Original Oratory: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know
Competitors in Original Oratory can find everything they would ever want, or need, to know about the competitive speaking event OO right on this page. How to be unique, tips for delivering and outlining a speech, things NOT to do, EVERYTHING a speech competitor needs to know in order to be successful in Original Oratory!
Original Oratory: Overview
Original Oratory, or OO, is an event of the National Forensic League and National Catholic Forensic League. In OO, the speaker writes an original speech and then delivers it in competition. The speech is to be memorized, within time limits (typically ten minutes), and can quote no more than 150 words.
An OO is to be factual and researched. The speaker has complete freedom on what topic of speech to choose. An OO can be a eulogy, an alert to the audience of a danger, a speech to strengthen a cause with an accepted response, or most often an OO is persuasive.
Regardless of what a speaker decides to write and speak about, certain traits of a good OO are universal. A good OO is a topic of clear interest to the competitor. Passion that shows through in a performance almost always helps to separate that speech from the ordinary. OO speakers should be slightly original. How often has a judge heard a speech on whether or not abortion is good or bad? Be creative and choose a topic that is somewhat new. OO competitors need to have good speaking skills. A clear voice, intonation, gestures, and specified movements (as transitions or for emphasis) add the edge needed for a great OO. Every choice needs to be made to enhance the piece.
Because this is an original speech, the work itself will also be judged. Was there a lucid flow to the piece? Was there a definite message or was it muddied? Was the speech well-supported and was it truthful? An OO of only opinion will not do well. Think of OO as delivering a well-written paper from an English class. Or you can view this like the public speaking you might see on television when an official gives a prepared speech. Either way, professionalism is of high importance, so being prepared and showing you care will take you far.
Original Oratory: Structure and Rules
The speaker chooses a topic of interest to them, researches it, writes a speech about it, and then delivers it in competition. An introduction is required during the performance. Speeches can be eulogies, an alert to the audience about an imposing danger, a strengthening of an accepted cause, or most often a persuasive topic. Try to be somewhat original. A judge does not want to hear three similar speeches on animal rights in one round.
The rules are:
--Speech is to be memorized
--Eye contact is critical
--An introduction is required (topic, gives any necessary information, and sets the tone) and given after a minute or so of the piece has been delivered, at a natural break-point
--No notes are allowed
--Time limits are to be adhered to (generally, time limits range from 7-10 minutes)
--No more than 150 quoted words or 30 seconds of quoted speech
--No props, diagrams, charts, etc
--All gestures, movements (as transitions/emphasis), facials, intonation/vocals, etc. need to be clear and help support the piece
--Must be truthful, honest, and factual
--Speech must have excellent support
--Speech effectiveness will be judged—did the speech clearly present an idea, motivate, etc?
--Your passion on the topic will help you rank higher; be enthusiastic
--Judged solely on the “effectiveness of development and presentation” according to the National Forensic League
--Speaking skills (such as diction, tone, loudness, intonation, etc.) will be used as part of the ranking
Excelling at Original Oratory: An Advanced Guide
Declamation offers the challenging simplicity of delivering a speech in the best possible manner. The directions are straightforward and all your energies are spent on analysis and execution. Declamation is strictly public speaking. However, if you are more of an organic, multitask person then Original Oratory could be your event match. OO is essentially a carbon-copy of Dec. aside from the tiny difference that in OO you create your speech. Alright, not such a tiny difference; more of a Grand Canyon of a difference. Yet, if you prefer to say what is on your mind and be in total control over your words, OO offers that opportunity.
In this tutorial, a basic procedure will be given to show you how best to excel in this event.
An OO can be a eulogy, an alert to the audience of a danger, a speech to strengthen a cause with an accepted response, or most often an OO is persuasive. Regardless of what form of OO you choose to write, the topic you decide on needs to be one you are excited about. It needs to be a topic you are passionate about because you will be spending an exuberant amount of time researching, writing, and performing it. Your topic should also be one that is underdone and fresh (or a new look at a tired subject). Writing an OO about why abortion is good/bad with the standard, repetitive support given in every research paper across the country will not score well.
