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.