Speaking Contests

The Speaking Contests

The Debate Society hosts three public speaking competitions each year:

The Kingsford Prizes for Public Speaking

Stevenson Prize Expository Speaking Competition

The Lewis Orator Competition

Each competition awards cash prizes and the winners have their names engraved on plaques commemorating the speaking events. Below are criteria and guidelines relevant to each contest.


Kingsford Prizes for Public Speaking

Established April 26, 1881 by Thomson Kingsford with a gift of $1,000.00

Guidelines

The Debate Society’s On Campus Events Coordinator (OCEC) will recruit judges, appoint timekeepers, oversee the contest registration process, and convene and run the contest.

Each contestant will deliver a speech that intends to persuade the immediate audience to take action as a step toward the solution of a problem made salient by the speech. The action step must be generally within the means of the audience (i.e. possible), clearly linked to affecting the problem’s solution, motivated by needs/desires apparently aroused by the speech, and perceived as “good” (expedient & appropriate) by virtue of its consistency with the audience’s operative hierarchy of values.

Accordingly, the speech should be audience centered, anticipating as much as possible the interests and abilities of the audience. Given that the dominant group assembled for the speech consists of fellow students, the whole range of their common interests and abilities should be canvassed when attempting to address them as a group. Then, contestants should target what they consider to be the key demographic indices to address as prompts to action (e.g., age, gender, etc.).

Contestants should not adapt their speeches solely to what they perceive to be the common or special interests and abilities of the judges (e.g. professors, parents, administrators, 25 years old and above, etc.).


Registration

Contestants are required to register for the contest by contacting the OCEC, or designee. Contact information will be publicly provided at the time of the contest’s announcement. Registration consists of the submission via email of the speech’s working or actual title, the contestant’s name, campus address, student I.D. number, class year. The submission’s first line must state: I have read and understand the requirements for the Kingsford Speaking Contest. Failure to include this statement will result in disqualification.


Colgate Speaking Union Coordinator Responsibilities

The CSU Coordinator does not act as a contest judge.  The Coordinator’s key responsibilities include determining prize amounts from the year’s available funds, overseeing the operational and logistical aspects of the contest (e.g. reserving space for the contest), ensuring all contest procedures/rules are followed, and, at the request of contestants, meeting individually prior to the contest to brainstorm about topics, and give contestants opportunities to practice their and video their speeches.


Basic Requirements Overseen by Debate Society Conveners

Each contestant’s speech must be 5-7 minutes long, with an added 30-second grace period.  A student timekeeper will be appointed to record the duration of each speech and alert each speaker at 5 minutes, and 6.5 minutes. At 7 minutes the timekeeper will say “Stop” and the speaker will stop speaking. Accordingly, speakers should practice their speeches to ensure they meet the time requirements.

Penalty: Speeches shorter than 5 minutes, or longer than 7 minutes, will be penalized 3 points.


Each contestant’s speech must be an original speech created specifically for this year’s Kingsford Prize Competition. “Original speech” means a speech developed on a topic that the speaker has not previously researched or presented a speech on.

Penalty: If it is discovered by the OCEC that a contestant’s speech is not an original speech as defined above, the contestant will be disqualified. Any prize that may have been awarded to the disqualified speaker will be voided and returned to the Colgate Speaking Union.


Each speech must include at least one presentational aid, but no more than three. PowerPoint, or electronically projected slides are not permitted.

Penalty: Failure to employ at least one presentational aid will result in the contestant’s disqualification.


All speeches must be extemporaneous—not made up on the spot (impromptu), not memorized (no notes), not read from a manuscript. Contestants may memorize and/or read brief direct quotations used as supporting material.

All speakers must employ notes. Upon completion of their speech, each contestant must submit their notes to the timekeeper. Notes must include the title of the speech, the speaker’s name, the speaker’s class year, an outline of the speech, and a “Works Cited” section documenting any external source materials used to develop the speech.

Penalty: If it is determined by Debate that a contestant has failed to meet one or more of the requirements stated above, the contestant will be disqualified.