When you are writing an OO treat it as you would write a school paper (a paper you actually work on and invest in!). When I was student teaching, the high school I worked at was strict about paper structure and only allowed one format. I hated that. I understand the why behind teaching a format to unpracticed writers, but as a person acquires skills, a person also learns that a paper can be written with any structure as long as it supports the idea of the paper. Keep that in mind. Choose to use a structure that works with you. Of course, the basic Introduction, Body, and Conclusion arrangement is required, but how you break down the Body is the saucy bit. Each Body Paragraph should be its own idea as a general rule. Also, the Introduction is used to hook the audience and introduce the topic. The Body develops and supports (a HUGE component of an OO) your point, and the Conclusion reiterates/summarizes the Body and leaves the audience with a thought-provoking comment/question. If you are doing a persuasive speech, it could be best to introduce the problem, list what is causing it, and offer a solution. Further, adding in information about the other side of the issue and your rebuttal is a crafty way of "proving" you are right.
What you say MUST be factual and from a reliable resource. Thus, OO becomes a research paper! That said, a good OO speaker realizes this and devises a speech that offers strong, well developed support. Every Body Paragraph should have at least three bits of detail that helps sculpt that paragraph's idea of support. Expand on your reason. Make me see why it is a valid, solid point, and CONVINCE me that you are right. You are not Pharaoh, so saying something is does not make it true.
4. Quality of Writing
As Natasha Bedingfield would say, "these words are my own," and so it is with YOUR OO. You might make an extraordinary point, but if your speech is as riddled with grammar mistakes as 50 Cent is bullets, the judge will not be pleased. I cannot stress how important it is to proof-read your paper. You will read and hear this speech endlessly from yourself, but you might get used to an error and not see it. Get a friend, coach, or future English major to read your paper. Have them look for grammar mistakes but also for flow, support, and those random little-somethings that always pop-up. Judging your own writing is terrible. I know. I write. When you finally get to a point you love something, it is hard to see it any other way. It's a writer's curse! But take constructive criticism and you might be surprised by the results. Finally, when you are writing and revising pay attention to detail. Avoid redundancy and work in good diction (that means make smart word selections-there is a massive variation between "gargantuan" and "big")! A dictionary and a thesaurus could be the best little helpers you ever had!
5. Eye Contact
This is a memorized event. There is nothing for you to read. Nothing for you to hold on to. It is you and you alone. Something that adds the spice to your performance is the use of eye contact. Depending on how long you chose to look at someone, or to not look at anyone, tells a different story and conveys a specific emotion and attitude. Once you begin practicing your speech on your feet you will get into a rhythm of choosing when and where to look. Often it is beneficial to plan certain glances at designated times so you do not lose impact on a piece of support you wish to highlight. When you enter the round, the first thing you should do is check the spacing of people and mentally plan your eye contact attack. The most important bit of information to remember is to NEVER solely look at the judge. Tempting as it is to make them the VIP of the round, the fact is you are performing for an audience. Look at everyone; connect to all in the room. Besides, you most likely will be thought creepy if you look at only one person. People hardly ever make constant eye contact when we speak to one another, so keep that natural tendency alive when you perform.
Watching a mannequin perform is dull. Dull and frightfully boring. Avoid this at all costs! Even though this is memorized and you have spoken these words endlessly, you need to give the impression you are still passionate about your OO. Delivering natural facials that emphasize what is being said is perfectly fine. If there is a humorous line, smile. If a fact is grotesque it is okay to show your disgust. Obviously you will not be performing your speech as an actor would perform a monologue. This is public speaking after all. But, after watching so many do OO and evaluating what I thought went best, I preferred the OOs that showed some emotion and did not look like cadavers.
Plan your gestures and get a repertoire of various ones to do. By doing this you avoid being repetitive and performing gestures mindlessly. Perhaps you have seen the competitor who does the exact same hand extension every fifteen seconds because they are nervous or do not know what to do? This practice is not only annoying but also decreases the importance of every gesture you make. Also, it is distracting and leaves people watching your hand instead of listening to your speech. Write notes in your marked-up copy of your speech and decide particular things to do at exact times to help keep you from looking nervous and unsure. One trick to winning is showing confidence, and by knowing what you are going to do gives an air of preparation and poise. On an end note, you might be painfully aware that by controlling your arms and hands you tend to leave your arms at your side for a longer period of time than what feels comfortable. This is natural. Do not be afraid to keep your hand at your side. Try not to look like Frankenstein's monster and forever keep them there, but just be aware that keeping your hands down is appropriate and a sign of a good OO speaker.
