Top Ten Don’ts of Oratory

Original Oratory is one of the more difficult categories to master due to there being many elements. From the writing, to the memorization, to the presentation, and so forth there are numerous challenges. Adding more complications are the endless approaches and styles used to tackle this event. Some methods of approach work well, and others work to perfection. But there are also those speeches which have bombed because they included elements that were unnecessary or took away from the substance of the speech. In order to help avoid these costly mistakes, a list has been comprised of ten things that should never be done in Oratory.

1. Singing – This is something that should never take place in an Oratory speech. This is a speech competition, not a singing competition. Whether a good singer or not, this will backfire. If an orator’s singing is weak, focus will be drawn to the need to improve . If a speaker can sing, they will look like an out-of-place interpretative performer. Singing is awkward and unneeded in speeches. If a song is that pertinent to the speech, just quote it or make reference.

2. Dancing – This is along the same lines of singing. It is unnecessary and does not belong in an Oratory speech. If moving around and singing are so important, think about competing in an interpretation event where dancing fits and is natural. The reason dancing does not work in Oratory is because dancing is such a distraction that the ultimate goal of persuasion is overshadowed. Avoid being dramatic with unneeded motions, and use vocalization and content to get different points across to the audience.

3. Canned Hand Gestures – This tends to be the number one weakness of orators. They have all of their hand gestures planned out in advance, and when they present in competition they look robotic. When preparing for a speech, present in such a way that it is like a conversation. In other words, realize that a speech is basically talking to a large group of people. And the goal is to persuade. The best way to persuade someone is by being real. If a speech is genuine, then the gestures will follow suit. Do not try to overly process a performance. The judge and audience know when someone is passionate about their topic and when it is simply memorized. Allow hand gestures to come naturally. Being natural emotes a stronger stage presence.

4. Discriminatory Eye Contact – This category can alienate a speaker from the judges and fellow competitors very quickly. Some orators focus eye contact only with the judge during their speech. Only looking at the judge when performing in a round is very disrespectful to the rest of the audience. Speakers except the audience to follow their speech; the same is true in reverse. Further, judges often view this as not only attempting to “suck-up,” but also as bad public speaking skills. Orator’s are required to address the whole room, not an individual.

5. Turn the Cell Phone Off – This is a bigger problem in the memorized events because everyone is in the room while other competitors are performing. Be courteous to all the other competitors and turn the cell off. And if it is on silent, do not text friends or check messages in between speakers (or during a performance). Treat everyone with the same courtesy expected of others.

6. Wearing Bold Colors – Oratory is not the time to whip out an exotic, ultra-bold suit. The last thing a speaker wants or needs is to look like they are going out partying later. Be professional in appearance. Speakers can wear different suits or skirts with unique, vibrant color schemes (as the splash of shirt color underneath a neutral suit for example), but do not be too razzle-dazzle excessive or focus will be placed upon attire and not the speech’s message.

7. Asking For Weird Time Signals – This is one don’t that has always been particularly annoying. There are students who want time signals at five minutes remaining, four minutes, three minutes, two minutes, one minute, 30 seconds and zero time left. Why does anyone need this many time signals? First of all, this practice will come across as a novice behavior. Secondly, this may upset the judge. If the judge is giving all these time signals, then they cannot focus on the content of a speech. And in that case, who cares how much time is left if a critique is short of helpful comments because a judge was watching a stopwatch instead of a speaker?

8. Swaying – Many orators get into the habit of swaying while they are speaking. While it is a nervous habit, it is still very distracting for someone who is trying to pay attention to a speech. If an orator has confidence in what they are saying, stand there and say it. Swaying and twitching implies nervousness and deters from a well-received or well-given speech. Own the room and show no fear; even if this is a façade. The only movement, aside from gestures, should come from transitions.

9. Bad Transitions – This means both written and performance transitions. There are many orators who have great points, but they do not have effective transitions. The audience should not get lost because they are trying to figure out where a speech is going. Be sure that all transition times during the speech are not awkward as well. Place movement in appropriate spots. Also, there are orators who do not really move and then there are orators who almost run. Make smooth transitions. The more grace is shown, the more polished the presentation.

10. Forgetting Bottled Water – Never forget to bring water or whatever other beverage is needed for the round. No one can speak well when they have a dry mouth, and it is really annoying to listen to a scratchy throat. In general, make sure to have everything needed for the round. Who wants to be dressed and prepared for a round yet lose because they forgot to bring something as simple as water? No one. Coming prepared for a tournament requires more than knowing a speech.

Ten falls to avoid while preparing a fantastic Original Oratory. These issues are easy to avoid, but tend to be oversights that speakers never mean to occur. They just do. However, making an effort to refrain from being associated with any one of these blunders can give the edge when it comes to breaking.