Original Oratory

Original Oratory (OO) is an event in which the student presents an original speech on a topic of their choice. The intent is to inform or persuade the audience on a topic of significance. OO gives students the unique opportunity to showcase their voice and passion for their topic. It is not simply an essay about the topic—it is a well-researched and organized presentation with evidence, logic, emotional appeals, and sometimes humor to convey a message. Topics may be of a value orientation and affect people at a personal level, such as avoiding peer pressure, or they can be more of a policy orientation and ask an audience to enact particular policies or solve societal problems.

Students must use their own work, and may not copy the same speech or substantial sections of the same speech as another contestant. Students in OO are responsible for the accuracy of citations of evidence. Students must cite facts and analysis from source material accurately and in keeping with the author’s intent. The speech must be memorized and a maximum of 150 directly quoted words is allowed in the oration.

Students competing in OO typically select a topic that is of personal interest and significance to them. They should also consider topics that are current and relatable to audience members. OO is an ongoing process! Speeches can (and probably should) be modified throughout the competition year. There is always room for improvement, so pick a topic that you will enthusiastically explore and reflect upon during the season.

Time limit: Maximum of 10 minutes. While no minimum is prescribed, speeches of less than 7-8 minutes often receive lower scores.

Summary of Judging Criteria

  • Topic The topic should be interesting, stimulating, and of some importance. The purpose of the oration may be to inspire, to persuade, to eulogize, or to inform. These purposes may overlap in the same oration.
  • Structure: The introduction should gain attention, specify a clear thesis, and give some direction as to how the speech will unfold or develop. The body should be organized for easy understanding. Transitional words/devices should help to move the speech from point to point. The conclusion should recap, make you want to think more about the topic, and end interestingly.
  • Development: The speaker should be held accountable for substantiating and supporting main positions. There should be a variety of effective supporting material from qualified sources.
  • Language: The word choice should be clear and potent. Figures of speech and rhetorical devices should be used effectively.
  • Vocal Delivery: The speaker should be articulate and fluent. The speaker should make use of contrast, and make use of the elements of vocal variety: pitch, volume, rate, pausing, phrasing, stress, and tone. The speaker should stress words to enhance meaning. The speaker should be conversational and concerned, passionate and pleasing
  • Physical Delivery: The speaker should vary facial expression to accentuate the natural flow of thoughts and feelings. The speaker should make eye contact with the audience. The speaker's stance should be erect and controlled, without distracting movements. Movement, if used, should be motivated by transitions in thought or mood.
  • Delivery and content should be evaluated equally. Orations should be composed from the standpoint of the present speaker. However, the use of a persona for a maximum length of 1 minute shall be permitted.