Movement is the visual punctuation of your speech. If you are advancing to a new idea, then you should also be physically moving forward. Typically, for each new paragraph of your speech you should have some movement. Most often, the movement pattern starts in the center, moves left/right, then right/left, back center, and then forward slightly for the conclusion. But that is just what I have observed from watching OO. Be aware of the space you have available. It is probably a good idea to scope the room out prior to the start of the round so you are not making judgments once you begin performing. Further, in relation to movements the way you hold yourself is important. Bouncing in place or shifting your weight constantly makes you look nervous and unprepared. Take a strong stance and command the room!
Using your voice in a way that supports, emphasizes, and caresses your message is your best tool for success. An uninteresting delivery bores the audience and thus keeps them from paying attention. Variation is your Trojan Horse. Changes in tempo, pitch, volume, tone, silence, any dynamics you can give, are going to help you rank higher. Everything you do with your voice needs to be a deliberate choice that helps deliver your words with the greatest impact. Be conscious that OO is a speaking event and not an acting one. Going into a round pretending to be Kate Winslet or Jody Foster will leave you looking like an over-actor. Subtlety is key in any speaking event. Use your voice to your advantage, but treating a speech like a monologue misses the point. Also, planning ahead and having explicit vocal tactics in mind for certain lines will keep you from making a mistake while performing and allow for the best presentation possible. Plus, that’s one less thing to worry about while you are performing. Use your voice and refrain from being a monotone bore.
Original Oratory Topic Selection
Original Oratory is a process. It begins with selecting a topic, then research, followed by writing a speech, then interpretation and practice, and ending with performance. Topic selection is arguably the most important step as it starts the Original Oratory chain of events. Thus, when selecting a topic you need to be mindful of a few considerations.
--Choose a strong topic. Your Original Oratory topic is what your thesis statement (sentence that explains what your speech is about and your stance/opinion) is derived from. That thesis is what will motivate and influence all research done for the speech. The thesis is also what your writing will develop from. In short, a weak topic selection can lead to a weak thesis which can doom an Original Oratory into mediocrity.
--Risk and originality. Sticking to a topic that has been done over and over again is grating to those who have to listen to those ideas year in and year out. That is, of course, if you are not adding a personal spin to the thesis. Original Oratory is...well...original. Making a topic personal and adding yourself can turn even the most done topic into something fresh; do not imitate another OO! New research to cite helps too! If you wish to avoid the unoriginal factor then try to think of a new, risky topic. Boundaries exist, but choosing a controversial/taboo topic to write an OO about can instantly draw in your audience.
--Holds universality. Universality is just a fancy way to say that the topic can captivate the interest of a majority of the audience. You should never select a topic to humor audiences, but try to chose a subject that others can find interesting. Holding an audience captive and raising their curiosity in an issue are goals any Oratorical speaker should work towards.
--Can be researched. Original Oratory is the Forensics world's version of the research paper. It is difficult to cite anything when sources are near non-existence. This can either come from the selected topic not having much resources written on the topic OR because the information is not accessible. Either way, this leaves you in a a limited position of what you can learn and cite regarding the issue.
--Be concise. Select a topic that can be turned into a concise thesis. It is hard to write a paper when the thesis is so broad that it seems as if the topic changes mid-research. Be narrow. The larger a thesis/topic is, the easier it is for the paper to enter inflation as you try to touch upon every idea or tangent you can find. Find the main idea of a subject and write about that.
--Love it. If you do not love your topic then that will be reflected in your Original Oratory. Your analysis will be rushed, your delivery flat, and your research thin. Love what you do. That too reflects into your performance.
These are just a few of the basic queries to ponder as you decide upon an Original Oratory topic. In the end, the decision is yours. Do what feels best for you and your piece and prosperity should ensue.
The Persuasive Oratory: How to Write For a Cause
Choosing a topic for Original Oratory is often a challenge. Many competitors write about subjects that they think will get under their audience’s skin. But the most important element of O.O. is to choose a topic that has affected you personally. If you give a persuasive oratory focused on a cause, its main purpose is to persuade the audience to side with a particular opinion or become interested in supporting a particular cause, and having a personal connection with your O.O. subject is the best way to reach your audience. Here are some basic tips for how to write a persuasive original oratory:
1. Start off with a brilliant introduction. One of the best ways to begin your speech is with an anecdote – a brief, but detailed account of a personal experience you’ve had or a personal experience someone close to you has had. Don’t just make something up that you think sounds good, or it will come across as phony. Think of memorable moments in your life that share themes others will be able to connect with. Tell the story and then lead into a more thorough discussion of your topic. This shows your audience that you care about your cause and you are invested in your topic.
