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.

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.

* 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.


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

Students will receive a prompt and have 30 minutes to prepare a speech. (Last 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.)