Cicero Speech Contest

Want to demonstrate your public speaking skills to the Barnard community? Have an issue you're passionate about and wish more people understood? Then sign up for the 2018 Cicero Speech Contest! Winners will be awarded prizes!


Sign up by Friday, September 28th at 11:59PM to compete in ONE of two categories:

Persuasive Advocacy Speech (5 minutes, prepared in advance, with a proposal and a call to action; all participants will have the opportunity to meet with a Speaking Fellow for a one-hour conference prior to the contest)

Impromptu Speech (3 minutes, created on the spot, based on prompt given 30 min. before speech).


The event will take place on Wednesday, October 17th at 6 PM in Sulzberger Parlor (Barnard Hall, 3rd floor)!  Sign-up form also available here. Questions? Email



Martha Stewart at Barnard

Thursday, February 1st, 2018 | 6:30PM | Diana Event Oval

Speaking Fellows will host an evening with esteemed Barnard alumna Martha Stewart. Students will have the opportunity to hear from Martha through a moderated Q+A. Tickets are sold out for this event, but a few remaining tickets will be raffled off on the Speaking Fellows Facebook and Instagram: @barnard_speakingfellows. 

The Fifth Annual Cicero Speech Contest

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 | 6PM | Sulzberger Parlor, 3rd floor Barnard Hall


The Cicero Speech Contest strives to promote a speaking culture at Barnard where speaking is an intellectual expression and powerful tool for advocacy; where speaking well is valued, evaluated, and rewarded; where students use opportunities such as this event to voice issues which matter to them and affect real change; and where Barnard students hone and employ their voices for transformation.

This year, the contest will be opened by President Sian Beilock! There will be two speech categories: Persuasive Advocacy (5 minutes) and Impromptu (3 minutes). Judging panels will comprise distinguished faculty, deans, and alumnae. There will be a small prize for each category.

To sign up, please fill out this form by Tuesday, October 10th at midnight.

* Please note only Barnard students can participate as contestants. All are welcome to attend the event.


Persuasive Advocacy Speech (5 minutes) | Prizes: $100 (1st place), $50 (2nd place)

A speech in this category aims to change an audience's action and behavior, or some policy that the audience can influence. It has a specific call to action and a specific plan for how to change the status quo (a clear claim with a desired outcome).

This category will be judged on the following criteria: who gives the most convincing reasoning for changing the status quo, offers the most cogent arguments, delivers a workable plan for action, and effectively relates the speech to the audience.

*All participants in this category will work with Speaking Fellows to hone their speech prior to the contest.

Impromptu Speech (3 minutes) | Prizes: $50 (1st place), $25 (2nd place)

Students will receive a prompt and have 30 minutes to prepare a speech. (One example of a previous year's prompt was a quote by Toni Morrison: "Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined.")

This category will be judged on the following criteria: who approaches the topic in an innovative way and whether the speeches are evocative, persuasive, and/or surprising.


  • No reading while delivering speeches; only bare outlines are allowed.
  • Humor is welcome, but no profanity. Contestants using profanities or otherwise offensive language will be immediately disqualified. Language should be appropriate to the audience.
  • Each category sign-up list operates on a first-come, first-served basis, but there is an unlimited waiting list. (Last year we had eight contestants in the advocacy category and ten in the impromptu category with sizable wait lists.)