2. Narrow it down. In a cause oratory, you can’t simply talk about one huge issue, such as world hunger. You have to narrow it down to something your audience can identify with on a local level. For example, you might begin an oratory with a personal recollection of how harrowing and humbling it is to see a homeless person on the side of the street begging for food, and then transition into talking about what homelessness as a whole is, how it affects people, and what others can do to help.
3. Decide on a few core points you want to get across. You should, of course, have one main idea you want to convey in your speech, such as “homelessness is bad and we can fix it,” but you could break this down into smaller sections to make it easier for your audience to digest: “homelessness affects everyone (current unemployment rates and foreclosures, women and children affected), homelessness is not harmless (it can lead to a life of crime, etc), people all over the world are making strides to end homelessness (charity organizations, etc).” Try to come up with three main reasons that support your main argument, and stress those points throughout your speech, backing them up with examples.
4. Use research to support your cause. A good oratory has a balance of stories and statistics – you need numbers and facts your audience can rely on instead of just your personal anecdotes, no matter how compelling they may be. Use at least three statistics or pieces of evidence from three different sources to help explain your reasoning for why you think your cause is worth further scrutiny. Don’t forget to use reputable sources (sorry, Wikipedia).
5. Discuss opposition, if any. If you’re arguing for a cause other people care about, chances are that some people will disagree with your opinion. You need to address the opposition or counterargument and then develop a brief rebuttal to that (this goes back to basic debate training). Don’t trash-talk. Simply address the opposing argument and use your research to refute it. You should be well-versed in your topic, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find some hard evidence that defeats the counterargument.
6. End by reaffirming your position and reminding your audience of the anecdote. Once again, state the core thoughts you want to get across in your oratory. Then, bring your audience full-circle and remind them of the anecdote you used to start off the speech. This is the most effective way to ensure they get your point and that your performance is memorable.
Most importantly, you should choose a topic you relate to personally. Going after a particular topic simply because you think others will be interested in it right now isn’t going to get you anywhere unless you have a connection to it – don’t give a speech on swine flu because it’s a hot topic in the news lately. Give the speech because you knew someone with swine flu and you got sick of other people making jokes about it when he was in the hospital. Also, think hard about whether you’ll still want to give this speech in five months. If you write a great original oratory, it should be able to shine year-round.
Original Oratory Support
Part of what helps to make a great Original Oratory, or any speech/paper, is to have a fully-developed speech. The amount of body paragraphs you use when writing your piece is negligible. Most writers will hold that a paper should have no standard amount of paragraphs, but rather body paragraph amount should be dictated by what works best for your work. Besides, length does not make a well-developed Original Oratory; it is the content that matters. A few points of good development you should remember are:
1. Reliable resources. An Original Oratory is essentially a research paper. As most of you already know from school, a vital aspect to any research paper is using sources that can be trusted. Reliability is somewhat subjective, but be safe and use sources that have credibility behind their name. Most professional journals and magazines, such as The Economist, are acceptable. Wikipedia is unacceptable. Look for material that is not overly biased and which presents "the facts."
2. Do not bend the truth. Just as you are to search for reliable resources, you too must be truthful. Taking an article's words and twisting them to fit your needs is irresponsible and unethical. This can be as simple as omitting a portion of dialogue from a citation. Anything that alters the author's intent purposely is wrong.
3. Proper level of support. For every main idea of support your Original Oratory offers, there needs to be an appropriate amount of sub-points to support that claim. Forensics is not the 5th grade where saying "because I said so" is an argument. For every main point (or body paragraph) there will be 2-3 sub-points of analysis and additional support related to the main point that expands and solidifies its claim.
4. Ask why. In order to get that deep level of analysis required for superior support you need to take your main points and ask "why." Why is that important? Okay, you can use words like "what" too, but the idea is to question the idea and figure out what its true impact is. What is its function? How does it influence others? Whatever questions apply to your point, ask them. By questioning an idea you are helping yourself push for a higher-level of analysis. Listing facts is weak. You need to thoroughly explain WHY they are important.
Analysis is a skill that takes time to master, but it can be done. It must be done. Original Oratory pieces need to be more than just a listing of facts. And adhering to these tips will help improve anyone's speech support.
