentence to proudly state that he was seated at my table for dinner during the entertainment program. And I talked to him in more than three syllables at a time. I think my face could’ve lit up the entire room when he told me I had what it takes to be a TED speaker. Moments like these you can only replay in your head and think did it really happen? All in all, it was a wonderful experience that people would call “once- in-a-lifetime”, but for me it was one that made me decide to not let it be just once in a lifetime. Such inspiration, much wow.





Once again, the end of the conference is non-existent; I’ve made yet another decision – just as dramatic but more ambitious, which is my most important lesson from MOC. It will cleverly blend into the beginning of another unforgettable experience. Until then, I’ll eat my fries.







How to Win Master Orator Championship (or come pretty close)

That’s where everything starts and ends.

To be honest, I think I’m far from a good orator. I cringed watching my finals video looking at the number of mistakes I did on that day – speech transitions, body language, conclusion etc. Lot many things. But because I earned the bragging rights of being the runner up of 2017 edition, I’ll walk you through whatever lessons I learned, the Do’s and Don’ts and a couple of takeaways from Master Orator Championship a.k.a MOC.

Before we go into this, let me give an introduction of what this competition is about.
Master Orator Championship is a public speaking competition for students of the age 18-24 from any recognized college.

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The competition is in the format of qualifiers followed by semi-finals and then finals.
MOC 2016 had around 700 registrations and MOC 2017 had close to 2100 registrations and with the popularity of Toastmasters gaining ground and the thrill of owning a MacBook/Ipad and a trip to International Toastmaster conference is something every student wants a shot at, makes the possibility of 3500 registrations in 2018 not an exaggeration.

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MOC goes on for close to 45 days and it’ll be easier if I break it down into 3 phases of the competition.
[1] Before the Competition
[2] During the Competition
[3] After the Competition
and by competition I mean the respective stages of MOC i.e the prelims, the semi finals and the finals.

Before the Competition


  • As I said earlier, everything starts and ends with the belief you hold in yourself. Some of you might have a belief that you are not a good speaker and there’s no point in participating here. That you are not ‘extroverted’ enough. Well, I was in the same place.But that is a misconception. Public Speaking is about sharing your ideas, thoughts, values and a lot more with the audience. A single sentence in a speech can completely change someone else’s life.Image result for martin luther king i have a dreamDuring my initial college days, I shared the fear of audience with one of my dear friends, about how most of my classmates won’t heed much about my speech. His response completely changed my perception of Public Speaking. “Don’t think about the 50 people who don’t listen, but the 10 people who do and the 1 who gets impacted. ”
    We all should focus on the Macro, the big picture and not the Micro, the trivialities.
    The Macro being facing your fear of public speaking, the experience of sharing your ideas, thoughts and values, influencing and motivating a person.
    The Micro being exaggerating your own thoughts of what the audience might be thinking and also the goodies and prizes.
  • Another assumption that goes hand in hand with the previous one is that public speaking is about theatricality and over the top emotions. Well, that is another misconception. This is where I would recommend you to watch two of the best Toastmaster speeches available:Dananjaya Hettiarachchi World Champion of Public Speaking 2014 – Full Speech
    2015 World Champion: ‘The Power of Words’ Mohammed Qahtani, Toastmasters InternationalBoth these speeches were so minimalist and elegant with the right amount of motion and movement.One thought for now. Don’t you think with some good content, you can replicate the same? I definitely think so.Start to the competition with a positive mind and the belief you can win and you just might surprise yourself.

Speech and Speech Structuring

Your Speech is the crux of your time at the competition. Everything starts and ends with it. If you haven’t made a draft yet or have no idea where to start from, a good starting point would be to watch a couple of speeches, along with the ones I mentioned above. Listen to the popular TED talks, Josh talks, commencement speeches and surprisingly, product presentations- particularly Steve Jobs. Also look at how Steve Jobs is a master of Public Speaking and Influencing.

During another Toastmaster event in 2016, called Fun and Furore, I had the chance to witness a speech by Mr. Rajdeep Manwani.
There, Mr. Rajdeep shared one technique in speech structuring, which I think drastically improved my speech’s effect. It was to divide the speech in 3 particular bits – the introduction, the body and the conclusion. This one you must already have an idea. But these three division can be told at different places of the stage, likely the left, right and the center. A simple idea but worked really effectively to drive my particular point.

