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.
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.
MOC goes on for close to 45 days and it’ll be easier if I break it down into 3 phases of the competition.
 Before the Competition
 During the Competition
 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.During 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:
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- 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 🙂
- 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:
- Record my performance with help from fellow participants and analyse it.
After the Competition
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.
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.
What I did:
- 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:
- 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.
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 😉