Original Oratory Vocal Delivery
After you have written your Original Oratory begins the process of preparing the delivery. An Original Oratory's script may be brilliant, but if the vocals do not support the words than your speech might lack the oomph needed for a high rank. This is a speaking event and it cannot be won by words and thought alone. In many regards Original Oratory is like watching a political debate. We tell ourselves that only the platform matters, yet on some level a slick talker, who may have the exact same idea as the person next to them, can garner your confidence with more ease. So, as you enter into the speech delivery aspect of Original Oratory keep these simple vocal rules in mind:
1. Be heard. If people cannot hear you then they will lose interest and no longer care what you have to say. Your Original Oratory could be the smartest of the round's, but if no one can hear it does not matter. By default you become a low rank because your audience hears 1/3 of your speech. Even if there is white noise, such as the air conditioner, you need to increase your vocal levels to be heard. Always be keeping tabs of your projection levels as you deliver your piece and adjust accordingly. Yelling, or being too loud, is not good either.
2. Be clear. Diction is absolutely necessary for a strong speech. Therefore, work on your articulation and the hitting of all your consonants. An easy way to improve is to over-emphasize your diction while practicing. As you become better with landing all your vowel and consonant sounds, then you can begin to pull back and speak "normal," because your normal speech should now have a crisper sound. As you over-emphasize, if you look ridiculous in practice doing sample sentences you are doing it right.
3. Slow down. What constitutes regular speaking speed in daily conversation is usually WAY too fast for an Original Oratory. Slow down Speed Racer! Most speakers feel as if they are talking too slowly when they hit the right speed, so do not be alarmed. Do however rehearse your speech speed at practice to be sure you are not over-compensating and moving at a sloth's pace--that hardly is the case though!
4. Be passionate! These are your words, show your love of them. Personally, an Original Oratory that is delivered with a hermetically sealed cover is boring. Speakers who believe their words and show attachment towards them get audience support. Do not be afraid of using dynamics of volume or speed (loud to soft, fast to slow or vice versa). Incorporate tone and pitch as well into your delivery. Feel your words. Do not act them out, but show some emotion. If there is a sarcastic joke in your speech it is okay to use sarcasm. A little chuckle if appropriate is good too. Be professional, but leave the notion of being a robot behind.
That's it. Four easy-to-follow guidelines for the vocal delivery of any Original Oratory. Simple though they are, being aware of these basic speaking principles can help you stand out from your competition. Original Oratory delivery is about being comfortable, and nothing projects confidence quite like strong vocals.
Original Oratory: What Not To Do
We live in a society of acute political correctness. Words, phrases, attitudes, even manner of thought is trying to be regulated. Particularly with competition--we compete, we cheer a team, yet some want to shy away from the word "lose" and find it dirty. Anything labeled negative is deemed wrong and not to be spoken. Well, not this time. This Original Oratory article will bluntly tell you some definite speaker traits to avoid in this event's delivery. Original Oratory's goal is to inform the audience of the truth, and that's exactly what you are getting.
--Do NOT have shifty feet. Often when people are nervous they shift their weight from food to foot. This causes you to look as if you are performing some odd, Original Oratory dance called The Lack of Confidence. Keep your feet shoulder width apart and equally distribute your weight to both feet. You will feel stable and less on edge while looking like the round is yours.
--Do NOT over gesture. An audience wants to be focused on your speech. They truly do. But if you are one of those Original Orators that insist on using the same hand gesture (such as the Hand-Extended-With-Palm-Up classic) repetitively then people will be drawn to your hand. Movement captures a human's interest. It's active. Gestures possess emphasis. Do not abuse them. Do so and suffer an audience who gets pulled away from your words to laugh about your gestures.
--Do NOT speak meekly. Your audience wants to hear your piece. Honestly, they do. Especially that guy who is sitting in the back corner. Always imagine filling the room with your voice. Even if loud background noise is present, there is no excuse to not being heard.
--Do NOT mumble. An Original Oratory you cannot hear is awful. But what's worse is one you can hear but not understand. Annunciation is critical for Forensics. In practice over-exaggerate the hitting of consonants and vowel sounds in order to improve your diction quality. As you get better, begin to speak "normally" but with your focus to your articulation.
--Do NOT speak too quickly. This is not a New York City auction house where everything must go. Slow down. People usually think they are talking at a normal speed until someone asks them to repeat what they have said.
--Do NOT roam. Plan your movements. Designate specific moments in the speech where you move stage left or right, whichever place you are to relocate. Giving yourself explicit instructions decrease the chances of you roaming and pacing in front of the room to deliver your work. Again, this level of control helps to establish your confidence and planning.
