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.

1. Form/Topic
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.

2. Format
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.

3. Research/Support
What you say MUST be factual. 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.

The same rules you learned in school apply to OO when it comes to resources. Do not twist the citation you are using to fit your means; changing context is inappropriate and unethical. Cite the source for what it was meant to say. Further, finding reliable sources is essential. If you cite Wikipedia (no mater how useful it can be to refresh your brain on information) you will lose points. Stick to credible sources such as respectable magazines, periodicals, journals, and encyclopedias. Websites can be okay, but usually something in print is deemed more reliable because it is less likely to be tampered with. Also, stay away from biased sources. These sources can bend the facts to fit their needs, and if any extremism is apparent the opposite viewpoint is completely lost and slandered. You want an unclouded report of findings; THEN you take the facts/reports/measurable findings and interpret them in relation to your stance.

In any OO, only 30 seconds of quoted material, or 150 quoted words, is permitted to be cited. So choose well and make those quotations/paraphrases work and fight for you! On an end note, all citations are to be properly cited or it’s plagiarism (AND keep in mind all information you could not have known without research is to be cited). In your speech you need only list where and from whom you attained this knowledge, but on your hard copy have a citation if for any reason verification is required.

For more information on research writing, or for all things English, The Owl at Purdue is an excellent guide! http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/658/01/

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! Not a fan of lugging around a materialized version of these? Dictionary.com is my tool of choice. http://dictionary.reference.com/

Remember, the speech reflects you and your entire performance is enveloped by your words, so own them, make them glorious, and “from [your] heart flow.”

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.

6. Facials
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.

7. Gestures
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.

8. Movement
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!

9. Vocals
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.

There you are. Easy steps to help begin your Original Oratory career. For more information, please see the links below or comment on this blog for hands-on help!

http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/658/01/
http://dictionary.reference.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_Oratory (yes, it’s a wiki, but the information is pretty accurate and it gives some good information on what an OO is judged by…which is always useful)