You can also notice this technique in use with this particular blogpost.
Do your Warmups

It must have been a while since you last spoke on the stage so it would be a good practice to give a couple of seminars, presentations and speeches in your class and preferably with an audience and not an empty classroom. This will get you used to the adrenaline rush before giving a speech.

Once you are done with your initial draft of the speech, practice in the presence of a friend and take feedback. Not just once or twice but multiple times. And preferably try to record your performance and review it, because only then will you be able to correct your mistakes. The frequent culprits being – speech transitions and body language.

Another good practice would be to attend any 1 or 2 Toastmaster Club meetings as a guest. If you are in Hyderabad, you can check out the Hyderabad Toastmasters for any meetups. If you are from Guntur, check out Guntur Toastmaster for any events. The idea behind this is to accustom yourself to the introductions, how timers work and you also have a chance to interact with some experienced Toastmasters and take up some pointers from them. Also check out this evaluation criteria and rate yourself in your practice sessions with the help of a friend or family member.

Before moving on, a small recap of what I did and could have done before the competition.
What I did:

  1. In 2016, I gave a practice speech to my classmates. It was about startups and how they progress to becoming an MNC. It had a negative response, with most of them unable to follow it since I didn’t structure it properly. Lesson learned. Also, you might think that you have a great speech material but you never know if the audience is following it or not until and unless you test it.
  2. In 2017, for the prelims and semi-finals I practiced a lot in front of a mirror both at home and in the restrooms at the venue before the start of the competition. Works like a charm 😄 And for the finals, I gave practice sessions in presence of my close friend. I was so uncomfortable initially that I had to ask her to turn around and listen to it for a couple of attempts and then face me directly. Worth the effort 🙂

What I could have done:

  1. I had the idea of practicing my speech in the college auditorium just for the feels but I didn’t actually put that into action.
  2. Recording a video of the practice sessions to correct my body posture and transitions.

During the Competition

Get Comfortable and Confident

What do I mean by comfortable? The first one being having a really good night’s sleep and the second one is reaching the venue at least 1 hour before the scheduled time.

The day before my finals I couldn’t get enough proper rehearsals and I considered staying up till I get at least one right. But knowing better, my parents advised me to have some quality sleep. And it really helped me have a calm state of mind throughout the day.
And also, I was just on time for the finals with barely some amount of time for final rehearsals. So don’t overlook this fact.

Whenever there was time before the competition and I knew where the rounds might be held, I tried to acquaint myself with the stage. Even during the finals, I had a good opportunity to stay on stage and walk around for a good 10 minutes with only a handful of audience reaching till then. A must do I would say.

Look your Best and you’ll perform the best! This is a psychological feeling where the way you dress directly affects your confidence and also cheekily intimidates your competitors.

And wear a good smile throughout and be approachable 😀



In the prelims and the semis, you’ll probably be in a room with 15-30 participants, each taking a turn on the stage for the speech. And most of us sneakily try to practice our speech silently. Not a bad thing to do but you might miss out on other beautiful speeches.

Good practice would be to carry a notepad and jot down whatever you found interesting in the speeches or in the interaction with other people. I still closely remember many of the speeches as I had the habit of writing the speech title and the speaker name as a bare minimum.

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MOC is the place where you’ll be meeting experienced Toastmasters and orators, helpful volunteers and a lot of students who have the same yearning to speak and share ideas. It’s one of those infrequent events where you are away from the usual college friends and atmosphere and can interact with people from various walks of life. Some from different colleges and some from different cities and states too.

We always think of having some conversations but end up failing cause usually we don’t know where to start. I kept having this same situation repeatedly and embarrassingly it happened with one of the District Directors too. I wanted to talk, but didn’t know how to start. I start with a random thing and then there’s an air of awkward silence. So. it would be good if you can list out a couple of conversation starters before leaving to the event and approach people and have a good time conversing.
What I did:

  1. Adrenaline rush. The fear will definitely get on your nerves. Before my turn at the finals, I did a couple of wall push ups to pump myself up and I had a smile throughout 🙂
  2. This was actually after my prelims but since I wanted to include under Interaction I’m putting it here. This was unexpected but I had a chance to ride back to Hyderabad from Vijayawada with the organizers and it was great fun. The commadaire they all shared was really wonderful. With all those hours, I had a feeling of belonging. This greatly reduced my fear through other stages.

