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  • Anh Le

Being Real In Oratory

“Do personal stories in Oratory have to be true?”

This question kinda blew my mind when a coach from another school asked me after judging a few Oratory rounds for the first time.

How many times have we sat in Oratory rounds and listened to personal anecdotes that just make you want raise your eyebrow and think “ Huh...I’m pretty sure that never happened”. For example, I once had saw a kid giving a speech about consumerism and one of his anecdotes was about how his 15 year old sister wouldn’t stop crying in the car unless his mom bought her a happy meal. People chuckled at that--sometimes. I’m assuming some people laughed because it’s kinda funny to imagine a teenager throw a temper tantrum. But there’s some issues with this.

It’s not uncommon to have slightly untrue anecdotes. It’s for the humor. Sometimes you just gotta spin something that resembles your life in order fit your speech. Sometimes a really crazy story makes a very fun Attention Getting Device. Don’t get me wrong, I know there’s reasons for exaggerating a story and taking some liberties. Been there. Done that. But consider this: lying about statistics, evidences or sources is unacceptable. So why are our own stories any different?

You wouldn’t lie about certain claims or facts in your Oratory. Because it would make your persuasive speech illegitimate. The thing is we forget that Oratory isn’t just about credibility in your evidence; It’s also about credibility in you being real too. And while nobody is going to fact check whether or not you actually had to walk to school wearing nothing but a bathrobe and rain boots because you procrastinated in doing your laundry, you miss an opportunity to share a genuine moment when procrastination really made your life difficult. You miss a chance to be relatable.

The truth is, as fascinated as we are by your compelling research about perfectionism or entitlement of millennials, we as audience members and judges are probably just as ( if not more) interested in hearing about how your life and your experiences relate to what you’re talking about. We want to believe that the person we’re hearing talk for 10 minutes is going to be the person we’ll get if ask them for coffee after the tournament. And if you’re afraid that you’re life isn’t that interesting or that your real life examples are cliché, I guarantee that you are more fascinating than you think you are. And sometimes it’s not even the story that makes your speech stand out, it’s just how you tell it. Let your sarcastic humor, your sassy attitude or your loud rambunctious personality breathe life to what could’ve been an ordinary story. That’s the beauty of speech.

Be Yourself. Why else are you in Oratory? You didn’t want to be another character(s), and you didn’t want to become experts on topics chosen by someone else. You don’t have to be the wittiest, charismatic, or funniest. That will all follow as long as you really, truly, mean what you say.

Have any questions or need help on your Oratory? Reach out to me via email at!

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