--Do NOT lack emotion. Original Oratory can become boring if delivered with an attitude of detachment. This is your piece. You dreamed, researched, wrote, practiced, and lovingly delivered this baby of your intellect into the Forensics round. Show you care. Do NOT act out your Original Oratory, but if there is a joke, please smile. If something is truly horrid or appalling please reflect that.
--Do NOT avoid eye contact. One of the most powerful tools an Original Orator can use is that of eye contact. Scan the room and make direct eye contact on parts of the speech you wish to emphasize. Even as you scan the WHOLE room spending a few seconds of time on a person is a good idea. Eye contact draws an audience in because you are engaging. Just be sure not to stare down people and make the room uncomfortable.
So there it is. An Original Oratory list of what NOT to do. And these are common Original Oratory speech delivery problems. Correction: now they were common Original Oratory speech delivery problems. It's nothing glamorous, but you have some information to compete well.
Original Oratory, NOT Interpretation
The Forensics Speech division is divided into two main categories of events: speaking and interpretation. Though skills required in one do blend into the other event, they are most definitely two distinct performance styles. Therefore, it becomes moderately alarming when in an Original Oratory round you encounter a speaker using pops and character voices in their delivery. You begin to wonder, "Am I in the right room? Is this some dream where I am not prepared for my Dramatic Interpretation?" No. You are in an Original Oratory round on the verge of entering The Twilight Zone. Before you do head over to Maple Street though you might want to consider the dangers of mingling interpretation with speaking.
--Judging dilemmas. Original Oratory is filed under speaking. Though it might work in limited use to have some acting/interpretation style humor sprinkled in to hook the audience, relying on this makes your OO difficult to judge. If your Original Oratory is bursting with acting/interpretation, and it is the black sheep of the round, the judge might encounter issues with ranking you in comparison to the rest in the round. Your OO should be ranked based on your speaking ability and speech, not on your clever use of voices. Too much interp and you might lose rank because you are event-blending.
--More work for you. Original Oratory has enough happening between research, writing, and speaking that adding interpretation to your to-do list is bonkers. Focus on the elements of OO that need to be addressed for the event. Once you have those polished THEN think of acting a few lines out if the speech could be improved.
--Gimmick. If you are incorporating silly voices and minor pops into your speech as a means to gain popularity, by having the gimmick of being the Wacky OOer, stop. Stop right now. Though Original Oratory could gain from a little well-placed humor in speeches, there is no need to turn OO into Humorous Interpretation. In fact, that sort of wizardry is frowned upon.
--Cover-up? Too much interpretation might lead people to suspect that you are attempting to hide a flaw in your piece. A speech should be able to stand alone on its integrity. It does not need that quirky voice. Thus, acting once or twice for an effect can work. Do it too much and people wonder about the quality of your work.
--THIS IS A SPEAKING EVENT. Let that guide you.
Everyone is looking for the "thing" that will distinguish their Original Oratory from the pack. But transforming an OO into a weak HI/DI is not the solution. If you insist on being "original" and mix in interpretation do so, but do so sparingly and for legitimate reasons. It can work if planned carefully. When in doubt, ask What Would insert favorite speaker's name here Do?
Original Oratory and Your Personal Life
Whenever you act or speak publicly you share a part of yourself with the audience. You may hide behind a persona, or even a character, but at the center is the truth of you. This is not escapable.
How much you reveal of yourself varies. Really, it all depends on how much of you is poured into the performance or presentation. In an Original Oratory, specifically, you can keep your exposure to a minimum and let yourself come across through the mannerisms, gestures, and tone you project to the audience. Or, you can be bold and divulge a personal secret. Telling a small, hopefully captivated audience about your battle with cancer as a hook/example for a speech on a particular form of cancer research can be emotional and connect those listening to the topic.
But how much is too much? Just as a magician never reveals their secret, you do not want to expose all you are. There are numerous reasons for this:
--Too much detail can lead to awkwardness. Unless you personally know an individual, having knowledge of extremely personal information leaves you wondering how you should react. Intimacy to an extent is good, but too much and things get weird.
--Your story might be riveting to you and those who know you, but to an outsider you are just a nameless face. We want to care and be sympathetic as people. However, everyone has their own trials and hardships. We also get bored with a story we probably have heard a variant of before. To be blunt, too much detail gets boring. Fast. Keep it short and direct
--People love a story of struggle and triumph. People love to sympathize with a sorrowful tale as well. Thus, if you choose to tell a personal story, be warned that if you go too far you will be seen as merely seeking a sympathy vote. Don’t be that person.
