In this article, I intended to explore the person called “Orator”. I had so many questions when I first stumbled on the term. So I went digging, and I found some answers; answers and lessons I learnt from great orators that I want to share with you. So let’s explore.

Who is an orator?

When I first asked myself this question, ‘who is an orator?’. I went searching for answers where everybody in today’s world would go to and it’s not the library; its google, of course. I googled the term “Orator” and as expected I got tons of answers in less than a second. The first thing I saw on my screen was a snippet showing a dictionary definition as shown in the screenshot below.

Screenshot of  ‘orator’ Google Search Result on 19/03/2019
Screenshot of ‘orator’ Google Search Result on 19/03/2019

Then next was another snippet extracted from Wikipedia and the list continued. In all the definitions from the search result, two terms or their synonyms were almost constantly used. These terms are “Public speaking” and “eloquent”.
Here are some of the definitions:
An orator is;

“A Person who delivers an oration, a public speaking, especially one of great eloquence.”

“An eloquent and skilled public speaker”

“A public speaker, especially one who is eloquent or skilled”

To be eloquent largely means to be persuasive. Therefore, from the above definitions one can say that an orator is a persuasive public speaker.

Who can be An Orator?

An orator can be anyone delivering a public speech with the intention to persuade his/her audience. For me, the list of who can be an orator is somewhat endless.
Here are some examples of public speeches aimed at persuasion, were the speakers can be called orators:

Police on Duty
Police on Duty

  • Picture a Police Commissioner giving a public speech telling residents to calm down that things are under control and there is no need to panic. Probably, there are gunmen out there shooting people down which is enough reason for people to panic. But, the Police Commissioner in his speech tries to persuade the residents of that particular area not to panic but remain calm. This is a typical example of persuasive public speaking and the Police Commissioner delivery the speech could be called an orator.

An Entrepreneur Selling her Ideas
An Entrepreneur Selling her Ideas

  • An Entrepreneur delivery a public speech were he tells his audience that they have a, b, c problems and he has a, b, c solutions that are acquirable at an affordable rate of $123. He attempts in his speech to persuade them into buying his products or pay for his services.

A Politician Trying to Persuade
A Politician Trying to Persuade

  • In today’s world,I think, politicians are synonyms with orators. They are always looking to persuade somebody. They are either trying to persuade us to vote for them or support their policies. Wait a minute, I have to be careful about what I say regarding politician. Why? I might be one, one day. You never can tell. The point is politicians and their speeches are mostly persuasive speeches. So, most politicians are orators.

Like I said earlier, the list is somewhat endless. Think of activists giving speeches to persuade us on their views, or organizational leaders speaking to persuade their subordinates to follow their lead. I think, anybody with a reason to persuade a public can be an orator.

Also Read: 6 Successful Entrepreneurs that are Excellent Public Speakers

Public Speaking Vs Oratory

I have seen a lot of questions about whether or not public speaking and oratory mean the same thing. I think, a lot of people can’t say for sure if there is a difference between public speaking and oratory. And what the difference is, if there is a difference.
Let me make this clear, ‘there is a difference between a public speaker and an orator”. Some public speaking blogs are guilty of using both terms as the same. And it doesn’t change the fact that a difference between the two exist.

Here is the difference

Years back, I underwent a diploma course in Civil Engineering. And during my study days, I learnt that there are different types of civil engineers, namely:

  • Geotechnical engineer
  • Structural engineer
  • Transport engineer
  • And water engineer

Each to these types of civil engineers have their areas of expertise, of specialization. Such that a structural engineer is a civil engineer that specializes on the structural aspects of civil engineering. Therefore, one can deduce that “all structural engineers are civil engineers but not all civil engineers are structural engineers”.

In the same light, there are different type of public speakers, namely;

  • Informative public speakers: Public speakers speaking primarily to inform their audience.
  • Entertainment public speakers: Public speakers speaking primarily to entertain their audience.

  • Persuasive Public speakers or orators: Public Speakers speaking primarily to persuade their audience.

As in the case of the civil engineering, all orators are public speakers but not all public speakers are orators.

More so, you can have an informative public speaker that can deliver complicated information with great simplicity. He can pass as a great public speaker which doesn’t necessarily make him a great orator or even an orator. No matter how good an informative public speaker he is.

