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Interview with Sara Cois about Original Advocacy Speech and Judging

On July 6, 2011, on behalf of Rate Speeches, Nura Kawa conducted an interview with Sara Cois.  Sara was president of Presentation High-School Speech and Debate Team 2010 and was won eighteenth place in high-school Original Advocacy at CHSSA States in 2009.  The interview was about effective original advocacy judge feedback comments and original advocacy speech techniques.

Nura:

What qualities do you believe make an original advocacy speech effective?

Sara:

The best OAs have a distinct style to them that makes them stand out and be interesting. An effective OA gets the judge to care, monetarily, emotionally, or personally about the topic. Also, it is important to be memorable. The distinct style (whether repeating a same phrase, having a personal story, having an emotional section), often helps.. but its important that you make the topic important and interesting enough that the judge says to himself.. wow I didn't know that... now I want to tell someone about it.

Nura:

Based on your experience, what methods are the most effective in making a speech persuasive?

Sara:

The way you sound, pause, hand gestures, walking, eye contact are probably the most important things to work on when you aren't sounding persuasive. Yes, speech content is important, but I realized almost everyone, with a little editing can have a persuasive essay... only few people can make it sound persuasive.

You want to be saying your speech like you are informing the audience about something important; I always found it helpful to imagine I was in a big auditorium. It made the way I speak sound more powerful. One of the hardest things to do is change the way you speak, but if you manage to work on your intonations to make the speech not sound memorized but a powerful rally for help then your golden. Also, facial expressions and hand gestures are crucial. Don't do the same one all the time, switch hands and really give the speech with your entire body, not just your voice.

I found that simplifying the language and having more "you" language is better at drawing in the audience. Also, the more complicated words you have will cause the judge to think more about what the words mean than what you are saying.

Another thing I found useful is to try to appeal to as many different emotions as possible, because some things affect certain judges more than others. If you are doing something like water contamination have a sob story about a kid getting sick, talk about the monetary implications, talk about all the poor animals that are dying, and most importantly show the judge how they would be personally affected.

Nura:

What do you believe makes a speech weaker, rather than stronger?

Sara:

A thing that makes a speech weaker is when it is a generic topic that I've already heard before, so I don't learn anything new. Also, when a speech is monotonous, with the same repetitive pattern people stop listening to the contact and instead are just thinking about the way you speak and not what you are saying. When people evoke TOO much emotion, and it's all sob stories and little or no information it is a big turn off. Anything you do that doesn't enhance your speech but instead distracts the judges won't help get your point across.

Also, a solution that has too much jargon and less explanations doesn't help in making the judge think your solution will work.

Nura:

What advice would you give to students when writing an original advocacy?

Sara:

When writing an OA the best advice I could say is get books on the topic and read them. Books are amazing because the authors have done all the work for you! They compiled a book about the topic and often times they have every element to make your speech successful.. facts, stories, and solutions. I would then make an outline on all the stuff you want to talk about, and start writing. Make sure that when you write your speech the first time you make it longer than it should be, that way you are forced to cut things, and it really makes you evaluate what is needed and also what is probably more interesting and should be kept.

AND! Make the speech interesting. There have been so many times when I've heard good topic ideas but the speech didn't engage me.

Nura:

What is the best method of choosing a topic that is effective?

Sara:

I found it really helpful to talk and brainstorm with people. Often times too you can hear about a general topic from one person and while you are doing research you found an interesting aspect you want to talk about. Also I found the best speeches are ones that take general topics and find a unique aspect to them. Example : When talking about Pharmaceutical corruption don't talk about all the ways pharmaceuticals are hurting people.. instead just talk about how they duplicate drugs and are overpricing them. Another example is when talking about the foster care system don't just say why it's bad, instead look at a distinct aspect like how children aren't given the proper help and education on how to live on their own after being kicked out the system. Also, just keep open to everything when looking for topics. I got inspiration off a news article for my first speech, and the second time there was an ad about the issue in my local news bulletin.