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Event Overviews and Resources 1: Original Oratory (Feat. OO Tips from Callie Firminhac)

Updated: Jan 7, 2021

Welcome to A Long Winter's Clap: 12 Days of Speech and Debate Event Overviews and Resources. Today we are talking about Original Oratory - featuring tips from former Torrington Speech and Debate star and OO Wyoming State Champion Callie Firminhac.


Original Oratory is an individual event in which a competitor writes an original speech. This one of the few competitive high school events for which students actually write all of the delivered content, and this is an exciting creative opportunity for our students! Competitors can quote other sources in their oratory, but may use 150 directly quoted words. Speeches are no longer than ten minutes in length and must be memorized by competitors.

Here is a description straight from the NSDA competition guide:

“Original Oratory is a speech written by the student with the intent to inform or persuade the audience on a topic of significance. Oratory gives students the unique opportunity to showcase their voice and passion for their topic.

An Oratory is not simply an essay about the topic—it is a well researched and organized presentation with evidence, logic, emotional appeals, and sometimes humor to convey a message. Topics may be of a value orientation and affect people at a personal level, such as avoiding peer pressure, or they can be more of a policy orientation and ask an audience to enact particular policies or solve societal problems.”

I think one of the coolest elements of Oratory is that it is wide open. We are often talking about giving students a voice in the Speech and Debate world, and I think that Oratory truly provides students an opportunity to tell a captive audience about something that they are passionate about in a practiced, polished presentation entirely in their own words. Students can give a speech about just about anything, and that is a freeing feature of oratory that a lot of students love.

Of course, narrowing down a topic from the infinite is not always easy business. Especially when your topic choice is very important in Oratory. Competitors may want to try to strike a balance between a topic that they love and want to talk about and what audiences will find engaging. And that is just one of the many challenges of this awesome event. There are many others like how to bring individuality into a speech, how to make the speech interesting or engaging, how to integrate evidence into the speech without diluting the message, how to use your body, face, and presence in presentation, how to use formal structure in the speech to your benefit, or how to bust up a traditional approach and create something entirely different and stand out.

Exploring classic oration instruction is a great way to start when thinking about engaging your audience. Aristotle’s three keys to rhetoric - ethos, pathos, and logos - are still relevant and powerful today when thinking about crafting a winsome, persuasive, and powerful speech.


Oratory Tips from Callie Firminhac - Torrington High School former competitor and Wyoming State Champ in Original Oratory

1. Select a topic you are passionate about. Your speech will be more powerful when the audience can hear the passion in your voice! If you are struggling with selecting a topic, look to your favorite quotes, books, and authors for theme and topic ideas.

2. Make your speech personal! Tell your audience why your speech is important to you. Include a personal story or connection that communicates your real connection to the topic and the speech.

3. Include a call-to-action in your speech. What do you want your audience to take away from your speech? What do you encourage them to do? A call-to-action brings your audience into the speech and creates a clear message and accompanying response.

4. Video yourself giving your speech and study the recording often. It isn’t easy to study your own performances, but recording your speech and studying your delivery in detail is an excellent way to reflect on improving your speech. Take note of phrases that cause you to stumble or awkward body movements. You will be your biggest critic, so give yourself grace and acknowledge your growth as an orator!

5. Practice performing for your orator teammates! Listen to each other’s speeches and discuss areas for improvement and areas of growth. Take into consideration inflection, body movements, phrasing, memorization, and voice projection. If you are not able to watch a teammate’s performance, set up opportunities to work with other competitors over zoom or pour over the internet and find oratories to watch and reflect on.

Thanks so much to Callie for the gift of these awesome Original Oratory tips for competitors.


Hear more about Callie Firminhac’s approach to Oratory or check out Hannah Hu’s speaking tips on platform events in previous episodes of One Clap here:

Oratory and the Lasting Power of Speech and Debate with Callie Firminhac

Hannah Hu Drops Truth About Platform Events & Problematic Tournament Snacks


If you have any ideas for the podcast or would like to help out with content here at One Clap Speech and Debate, send me a message on the website or an email ( As the Speech and Debate season hits its stride, I have less time to create content for the podcast and the website. But, I'll continue to do my best to get usable, inspirational, and helpful content out there.

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More links to helpful resources for Original Oratory:

NSDA Competition Guide:

Speech Resources Video from the 2020 Wyoming Coaches Conference, Presented by Marcus Viney and Ashley Schulz:

What to expect in OO from a Student's Perspective from NSDA:

Resources of OO from Judge Training:

Tips for Writing a Persuasive Speech from NSDA:

Research in Oratory (Source Evaluation) from NSDA:

Original Oratory Resources from

Art and Science of Original Oratory by Ashley Mack (NSDA):

Choosing a Speech Topic from NSDA:

Intro to Coaching Informative Speaking and Original Oratory Course from NSDA:

Sample OO Ballot with Comments from NSDA:

Original Oratory Advanced Guide from


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