Also Read: Fear of Public Speaking: Practical Tips to Overcome it

9 Oratory Tips from Great Orators

1. Don’t Just Tell Stories, Tell Stories that Resonate with the audience:

Great orators don’t tell just any story, they tell the audience her story. When I listened to speeches from great orators and they tell stories, I feel so connected to their stories. Because it’s more like they are telling my story. If there is one lesson to learn from great orators, it would be that an orator should not just use a story to prove or explain a point. He should also use it to tell the audience that “this speech is about you” by mirroring the ‘audience story’ in the story they tell.

2. Mean what you say:

Great orators mean business, are serious about what they are saying. They don’t just say ‘I have a dream’ to entice their audience. They truly have a dream. Oratory is not show business.

3. They address their audience’s care, fear and hope:

Great orators talk about what her audience care about, they confront their fears and evoke hope, give reason for hope or strengthen their audience hold on hope. They are simply all for their audience. There is little or no ‘self’ in their speeches. It’s never about them, it’s always about their audience. Orators should be highly selfless, they should be audience first and almost audience only.

4. They speak with humbled authority:

Great orators are not puppets, they are self-willed. There is this constant air of ‘I am in charge’ and confidence when they speak; it’s fascinating. But more fascinating is their humility. You get to hear them speak with authority and yet humbled; that’s what I call ‘humbled authority’
They speak from their heart: They open up themselves before their audience, making them vulnerable. This vulnerability make them strong. Like the saying ‘give and it shall be given unto you’.

They pour their hearts before their audience and in return they are loved by their audience. Ever wondered why great orators are loved? This is why. They open up and speak straight from their heart.

5. They Act:

“What goes on in between speeches is important for greatness in oratory”

Goodluck Henry Emeka

Who do you fancy as a great orator? Can you remember two or three speeches they gave? I think you can. You know why I think so? You don’t, I guess. Great orators are not considered great because of one great speech they gave but for series of speeches. The things they do in between one speech and another is part of what makes them great.

Think of it like a police commissioner that gave a speech urging residents to remain calm in the face of terrorist attack. Promising that he and the entire police department would stop the terrorist and bring them to justice. They then went ahead to bring down the terrorist. After which, the police commissioner gave another speech, a ‘yes we did it’ speech. And then everybody goes clapping celebrating the PC.

Great orators don’t just speak they act. Winston Churchill, J. F. Kennedy and King Jnr. for instance, when you tell how great an orator they were, people will also see their actions aligned with their speeches.

6. They are Responsible for their Audience:

Great orators carry on their shoulders the weight of responsibility. They feel responsible for their audience. That explain pretty much why they do what they do. As a child, there were personal stories my father would tell me, that he would probably not tell just anybody. Stories he used to admonish me. He told me those stories because he felt that he was responsible for me. This is one of the reasons why orators tell stories that are considered personal and private to their audience. Because, they feel responsible for them. Little more like Winfrey telling stories of how she was molested as a child. Great orators feel responsible for their audience and they take responsibility for them.

Also Read: How to Prepare for an Outstanding Speech

7. They live under the same sun as their audience:

One of the reason why King Jnr. was great as an orator for the civil rights movements that most people overlook; is that King Jnr. was black. A black man speaking for a black civil right movement: a combination for greatness. Or take Churchill a Britain facing the same fate as people of the UK during World War II. Great orators share a lot in common with their audience, they most likely face the same challenges as their audience. As Churchill and King Jnr. face the same challenge as their audience, so did Gandhi, Mandela, and Abraham Lincoln. They lived under the same sun as their audience.

8. Past, Present & Future:

One of the things I love about great orators is their understanding of the history around what they speak about. They speak about today through yesterday and they proffer a future built on today. The greats of oratory are rooted in histories, live in todays and hoped for tomorrow. This I think plays a role in connecting them with many generations and even in today (the future of their yesterday) most of their speeches still resonates with us.

9. There is always an enemy:

Great orators live a story. That I believe is a major reason why you can tell a story about them. Every great story has a conflict, without which nothing great is built. “A story without an ‘antagonistic theme’ is a story with ‘no conflict’. Conflict drives plot. Without plot you cannot have a character study. Without conflict, the character has no reasons to change, grow, or develop. So there’s not much to study. What in heaven’s name could you write about without any conflict occurring?” Anonymous. For great orators there is always a conflict, something to fight against. A problem, a challenge, or an antagonist. The bottle line is the ‘us against them or it” mentality is a major part of great orators greatness.


There is so much more to cover, the ‘Orator’ is a very complex person. And am looking forward to explore more but I hope that’s this piece serve as a stepping stone.

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