Virtual Oratorical Contest Guidelines

Oratorical Contest Guidelines

Download Oratorical Contest Guidelines
  • Contest Categories are by grade level
    • Grades 1 - 3 (2 - 4 minute speeches)
    • Grades 4 & 5 (4 - 6 minute speeches)
    • Grades 6 - 8 (6 - 8 minute speeches)
    • Grades 9 - 12 (8 - 10 minute speeches)
  • Speech must meet the time limit, but not go more than 30 seconds over the selected time.
  • The contest will limit applicants to the first 25 applications submitted in each division. Applications will be accepted between December 1st and December 18th, 2020 or until 25 applications are received.
  • Failure to follow submission guidelines correctly will result in the contestant’s application being returned.
  • Students will deliver their oration over a computer platform such as Webex, in competition with other students between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on the following dates:
    • Tuesday, January 5, 2021 (Elementary Division, Grades 1 - 3)
    • Wednesday, January 6, 2021 (Junior Division, Grades 4 - 5)
    • Thursday, January 7, 2021 (Junior High Division, Grades 6 - 8)
    • Friday, January 8, 2021 (High School Division, Grades 9 - 12)
  • Contestants will be notified of their scheduled appointment time via email.
1. Choose a Speech
Before applying, you need to know which one of Frederick Douglass's speeches you will be reciting. If you need help finding one, the National Park Service has compiled a list of suggested speeches, and the Teaching American History website has links to many of Frederick Douglass's speeches. Feel free to do your own research to find one of Douglass's speeches - there are a lot! Make sure you will be reciting a speech, NOT an editorial or written piece.

2. Complete the Application
Download and review the application packet, fill out the application form, and submit it via email to Applications will be accepted until we have received 25 applications per category or until Friday, December 11, 2020, whichever comes first. The park will also maintain a small waiting list in the event that someone changes their mind about participation.
3. Memorize and Practice
Memorizing and practicing your speech is key to being an effective orator. The National Park Service has created a list of tips for memorization and tips for public speaking. You can also get tips from The Columbian Orator, a classic lesson book that Frederick Douglass used when he learned how to give speeches. Want to get an idea of how the judges will evaluate your speech? See the judges' criteria.

The "Podium Points" series can help to teach you different aspects of great oratory. In the videos below, Thembi Duncan (a master from Ford's Theatre) and students from Oyster-Adams Bilingual School guide you through the physical, verbal, and mental skills of oratory. They also give you tips on how to practice your oratory with others.
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3 minutes, 48 seconds

Overview of the physical points of good oration.

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4 minutes, 16 seconds

The vocal aspects of good oratory.

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3 minutes, 13 seconds

How to give and receive feedback.

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5 minutes, 40 seconds

Preparing for the big day.

Step 4. Know how you will be rated
Want to get an idea of how the judges will evaluate your speech? Click here.
Step 5: Make sure you can log on to Webex and test your system Run a test on your computer to make sure that you can log on to Webex and that the system works on your computer before your scheduled presentation date. Practice with the camera active on where you need to stand so you can be seen. We need to be able to see you standing and presenting.
Step 6. Make sure you know the date and time to give your speech and be ready to go
Student delivers oration
Participants recite their speeches from a stage in a small auditorium at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site.

NPS/N. Johnson

Last updated: December 9, 2020

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