A fact to keep in mind is that Original Oratory is basically a research paper. Your personal account is wonderful to include, but you should really try to keep to credited sources. Get back to facts and science and learn to mingle the emotional in there so it is more for impact and less to woo your audience.
One Critical Element to Success in Original Oratory...
Forget what you have heard about original oratory. Forget the typical advice coaches give outlining a perfect oratory speech as a well-researched, introspective tear-jerker. If you don't believe me, go ahead and try that, but you won't get very far. Having competed in hundreds of rounds of oratory and having faced more than a thousand orators in my 4 years,there is one element I discovered must be in any oratory piece if the person expects to win -HUMOR.
Welcome to my category. Original "Boratory". Over the years, I saw a swift decline in this category and I can honestly say that one of the most painful things I ever had to do while in high school was sit through some of my OO rounds. In what was once considered to be a polished and moving event quickly became nothing more than a memorized extemp speech.
The structure of an oratory piece is pretty simple. How you craft it is the difficult part. In the introduction, you have your AGD (attention-getting device) followed by your thesis. The body of your paper is your list of points and validation for those points. And the conclusion is what ties the speech together and brings the thesis back around to the center of the judges' and audiences' minds.
And for many orators, the problem starts right from the beginning. The whole purpose of the AGD is to get the attention of the audience. Yet for some reason, so many orators have no idea how to do this. For starter, let me tell you what WON'T get the attention of the audience. Never start your introduction with a statistic or a standard quote. The reason for this is that you automatically become predictable in the sight of you audience. With that said, the AGD is the perfect chance you get to catch the audience off-guard and there is no better way to do this than through humor. Let's face it, most OO classrooms are more tense than a Michael Jackson courtroom. It's uncomfortable for the competitors and for the judge(s) and no one will appreciate it more than if you break the ice by lightening the mood with humor.
Another problem orators face is getting creative in the body of the speech. It becomes a "fact and statement" time for most orators which is the equivalent of a research paper recitation - BORING! Liven it up. Catch your audience off guard. Place well-timed jokes in some of your more serious points and you will get your audience to lose it. I'm not kidding. I've had judges who have had water come out their noses because I caught them off guard by exaggerating something or by making fun of myself in the middle of my own speech. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that you should incorporate shock value into your OO piece. Some of the dumbest forms of humor include profanity and crudeness. First of all, it takes no talent to be crude and swear and in all truthfulness, it makes a competitor look foolish. Secondly, judges won't normally enjoy this type of humor and may dock you points for it.
The last "boring" point for orators comes in the conclusion. Although I would never suggest ending your speech with humor, I would suggest that you start your conclusion with humor. Once again, if you do this, you will lighten the mood one last time and it will be the perfect segway for you to bring home you major points and leave a "killer" impression on the judges.
In conclusion, do yourself a favor and take this advice when drafting your next oratory speech. Trust me, I have competed at the local, state and national level (19 rounds at the national level)in oratory and I know what it takes to win because I have done so myself. I will even go out on a limb and make one last bold statement. You CAN'T win unless you have humor in your speech. Look at every speech that makes it far at nationals. Even look at the final rounds of oratory at the state level and you will see that those who rise above always have humor. By incorporating humor into your speech to back a well-written piece, I guarantee that you will not only succeed, but that you will enjoy the Forensics season much more.
Original Comedy...I mean Oratory
With an atmosphere that could be visualized as Victorian London shrouded within pea-souper smog, it is adequate enough to state that Original Oratories often favor heavy, serious fair. This consistency is understandable. A majority of OO's are centered around controversial topics. The precedent has been set of Original Oratory being an event of consequence, with meaning. Another factor is that Original Oratory is an extension of Declamation (or rather, any form of re-interpretation of an already existing speech) except with a focus on original content, and most remarkable speeches are of solemn nature.
Anyway, it is clear that OO is serious business. Yet, advocates of Original Oratory will argue that some humor is necessary. Humor helps to engage the audience, lighten the mood, and, bluntly put, ward away boredom. To some humor is arguably necessary for a successful OO, but too much can ruin a speech.
--This is not HI. As nice as a few clever jokes can be throughout the speech, too many does not fit with the serious tone of the event. Throw a copious amount in and your Original Oratory will become more like a stand-up routine. If you want to do comedy than forgo Original Oratory and find an HI or Duo.
