Breaking the Code

On a continuous quest for better English learning and teaching

Oratorical Techniques

on November 19, 2009

How do you coach an oratorical contestant so that he will win?

I asked myself this question when Mrs. Estrellita Quiamco, the Science Coordinator of my school requested me to coach her student for a Science oratorical contest. That was a Wednesday morning. I asked when will be the contest? She replied, “This Saturday.”. “Ouch! Too little time,” were my thoughts.  She told me however that the student has already memorized the piece. All I had to do was  to listen to her.  So I did.

She has indeed memorized her piece but she was too fast. I said to myself while listening to her, “What a bore.  When will she stop?”It was a relief when she did stop reciting. I told her all my observations but it wasn’t enough to improve her delivery.

I told her, “I don’t like listening to you. You don’t have eye contact. And it’s very obvious when you forget you’re lines. Besides, “I don’t believe what you’re saying because you don’t convince me at all. And you’re too fast.”

She listened. She repeated her piece. I still don’t like it.

So I asked a fellow teacher to help me. Ms. Elizabeth M. Gorres was known for being the winningest coach in contests such as this.  Without any qualms, she shared her secrets to winning.  These are what I have remembered from my talk with her:

Find your center.   Be comfortable as you stand in front of the audience. Stand with feet slightly apart. (Males stand with feet forming like a V, while females slightly oblique to this.) Below is an example of how one should stand. Always remember though that you must be comfortable as you stand in front of the audience.

Males (feet in  V form)

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Females (oblique)

Think that you are the most beautiful person in that assemblage. This would affect your stage presence. It would also help boost your confidence. Keep in mind that what you feel inside is shown through the face.

Scan the audience using the M vision. Do not begin immediately once you’re up on the stage. Acknowledge first the presence of the audience. You can do this by moving your eyes on them following an imaginary M as you take in everyone’s presence. It’s as if you are saying to the crowd silently, “Good day. I’m happy to see you all here. Look at me. I’m here and I want you to listen to me because what I have to say is something important.”

Act as you feel. Actions should never be memorized but rather acted as one feels. This is important so that you won’t look like a robot.

If you forget some lines, do not let the audience perceive that you have forgotten your piece. Continue speaking selecting any part of your speech which you have remembered.

Use the left hand for negative words. If you have to use your hands to emphasize a point, remember that words with negative connotations (for example: hunger, disaster, failure) are pointed out using the left hand.

Use the right hand for positive words. For words with positive connotations (for example: freedom, justice, development), you should use the right hand if in case you want to stress your point.

Both hands denote all. Examples of words that may warrant the use of both hands are world, global, ocean, etc.)

It is advisable to use few movements. But then again, act as you feel.

Watch sample videos on oration.  Here are some of the videos I have collected:

Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aj2ryCiJew

This is Spencer Harjung, the 2008 winner of the American Legion National Oratorical Contest.

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Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pohx9dmNQpo

In this video, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson explains why Barack Obama is such a powerful speaker. Dyson revealed that  Obama is a great orator because he is able to connect to his audience.  Obama has the capacity to understand the vulnerable human person.

Ω

Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bify_I2GIik

Just an example of how powerful an orator Barack Obama is.

Ω

All of the videos have one thing in common:  they were able to connect to their audience because they were understood by their listeners.

Pronunciation is crucial in oration.  Even if you think you are a good speaker, it always pays to double-check the pronunciation of words.  Once you have checked it and you are still unsure of how it should be pronounced, go online.  Write the word on the Search Bar and press Enter. Click the red volume icon on the webpage and you’ll be able to hear it.


Additional links on oration:

How to Become A Good Orator

Martin Luther King applied the oratorical skill he had mastered

Top three criteria for judging the delivery and presentation of a civic oration

The Orator in You

Effective Oration Techniques

Persuasion

Public Speaking Disasters and How to Avoid Them

Senator Benigno Aquino exemplifying the quality of a good orator.
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