Determination of Winners and Distribution of Prizes

In order to qualify for consideration for winning a prize, a speech must earn a minimum judges’ average score of 3 or above, with no score averaging less than 2 on any of the 5-point scales (see below). Once qualified, contest winners will be determined by the total of each contestant’s scores. The highest scoring contestant from each class year will win a cash prize and have their name engraved on the plaque. In the event that there is no winner for a class year, the remaining prize money will divided equally among the winners. SLF, in consultation with the CSU Coordinator, is solely responsible for calculating contestants’ scores. Scoring sheets will be completed immediately after each speech. The OCEC will collect scoring sheets as they are completed. The judges’ immediate scores are the sole basis for determining contest winners. In the case of a tie, the tied winners will equally divide the prize and each will all be afforded a place on the plaque!

Contestants’ score sheets will be distributed upon request after the awards are announced.

Awards will be announced no sooner than one day after the contest and no later than one week after the contest. The will be one award granted to the winner of each class year. In the event that there are no winners in a given class year(s), the remaining prize money will be divided among the remaining prizewinners. Cash prizes are made in the form of direct deposits. Winners are required to email their names to the CSU Coordinator exactly as they want them to appear on the plaque.


Judging

Judges are required to strive to construct themselves as members of the general audience—the audience to whom the speeches are primarily addressed. For example, they should avoid screening their judgments through their professional backgrounds, technical expertise or knowledge, roles, and interests characteristic of professors or staff.  Also, judges are required to strive to avoid judging the speeches on the basis of demographic characteristics that they do not generally share with the assembled audience (e.g. as parents).


The Judging Criteria’s Rationale and the Act of Judging

The judging criteria are based in cultural practices that have been operative in Western culture for over two millennia. They are operative in practice and firmly established as what most effective speakers attend to, whether tacitly or explicitly, in making speeches.  Even though they are cultural constructions, their play across cultures that have ‘places’ for public speaking, value freedom of speech, and more or less constitute democratic polities, are ubiquitous. Many of the differences have to do with hierarchies of “more/less significant” and the weight consequently afforded to each criterion in constructing effective speeches that are valued by their intended audience which may not include some of the people who’re present at the speech’s delivery. The intended audience’s persona should be projected through the speech and judged by judges in its own right by the extent to which the projected persona generally identifies with the assembled audience.

Nevertheless, in the end, the judgment of a speech is a matter of opinion. As such, different judges may rightfully conflict over the judgment of a given speech. These conflicts usually occur at the margins of success and failure and are normal. They may even be represented by completely opposed judgments. Nevertheless, beyond the margins, there are operative paradigms of effectiveness that enable ‘no-brainer’ consensus on a given speech’s excellence, or total failure, as a rhetorical act. As judges record their scores, they should bear these paradigms in mind and consider each of their judgments as relative to the extremes of excellence and failure exemplified by the paradigms.

The basic ethic of effective speech making is audience centered.  It requires adjustment toward constituting a quality of relationship with the intended audience that enables trust, displays truth, and engenders emotion.

As judges of a public speaking contest, judges must globally consider three questions as they afford equal weight to each criterion and record their particular scores:

Whose trust? Whose truth? Whose emotion?

The judges’ scoring sheets include space for brief constructive commentary under each scale. Judges are encouraged to comment!


Judges’ Scales

Speeches will be judged by the criteria below on 5-point scales (1=weak, 2=fair, 3=good, 4=very good, 5=exceptional):

 Adaptation

To what extent was the speech’s subject timely and adapted to the common needs, attitudes, values, prior knowledge, and interests of the assembled audience?

 Organization

To what extent did the speech follow a functional and clear pattern of organization—introduction, main body, conclusion, signposts, summaries, transitions, and explicit call to action?

 Development

To what extent did the speech make its case by providing appropriate reasons and supporting materials to advance its claims, including presentational aids?

 Delivery

How effectively did the speaker use her/his voice (volume, rate, variety), body (gestures, eye contact, facial expression, movement)?

 Style

To what extent was the speaker’s word choice creative, clear, appropriate, and engaging?