--Lose credibility. When people are told factual information, and analysis to match, they want to receive it from a source that is credible. Part of what determines credibility is the manner in which something is delivered. Image matters. Goofing around excessively when you are talking about an issue of concern can take the audience away from the topic and leave them wanting laughs. Your image can turn from an OO competitor into a comedian. This is not The Daily Show and you are not Jon Stewart--do not try to capture the trust, credibility, and charm he exudes because most likely you will not. He's been mastering for over a decade.
--Lose focus. If peppering in humor becomes your sole objective than your OO will fail. The backbone of the event is the speech. What makes a great speech in Original Oratory include a good thesis, research, analysis, and structure. Focus on those, not the laugh. Sacrificing content to squeeze a chuckle into the writing is a poor choice. Your OO should revolve around a thesis not a joke. As you write your piece remember that.
--Awkward situation. With comedy comes a slew of complications. Have you considered how the judge will compare you to the others in your round? Never should you blend in, but far too many jokes instantly separates you from the rest of your competitors. And this might not be a good separation. A judge might think you are not handling a fragile topic with enough maturity. They just might not know what to make of your Original Oratory's comedic spin. Also, what if what is funny to you is not to others? Comedy also requires timing and an active audience; two things you might not have. Telling a joke and receiving zero laughs is awkward. Now multiply that if you have numerous jokes laced within your piece.
Humor is an amazing tool. Original Oratories with some jokes tend to do better in competition. It might be because laughter loosens the audience up, which in turn loosens the speaker, which ultimately can lead to a more confident delivery. It could be because moderate humor shows another side of the competitor the judge may never have seen. Whatever the reason, laughter draws people in. However, this is Original Oratory. Standards of decorum exist and that includes maintaining some level of integrity through a serious message. Keep the audience hooked but leave the rolling on the floor business to Humorous Interpretation, Duo, and the Marx Brothers.
An Original Oratory Secret Weapon
Writing an Original Oratory is a never-ending process. Between you, your coaches, teammates, and judges there are always edits and revisions to be made while perfecting the speech. Hopefully these alterations will be minor; revisions are expected, massive-overhauls usually equate to a more severe symptom a minor rewrite cannot fix. In order to ensure that massive surgery does not need to be performed after a competition it is essential to write a fairly solid Original Oratory at the start of the process. Begin with a strong base that can be improved upon.
This is simpler to say than to achieve. When one pair of eyes are the only ones an OO sees mistakes are overlooked. But aside from a coach, who are some people you can turn to for Original Oratory advice? Actually, a few people. An OO is a research paper, not nuclear physics. If you feel your writing can use some special attention schedule a meeting with these people:
--English teacher. Not only should every English teacher be excellent with grammar and writing techniques, English teachers have to teach research writing as well. This makes the English teacher a triple threat...of Original Oratory helpfulness! Contact them for input in advance and do not rush them to proofread this extra paper. Teachers are busy people. They take care of you during the day and then spend a few hours extra each night preparing for the next day to do it again. So be nice and say thank you.
--Future English major. You know the type. Reads a lot. Writes well. Knowledgeable in any Literature class. Probably writes in their free time. If you are on speaking terms with anyone who meets this description politely ask if they would mind helping you out with a paper. It might be slightly awkward asking for help on a project that is not an assignment, but you would be surprised how kind people can be if you ask them nicely.
--History/Science teacher. Some history/science teachers are actually good writers. Particularly the ones that teach any AP courses (college credit course work). They need to know history/science AND train you for writing essays for the exams. Not that you should have your Original Oratory proofread by a history or science teacher for specific writing needs. No, these teachers are suggested if you have analysis in your OO that is heavily based in science or history. Sources you cite can only give you facts and an idea on interpretation. You have to do most of the thinking. Perhaps one of the teachers in those fields, or another, can give you some insight on whether or not your analytical processes were clear and rational? Again, ask in advance.
--Parent or friend. Sometimes all you need to tell you if your structure and analysis makes sense is to have a regular, normal, passerby read your speech. These people may only have an opinion about your topic and not much factual information. Thus, this might be new to them. You can gauge how interesting the topic was. You can be given an opinion of if they could follow your Original Oratory and if they liked it. That's it. A "basic" review. These types often are the ones that uncover any confusing language OR shoddy structure your piece has.
Have as many people read your Original Oratory as possible before you bring it to competition. The more opinions the better. Take what you want, or what you should, from each insight. Note that you cannot please all parties who read your work, but getting an approximation of common suggestions prior to this OO's use in a round is a fantastic way to keep rewrites to tweaks and avoid complete restructuring.