Original Oratory

Original Oratory. (often shortened to "OO") is a competitive event in the National Forensic League, National Catholic Forensic League, and other high school forensic competitions in which competitors deliver an original speech on a subject of their choosing, though the speech must be factual. Though the rules for the category change from organization to organization, generally, an Oratory must be written and memorized by the performer and should be no more than ten minutes in length. No more than 150 words can be quoted. The finished speech must be approved by the National Forensic League. This speech is frequently highly persuasive and is normally about a slightly controversial topic.

Oratory topics are usually related to current problems in the world, and are delivered in a persuasive way as to motivate the audience to make a choice. However, this may not always be the case. Some orations may alert the audience of an imminent threat or inspire them to act now to initiate change. According to the National Forensic League, the competitor is judged through:

  • Speech Effectiveness: Did the speech have any inspiration or purpose to make the audience react?
  • Bodily Movement: What gestures did the speaker perform to help the audience better visualize what you're saying?
  • Supportment: Was what the speaker said backed up by proof? Was the evidence visualized with current proof, past proof, or quoted by words from other experienced people?
  • Factual: Is what the speaker saying really true? Was the purpose of your Oration mostly truthful and not mostly opinion based?

These are the questions the competitor and the judge should ask themselves before performing an Oration, to either an audience, or especially yourself. The key to gain the audience's attention isn't through your topic, it's through your passion. For instance, your topic could be that people today are lazy, but instead of changing it, they are accepting it. Now the topic itself interests the audience or judge.

General Rules

  • An oratory 7-10 minutes in length.
  • It is memorized and no notecards or aids may be used to help the competitor remember the speech.
  • There may be no more than 150 quoted words, or 30 seconds worth of quoted speech.
  • An oratory is given standing up, in front of a judge and five or six other competitors. In semi-finals and final rounds, audiences may be present.
  • There may be no props, charts, diagrams, etc.


Judges are usually Original Oratory alumni competitors, coaches, sponsors, parents, or friends of the host tournament. Coaches are prohibited from judging their own schools, and alumni competitors must wait two years before they are allowed to judge the school from which they graduated. In some states and leagues, alumni are not allowed to judge the school from which they graduated for up to four years; this is to ensure that one may not judge one's former teammates.

Steps of an Oration

Because the oratory is the speaker's original work, Oratory does require some preparation, which sets Oratory apart from Impromptu. The following are recommended parts of a good Oration:

1. Introduction: The best way to deliver an Oratory is to grab the audience's attention and make them want to listen to the speaker's message, and not just hear another figure trying to persuade. Intro hooks include story, startling fact, question, and joke.

2. Body: To keep an audience's attention the subject should be shown to be relevant to the audience; facts and startling figures can do this, although humorous examples and jokes also can help in explaining a topic. There is suggested to be two sources per paragraph supporting your points. There may be more or less depending on the specific needs of the paragraph. Award-winning oration often include both facts and humor.

3. Conclusion: If one did not make a good impression on the audience before, chances are slim that one will not recover with a smashing conclusion. Reiterate, go over the main points of the speech and make it memorable for the audience.

An example of speech construction

While having a factual baseline is still one of the most important parts of the speech, the inclusion of humor and personal anecdotes may boost performance. An oratory may follow a pattern:

Introduction: The introduction may begin with a joke, a story, or an interesting fact, often called the "Attention Getting Device". A successful oratory will either make the audience, judge laugh or grab their attention. Apart from grabbing the attention of those listening, the main purpose of the introduction is to explain in an interesting and creative manner what your speech is about. It is often important to explicitly state from the very beginning what you are talking about so the judge and audience doesn't have to guess. This also makes it easier for the judge, because they know what sort of things to look for when listening to the speech.

Problem: After the introduction, an oratory will usually explain in a little more detail than what was given in the introduction what the topic is about. When doing this, the orator should explain why this topic is important. For example, if the topic is about individuality or being your own person, an Orator might explain that a decrease in individuality is bad because it lowers your ability to stand up for what you believe in or it makes you conform to standards instead of forming your own beliefs and values.

Causes/Effects: Next, the orator could explain what is causing the problem. Since Oratory is generally a speech used to encourage people to take action against a problem, it is important to explain what specifically is causing the problem. This allows the audience to know specifically what they need to look out for. An orator will possibly explain that by attacking the problem by the "roots" (what causes it), it will be easiest to solve it. Similarly, it is important to explain the negative effects of the causes. Discussing the causes is important to the oratory because it valididates the fact that the topic is in fact a significant problem.

Seven-Minute Summary: A very effective way to bring your speech home is with a seven minute summary. This is a point in the middle of the speech where some speakers talk about a particularly meaningful and touching event that they experienced or saw someone else go through, pertaining to their speech.

Solution: The most important part of an oratory is often considered the "solution." This should be creative, innovative, and should be presented in such a way that will encourage both the judge and the audience to take proactive measures to act against the problem. In an oratory about individuality, the solutions might be to 1) Relax and decide what you yourself want to do, 2) Resist temptations to simply follow others even though it might be the easiest way 3) Even if others don't follow you, if you think its right, then it is the best path for you personally to take. This part of the oratory will also explain the positive benefits of following these solutions which will make the judge and the audience want to listen to them (i.e. it gives the speech merit). It is imperative that the solution is not forgotten, otherwise an oratory is simply a wasted ten minutes. No one wants to hear about a problem without being told what they can do to fix it.

Conclusion: Judges look at the conclusion and judge based on whether or not it ties in with the introduction. If you told a story about a problem you got yourself in for your introduction, use the conclusion to finish the story and tell how you fixed the problem. If it was a fact, elaborate on the fact. By tying the introduction to the conclusion, it gives the speech a feeling of fluidity.

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