After the Contest

Judges and Debate Society conveners are encouraged to discuss the speeches and their judgments after the contest is over. This is a great learning opportunity and a place to discover why judges judged the speeches as they did—to understand their reasoning and the disparities that may exist between them. It is certainly appropriate to make the case for one’s judgment of a given speech and try to get others to change their judgment and achieve consensus—but that’s another round of persuasive speaking and not a part of the contest judging process. That is, the speakers’ scores, and not persuasiveness or status of post-contest judge advocates, will determine the winner.

Accordingly, the scores immediately recorded after each speech and tallied by the Debate Society conveners will determine the contest’s winners.
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Stevenson Prize for Expository Speaking

 Established January 20, 1920 by Commander George E. T. Stevenson with a gift of $800.0

Guidelines

The Debate Society’s On Campus Events Coordinator (OCEC) will recruit judges, appoint timekeepers, oversee the contest registration process, and convene and run the contest.

The Stevenson Prize for Expository Speaking is open to all currently enrolled Colgate students. Each contestant will present a research paper:

  • That is not co-authored
  • That is not the result of collaborative research
  • That is based on independent research conducted by the contestant at Colgate University in connection with coursework

The presentation will be expository. The speech should be audience centered, anticipating as much as possible the interests and abilities of the assembled audience.

The audience should not be addressed as expert bearers of technical knowledge in the particular discipline wherein the research is grounded (e.g. Biology, History, Philosophy, etc.).

That is, the research paper’s original intended audience (most likely a professor) differs from the presentation’s immediate intended audience. The research presentation should be adapted to the immediate assembled audience, within the required time constraints afforded by the contest.

Contestants should not adapt their speeches solely to what they perceive to be the technical interests or advanced academic backgrounds of the judges. Likewise, judges should not expect to be addressed as such.

Each presentation will be followed by a brief Q&A. Questions will be asked by the judges.


Registration

Contestants are required to register for the contest by contacting the OCEC. Contact information will be publicly provided at the time of the contest’s announcement. Registration consists of the email submission of an attached research paper, a speech outline, including the paper’s title, the contestant’s name, campus address, student I.D. number, and class year. The submission’s first line must state: I have read and understand the Stevenson Prize public speaking contest requirements. Failure to include this statement will result in disqualification.


Colgate Speaking Union Coordinator

The CSU Coordinator does not act as a contest judge.  The Coordinator’s key responsibilities include determining prize amounts from the year’s available funds, overseeing the operational and logistical aspects of the contest (e.g. reserving space for the contest), ensuring all contest procedures/rules are followed, and, at the request of contestants, meeting individually prior to the contest to brainstorm about topics, and give contestants opportunities to practice their and video their speeches.


Basic Requirements Overseen by Debate Society Conveners

Each contestant’s speech must be 7-10 minutes long, with a 30-second grace period. A student timekeeper will be appointed by the OCEC to record the duration of each speech and alert each speaker at 7 minutes, and 9.5 minutes. At 10.5 minutes the timekeeper will say “Stop” and the speaker will stop speaking. Accordingly, speakers should practice their speeches to ensure they meet the time requirements.

Penalty: Speeches less than 7 minutes, or over 10.5 minutes, will be penalized 3 points.


Each contestant’s speech must be an original speech created specifically for the Stevenson Prize Competition. “Original speech” means a speech developed on a topic that the speaker has previously researched and not publicly presented.  If the paper was presented as part of a course requirement, or at an academic conference, a version adapted to the Stevenson contest’s “Big Picture” may be presented. Also, if the research the speech is based on was undertaken in connection with coursework, the course and it’s instructor must be acknowledged at the beginning of the speech.

Penalty: Failure to acknowledge the course and its instructor will result in disqualification.


All speeches must be extemporaneous—not made up on the spot (impromptu), not memorized, notread from a manuscript or series of PowerPoint slides. For accuracy’s sake, contestants may read brief direct quotations used as supporting material.

All speakers must employ notes. Upon completion of their speech, each contestant must submit their notes to the timekeeper. Notes must include the title of the speech, the speaker’s name, the speaker’s class year, and a “Works Cited” section documenting any external source materials referred to in the speech.

Penalty: Failure to submit appropriate notes will result in disqualification.


Each speech must also include a presentational aid or aids.  Presentational aids may include objects and substances that may be legally possessed on the Colgate campus and don’t pose a threat to the audience’s well-being.