What I could have done:

  1. Record my performance with help from fellow participants and analyse it.

After the Competition

Be Mindful

In months leading up to the competition, I had read ‘Gita for Children’ and also got introduced to Stoicism. One common idea was that one should focus only on one’s efforts and not be concerned with the results. The fruits of our toil sometimes are never in our complete control. So if you didn’t make the cut to any of the further rounds or couldn’t be one of the podium finishers or couldn’t be the Master Orator, you will definitely notice feelings of pain, jealousy, disappointment and a couple of other negative emotions which is completely natural. Acknowledge the feeling and let it pass. Make it a point to congratulate the other contestants.

I was very eager for the results since I was very confident with my performance and felt I gave my best (until I saw the video 😀) and when I was announced as the runner up, I had only one emotion – disappointment which carried on for a couple of hours. I forced myself to smile throughout the presentation ceremony which looking back was not the best way to react. I still regret it. It was one of the most fulfilling days of my life and I didn’t have to ruin it myself.

The competition ends. What’s next? A lot of things actually. Keeping the results aside. Evaluate your performance, list out strengths and weaknesses and points of improvement.
Follow Up

If you wish to be the Master Orator the following year, make up a detailed plan and put it into action. Participate in events directly and indirectly related to Public Speaking.

If you are graduating, join any of the Toastmaster Clubs. One might be in your organisation too.

Some of the best things happen after the competition. The District 98 of Toastmasters hosts some of the best events. After MOC 2016, I’ve been to Fun and Furore’16 and also Fun and Furore’17 after MOC 2017. They host some of the best speakers who will blow your mind. The events are not void of entertainment too. I witnessed improv comedy, played treasure hunt, and also took a shot at rhyming.

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What I did:

  1. After the finals, I had the opportunity to share some thoughts as a guest speaker for Guntur Toastmasters, Vignan Institute and also Telangana Public School. Think of various ways of how you can continue your interest of Public Speaking.

What I could have done:

  1. Rather than sulking in the presentation ceremony, I could have enjoyed those few good moments. Unlike other competitions, the winners didn’t really get a chance to speak a few words. I should have went to the mike and thanked my parents and friends without whose tremendous support I couldn’t have accomplished anything worthwhile.

Final Words

Is Master Orator Championship just about the International Conference or the Macbook or the Ipad? or is it much more that?

How to Win Master Orator Championship (or come pretty close). When I first came up with the title, I had the idea of sharing whatever I had learned to you in order to better prepare yourself to win the championship. But as I reflected through the 2 years of association with MOC, I realized that the competition is much more than that.
To me, MOC was the place where I had made new friendships which grew stronger as the days progressed. Shootout to Mohammed Furqan, Bhavana Tadiboina and the whole lot of Guntur Toastmasters, TM Keerthi and TM Uday. Also, just watching the other Toastmasters speak was a delight. They become my indirect mentors.
And finally, I came out as a more confident and stronger person with the realization that no matter where you are presently, with enough smart and hard work you can reach the goal you set forth.
MOC was all of these to me. And in the long run, what now seems micro will be the macro 🙂

If you are a student just starting out or you are in your final years of student life.
If you have a magnetic personality eager to share something to the world, or believe the same personality exists inside you and need a chance to bring it out.
Show up. Make the plunge. And it will be one of the most beautiful journeys you will have ever undertook and you might win the Master Orator Championship in your own unique way 😉

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Update 2019:

Another year has passed by and Master Orator Championship 2018 had amazing participants once again. The finalists definitely upped the level of the competition and it was a blast watching them speak their heart out.

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How was their experience? Read on what the 2nd runner-up, Mohammed Furqan has to say about his shot at the championship.

Master Orator Championship: 7 Solid Perks You Get From Contesting

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Master Orator Championship 2019 Through My Eyes

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