Qualifying for Nationals

Qualifying for the NFL National Tournament is very difficult. With each district only sending two competitors to Nationals (normally), competition is cutthroat. Typically, the two who finish first and second at their District Qualifier are awarded the honor of competing at Nationals. In addition to limited space, district qualifying rules can vary between districts. Qualifying is a formidable task that requires endless preparation. When an orator can only be beaten by one other competitor to make it to Nationals, being elite in content, timing, and overall performance is required. As a two-time district champion, three-time state qualifier, and two-time nationally-ranked orator, I have come to learn the ins and outs of succeeding at Oratory. And I am going to give you the inside scoop on how to not only qualify, but how to excel at the National level in Original Oratory. Focusing in on the following elements will prepare any level speaker for success.

Anyone can do well in Original Oratory. However, to be elite calls for focus and perfection of the details. The first of these elements would be the spectrum of emotion. Most orators fall into the habit of doing what they do best and not growing. This will not only help create a stagnant orator, but will cost points in the later rounds of qualifying tournaments because the best orators will possess a wide range of emotion. What do I mean by that? Simply put, the array of emotion used in Original Oratory goes from hilarious one moment, to extremely sentimental and moving another. The best orators can not only capture both well, but they can do it many times in the same speech. For instance, when looking for a solid topic it is going to have to be one that has a serious message. The audience needs to be persuaded that a serious problem exists. Yet, even with such seriousness there must be contrast. A heavier topic already lends itself to the sentimental and moving side of the spectrum. The challenge comes when trying to balance that with humor. No matter what topic is chosen, both ends of this spectrum can, and should, always be used for variation. (The only exception would be topics like euthanasia or abortion, but those should usually be avoided anyway.) Work hard at making serious points but by using funny examples that bring out the lighter side of a major problem with discretion. Non-abrasive humor will draw in an audience, add energy to a topic that might be heavy, and help avoid an audience feeling as though they were being condemned. If they need to change, make them aware of it while providing hope. Remember, the whole point of Persuasive Oratory is to convince an audience to alter how they think or behave without disheartening them.

The second element involved in qualifying to Nationals is peaking at the right time. Oratory is an event that requires memorization. Once a speech is memorized, it can only be tweaked so many times and still seem new. The students who rush to perfect their speech in October or November may win the early tournaments, but they could be limiting themselves. After competing with a speech for thirty or so rounds, most speakers begin to taper off and look rehearsed. That means there are roughly six solid tournaments of competing at a personal best. It is in an orator’s best interest to gradually progress and start peaking in January. That will allow for better speaking in February, March, and April when most states have their qualifiers for both the State and District tournaments. This may seem obvious, but it is a hint that is often overlooked by even the strongest competitors. The race is slow and steady, just like any other sport or competition. Consistent growth is what will allow for continued freshness while others have grown stale.

One last element needed to make Nationals is that of personal conviction – and this may be the toughest aspect to convince the judge or audience. Anyone can develop an argument for a topic and state it, but the best orators convince the judge and audience that they have a vested interest and concern in the outcome of their presented dilemma. Conviction does not come from a developed speech. It comes from believing in the words. This begins when choosing a topic. One of the questions most ask of themselves when determining what their speech will be about is, “does this have personal meaning for me, and do I believe the argument I am about to establish?” People can see through those who are fake. So at the beginning of the year, choose something that has personal significance, and pick a topic that can be related to personal experience somewhere in the body of the speech. It will add credibility in the eyes of the judge. And only genuine speakers make it to Nationals.

In conclusion, I have picked three of the lesser-known attributes of speakers who make it to Nationals. Obviously, there is much more that goes into an Oratory speech, and it will take a creative mind to craft a speech that is worthy of the National tournament. But from my own experience, it can be done. An orator must work hard and write well. Push both writing and speaking abilities to reach both ends of the spectrum concerning emotion. Find a speech’s stride later in the season where winning really counts. And, prove that the speech’s topic is personal in not only what is said but how. These facets, all together, will allow a speaker to advance their Oratory to a higher level, while earning a reputation as one of the best.