Presentational aids may also include electronic and aural media. In addition, if the research involves the display of specific bodily postures by an assistant, or the presenter, such displays will count as presentational aids.

PowerPoint is permitted, but it should not be used as a set of giant speaker note cards creating a distraction as the audience may read ahead of the speaker.  Rather, PPT should be used to display data, images of artifacts, or anything else that must be seen (not read) by the audience to better understand, clarify, and support the research’s findings.

Penalty: If it is determined by OCEC that a contestant has failed to employ a presentational aid, the contestant will be disqualified.


n order to qualify for consideration for winning a prize, a speech must earn a minimum judges’ average score of 3 or above, with no score averaging less than 2 on any of the 5-point scales (see below). Once qualified, contest winners will be determined by the total of each contestant’s scores. The highest scoring contestant will win the Stevenson Prize, and the second, third, and fourth-place speakers will win cash prizes. If there is a tie for top presentation, the tied winners will divide the top prize money and their names will be engraved on the Stevenson plaque. The OCEC, in consultation with the CSU Coordinator, is solely responsible for calculating contestants’ scores. Judges complete their scoring sheets immediately after each speech. The OCEC will collect scoring sheets as they are completed. The judges’ recorded scores are the sole basis for determining contest winners.


Contestants’ score sheets will be distributed upon request after the awards are announced. Contact information will be provided.


Winners will be announced no later than 24 hours after the contest’s completion.


The Stevenson contest winner is required to email their name to the CSU Coordinator exactly as they want it to appear on the Stevenson plaque.


 Judging

As non-students, faculty and administrators are in the best position to act as judges without bearing the conflicts of interest being a student-judge may entail. This presents a challenge.

The basic ethic of effective speech making is audience centered.  It requires speaker adjustment toward constituting a quality of relationship with the actual audience that engenders trust, makes the truth appear to be true, and arouses feelings commensurate with the aim of the speech.

Judges are required to strive to construct themselves as members of the general audience—the audience to whom the speeches are primarily addressed. For example, they should avoid screening their judgments through their professional backgrounds, technical expertise or depth of knowledge, and their characteristic roles as faculty and administrative staff.

Also, judges are required to strive to avoid judging the speeches on the basis of demographic characteristics that they do not generally share with the assembled audience (e.g. as parents).

Accordingly, judges’ scoring should be performed by taking on the ‘persona’ of the general intended audience: the Colgate students assembled for the contest. To be sure there will be areas where the judges’ interests overlap the student audience’s interests, but in the composition of their speeches, the contestants should have their peers in mind and address their research presentations to the assembled students.


Judges’ questions should be oriented toward seeking clarification and elaboration. Although they may be challenging, they should not consist of declarations indicating a judge’s evaluation of the student’s research.


The Judging Criteria

Even though they are cultural constructions, the criteria’s play across cultures that have ‘places’ for public speaking, value freedom of speech and the advancement of knowledge, and more or less constitute democratic polities, are ubiquitous.

That is, the judging criteria are based in cultural practices that are generally operative in research presentations. They are firmly established in academe as what most effective speakers attend to, whether tacitly or explicitly, in presenting their research.  In the Stevenson Contest, the presentations are conceived as addressed to non-expert audiences who bear a general academic interest in the research. Accordingly, the student presentations are similar to teaching.


The Scales

Judges are advised to afford each criterion equal weight by viewing the speeches holistically and broadly addressed to the assembled student contestants by fellow contestants.


Speeches will be judged by the criteria below on 5-point scales (1=weak, 2=fair, 3=good, 4=very good, 5=exceptional):

 Adaptation

To what extent was the speech’s subject made to appear timely and adapted to the prior knowledge and interests of the immediate audience and the time constraints afforded by the speaking occasion?

 Organization

To what extent did the speech follow a functional and clear expository pattern of organization—introduction, main body, and conclusion divided in accord with the conventions of reporting research?

 Development

To what extent did the speech elucidate its topic by providing appropriate supporting materials and engaging the mode(s) of description, definition, explanation, and/or demonstration?

 Delivery

How effectively did the speaker use her/his voice (volume, rate, variety), presentational aids, and body (gestures, eye contact, movement)?

