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.
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.