Back when Lizzy Cozzens was a team captain for the Rock Springs High School Speech and Debate Team, she put together some helpful resources for novice orators. She has kindly agreed to make these available to the larger community. This is a helpful guide for platform competitors about how to pick the topic for their Original Oratory.
How to Pick an Oratory Topic
by Lizzy Cozzens
Step one: Make a list of things you’re passionate about
This could include:
● Traits you’ve seen from other people (or even yourself) that you wish would change
● Lessons you’ve learned over the years
● Make an “contrarian” list- things that most people advocate for but you think are bad (or vice versa)
*Don’t worry yet about what’s good or what’s not good. Just make brain vomit and clean it up later.
Step two: Clarify ideas/ Narrow or Broaden your take on the topics
This is just kind of an extension of step one, but sometimes when we learn things or are irritated by things, we think of the action and that’s it. It may be beneficial to look for the reason behind those actions and then target that reason.
Step three: Eliminate
This is when you clean up your idea-vomit. Here’s some tips:
● Below there’s a list of generic ideas. Unless if you have some mind-blowing angle on
one of these topics, just don’t do it. Avoid 'em.
● Research. You’ll need some hard facts to back up your topic, so do a little research to
make sure there’s solid stuff to backup your ideas. If there is nothing, then don’t do it.
● Make sure it’s broad enough. You don’t want this idea to be all about you, and you want to make sure you can explore different avenues with it
● Talk to a coach. You’ll probably be doing this already, but make sure to finalize whatever it is that you do
Generic Ideas That We Generally Do Not Stan
*note from a few years later- if you CAN find a cool way to share any of these, more power to ya. If you go down enough rabbit holes I bet you’ll find something cool. Also, what is generic changes, so talk to your coach about what’s current.
● You are special (actually it’s questionable whether or not the individual even scientifically exists, so you aren’t special and I’m sorry).
● Most suicide stuff. We know it’s bad.
● Political polarization. This one might work; I’m just sick of it.
● Hatred is bad.
● Don’t be mean.
● Bullying is bad.
● Why you should care about things. We’re speechies and we care; don’t preach to the
● Most stuff on Immigration.
● Hot political topics. Not super common because it’s a bad idea.
● Mental health awareness and sensitivity. Sometimes this works, but it’s usually a
● Feminism or anything having to do with gender, honestly.
● Don’t be superficial. Yes, we are all beautiful souls.
● Sexual assault/harassment.
● Death. I’ve honestly only heard this twice, but you only need to hear how to prepare for death once, and not from a stranger in a suit.
*Note: I once heard an OO on “Why You Should Plan Your Own Funeral” and it was pretty cool.
Lizzy Cozzens is currently studying Criminal Justice at the University of Wyoming. She competed for the Rock Springs Speech and Debate Team all four years. Lizzy finished 2nd at State in Oratory her junior year and competed in a wide variety of speaking and debate events including: OO, Duo, Poetry, POI, LD, BQ, Policy, PF, Info, and Drama.
More great stuff from Lizzy on One Clap:
How to Format Your Oratory:
The One Clap December Newsletter: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1naSnRR8eHDRtROvjJuDsc5yKubM_DHxLeDQplMVwXw8/edit
Our One Clap and Wyoming Speech and Debate community mourns with the Kramer family and the many others who loved and appreciated Mack Kramer - a Rock Springs and University of Wyoming debater who was tragically taken away from us too soon. Mack was a kind, hard-working, hilarious, brilliant soul, and they will be deeply missed. Rest in peace, Mack.