 Style

To what extent was the speaker’s word choice creative, clear, appropriate, and engaging?

 Question and Answer

To what extent did the speaker effectively field questions addressed by the judges?

 Purpose

To what extend did the speaker’s presentation appear to engage with previous research and contribute to the scholarly conversation?


After the Contest

Judges and conveners are encouraged to discuss the speeches and their judgments. This is an important learning opportunity and a place to discover why judges judged the speeches as they did—to understand their reasoning and the disparities that may exist between them.

Nevertheless, the scores immediately recorded after each speech determine who won the contest—not the judges’ and conveners’ post-contest talk about talk.
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Lewis Orator Prize

Established by Prof. John James Lewis, August 6, 1867 With a Gift of $1,000.00 in Memory of His Brother,  Mr. George W.M. Lewis of Utica, NY

Prof. John James Lewis

John James Lewis was born in Utica, New York on December 25, 1833. He attended Madison University from 1860-63 but earned his bachelor of arts from Hamilton College in 1864. Lewis went on to teach belles letters and elocution at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute from 1865-1866. He was ordained in Utica in 1867 and preached in Syracuse afterwards. He then returned to Colgate as a professor in 1868. He taught logic and English literature classes until 1871 and then taught civil history, English literature and oratory classes until his contraction of pneumonia in 1884 led to his death.

Lewis was a greatly respected and admired colleague and professor who was popular among staff and students alike for his enthusiasm, cheerful nature, and versatile literary and social tastes. While at Colgate, Lewis established the Lewis Prize in honor of his brother. The Lewis Prize is awarded to the winner of an oratorical contest that is held on campus.

Lewis’s experiences, knowledge, ideas, and personal thoughts are conveyed through the means of letters, sermons, journals, and daybooks that he kept throughout his life. [1]


Guidelines

Each contestant will deliver an original speech that is centered on a one-word prompt published by the competition’s organizers prior to the competition.  The prompt must be used in the speech as a vehicle to elucidate some aspect of social reality in a new and memorable way.

Speeches may best accomplish this aim by analogy, or metaphorically, using well-considered and familiar aspects of the prompt’s meaning and significance to bring to the audience’s awareness a new layer of meaning, or sense of the significance of comparison’s target. For example, could use the one-word prompt “owl” to talk about the owl’s adaptation to darkness as a time to seek and hunt, and in the darkness of night find sustenance. Then, employing that line of talk, one may develop an extended analogy employing ‘darkness’ as a metaphor for the sort of dismal affect that inevitably strikes all of us, and how, in order to survive our moonless nights of anguish, we must learn, like the owl, to ‘hunt out’ out of the darkness what may sustain us—to find answers to questions that may quicken the coming of dawn’s light.  Of course, there are differences between owls and humans (not to mentions times of day and anguish, food and insight as sources of sustenance & more) that one may need to explicitly address in order to make the owl-point stick.

Additionally, it is just as important to state exactly what the point is! The ‘point’ may be captured in your speech’s title as shorthand for the entire speech. (Try to make a title up for the owl comparison above, and maybe you’ll see what it’s point is!)

So, the speeches may be allegorical or simply concrete comparisons that use one concept to shed light on another seemingly unrelated concept.  As the comparison or extended metaphor begins to make sense through the speech’s telling, we may feel that we have seen something familiar an unfamiliar way, from a fresh perspective that adds insight to our understanding and may bring a well-worn cliché back to life.

Remember, clichés are wise sayings that have lost their rhetorical punch. If we are to keep their wisdom operative in our lives, we must enliven them by displaying their ongoing relevance to coping with life’s contingencies.

Accordingly, the speech should be illustrative and audience centered, anticipating as much as possible the common interests and broadly shared sensibilities of the audience, its operative assumptions surrounding your speech’s central point, and the point’s relevance as you constitute its relevance by adapting it toward what you have anticipated by regarding the intended audience. For example, you would probably explain “love” to a 5-year-old child in a way that would differ from the way you would try to explain it to a teenager.  In both cases, you’re talking about the same concept, but in both cases you need to adapt the concept’s explanation to your listener in order achieve the optimal explanation for the specific listener. There’s no such thing as an optimal explanation apart from its intended audience.

Given that the majority of the group assembled for the Lewis competition consists of fellow students, the whole range of their common interests and sensibilities should be canvassed when preparing to address them and spark their attention as a group.

That is, contestants should target what they consider to be the audience’s key operative interests and sensibilities, and address them as pathways to providing a fresh perspective on some aspect of social reality. Contestants should not adapt their speeches solely to what they perceive to be the common or special interests and sensibilities of the judges (e.g. professors, parents, administrators, 25 years old and above, etc.).


Registration

Contestants are required to register for the contest by contacting the Debate Society’s on Campus Events Coordinator (OCEC). Contact information will be publicly provided at the time of the contest’s announcement. Registration consists of the email submission of a speech outline including its title, the contestant’s name, campus address, student I.D. number and the statement: I have read and understand the Lewis Orator Prize guidelines. Failure to include the statement will result in disqualification.


Colgate Speaking Union Coordinator

The CSU Coordinator does not act as a contest judge.  The Coordinator’s key responsibilities include determining prize amounts from the year’s available funds, overseeing the operational and logistical aspects of the contest (e.g. reserving space for the contest), ensuring all contest procedures/rules are followed, and, at the request of contestants, meeting individually prior to the contest to brainstorm about topics, and give contestants opportunities to practice their and video their speeches.


Basic Requirements Overseen by Debate Society Conveners

The OCEC will recruit judges, appoint timekeepers, oversee the contest registration process, order refreshments, and convene and run the contest.


Each contestant’s speech must be 5-7 minutes long, with a 30-second grace period. A student timekeeper will be appointed by the OCEC to record the duration of each speech and alert each speaker at 5 minutes, and 6.5 minutes. At 7.5 minutes the timekeeper will say “Stop” and the speaker will stop speaking. Accordingly, speakers should practice their speeches to ensure they meet the time requirements.

Penalty: Speeches shorter than 5 minutes, or longer than 7.5 minutes, will be penalized 3 points.


Each contestant’s speech must be an original speech: A speech created specifically for this year’s Lewis Prize Competition. Moreover, the speech may not be a version of a previously delivered public speech that has been adapted to the Competition’s one-word prompt.

Penalty: If it is discovered by SLF that a contestant’s speech is not an original speech as defined above, the contestant will be disqualified. Any prize that may have been awarded to the disqualified speaker will be voided and returned to the Colgate Speaking Union.


All speeches must be extemporaneous—not made up on the spot (impromptu), notmemorized (no notes), not read from a manuscript. Contestants may memorize and/or read brief direct quotations used as supporting material.

All speakers must employ notes. Upon completion of their speech, each contestant must submit their notes to the timekeeper. Notes must include the title of the speech, the speaker’s name, the speaker’s class year, an outline of the speech, and a “Works Cited” section documenting any external source materials used to develop the speech. Presentational aids (aka “visual aids”) are not required. However, if employed, only one presentational aid is permitted per speech.  Presentational aids may include objects and substances that may be legally possessed on the Colgate University campus and don’t pose a threat to the audience’s well-being. PowerPoint is not permitted.

Penalty: If it is determined by the OCEC that a contestant has failed to meet one or more of the requirements stated above, the contestant will be disqualified.


Determination of Winners and Distribution of Prizes

In order to qualify for consideration for winning a prize, a speech must earn a minimum judges’ average score of 3 or above, with no score averaging less than 2 on any of the 5-point scales (see below). Once qualified, contest winners will be determined by the total of each contestant’s scores. The three highest scoring speeches will constitute the first-, second-, and third-place rankings and be awarded the cash prizes determined for the ranks in the given year. The highest-ranking speaker’s name will be engraved on the Lewis Prize plaque. In the event that there is no qualifying speech in a given rank or ranks, the remaining prize money will divided equally among the qualifying speakers. If there is only one qualifying speech, the speaker will be awarded all of the prize money. In the case of a tie in a given rank, the CSU Coordinator will redistribute the prize money to reflect the ranked distinctions.

The OCEC, in consultation with the CSU Coordinator, is solely responsible for calculating contestants’ scores. Scoring sheets will be completed immediately after each speech. The OCEC will collect scoring sheets as they are completed. The judges’ immediate scores are the sole basis for determining contest winners. In the case of a tie for first place, the tied winners will have their names engraved on the plaque.


Contestants’ score sheets will be distributed by the OCEC upon request after the awards are announced.


Awards will be announced no sooner that two days after the contest and no later than one week after the contest. Cash prizes are made in the form of checks. The winners is required to email their name to the CSU Coordinator exactly as they want it to appear on the plaque.


Judging

Judges are required to strive to construct themselves as members of the general audience—the audience to whom the speeches are primarily addressed. For example, they should avoid screening their judgments through their professional backgrounds, technical expertise or knowledge, roles, and interests characteristic of professors or staff.  Also, judges are required to strive to avoid judging the speeches on the basis of demographic characteristics that they do not generally share with the assembled audience (e.g. as parents).


The Judging Criteria and the Act of Judging

The judging criteria are based in cultural practices that have been operative in Western culture for over two millennia. They are operative in practice and firmly established as what most effective speakers attend to, whether tacitly or explicitly, in making speeches.  Even though they are cultural constructions, their play across cultures that have ‘places’ for public speaking, value freedom of speech, and more or less constitute democratic polities, are ubiquitous. Many of the differences have to do with hierarchies of “more/less significant” and the weight consequently afforded to each criterion in constructing effective speeches—speeches that are valued by their intended audience which may not include some of the people who’re present at the speech’s delivery. The intended audience’s persona should be projected through the speech and judged by judges in its own right by the extent to which the projected persona generally identifies with the assembled audience.

Nevertheless, in the end, the judgment of a speech is a matter of opinion. As such, different judges may rightfully conflict over the judgment of a given speech. These conflicts usually occur at the margins of success and failure and are normal. They may even be represented by completely opposed judgments. Nevertheless, beyond the margins, there are operative paradigms of effectiveness that enable ‘no-brainer’ consensus on a given speech’s excellence, or total failure as a rhetorical act. As judges record their scores, they should bear these paradigms in mind and consider each of their judgments as relative to the extremes of excellence and failure exemplified by the paradigms.

The basic ethic of effective speech making is audience centered.  It requires adjustment toward constituting a quality of relationship with the intended audience that enables trust, displays truth, and engenders appropriate emotions.

The judges’ scoring sheets include space for brief constructive commentary under each scale. Judges are encouraged to comment!


The Scales

Speeches will be judged by the criteria below on 5-point scales (1=weak, 2=fair, 3=good, 4=very good, 5=exceptional):

 Adaptation

To what extent was the speech’s one-word prompt made to appear timely and adapted to the prior knowledge and interests of the immediate audience with an apparent emphasis on informing, persuading, or entertaining?

 Organization

To what extent did the speech follow a functional and clear pattern of organization—inducing a sense of coherence and well-plotted movement from beginning to end?

 Development

To what extent did the speech effectively elucidate its one-word prompt by employing the mode(s) of description, definition, explanation, demonstration—including analogies, extended comparisons, or metaphors?

 Delivery

How effectively did the speaker use her/his voice (volume, rate, variety), visual aids, and body (gestures, eye contact, facial expression, movement)?

 Style

To what extent was the speaker’s word choice creative, clear, appropriate, engaging, and memorable?

 Distinctiveness

To what extent did the speech provide a fresh perspective on its one-word prompt and distinguish itself from being clichéd or ‘just like’ other speeches centering on the prompt?

 


After the Contest

Judges and the OCEC are encouraged to discuss the speeches and their judgments after the contest is over. This is a great learning opportunity and a place to discover why judges judged the speeches as they did—to understand their reasoning and the disparities that may exist between them. It is certainly appropriate to make the case for one’s judgment of a given speech and try to get others to change their judgment and achieve consensus—but that’s another round of persuasive speaking and not a part of the contest judging process. That is, the speakers’ scores, and not persuasiveness or status of post-contest judge advocates, will determine the rankings. Accordingly, the scores immediately recorded after each speech and tallied by the OCEC will determine the speakers’ rankings and the contest’s winners.
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