Orators: Everything you NEED to know

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

Great Orators of All Time

1. Cicero Marcus

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Cicero is perhaps the greatest orator of late Roman Republic. He is an orator, a philosopher and a lawyer. A typical classical orator: being more philosophical and drenched in law. 

“The ideal orator would master both law and philosophy and would add eloquence … He would also be the best of human being, who understand the correct way to live, act upon”

Cicero on the Ideal Classical Orator

During their time, there was less heart to oratory than in contemporary times. Great classical orators use more of logic in their delivery as opposed to modern great orators who are more emotional (more hearty) in their delivery. 
Cicero viewed oratory as a one-way communication, and he was highly persuasive. As a brilliant orator and one of Ancient Roman’s great philosophers, he was well made for greatest in oratory and he was great. 

2. Demosthenes

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Demosthenes was a great orator of Ancient Athens, one of the finest of Ancient Greece. He is the father of modern oratory.

Demosthenes journey into oratory began at a very tender age. He started by studying speeches of great orators before him. And his initial goal journeying into oratory, was the hope of recovering what was left of his inheritance from his guardians. Demosthenes planned on achieving that through judicial proceedings that rested on excellently delivered judicial speech.

At Age 20, Demosthenes achieved his goal and regain his inheritance. He later establish himself as a lawyer, a professional speech writer and a major political figure in Ancient Athens. Through fervent study and practice, Demosthenes established himself as a great in oratory.

3. Frederick Douglass

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Frederick Douglass was born into slavery, in a time when slavery was morally right in the sight of beastly men. Men whom though they have the form of humans, possess the soul of beasts. 
Douglass became literate at an early age which empowered him for greatness. He manage to escape slavery and eventually became a National Leader of the Abolitionist Movement in New York and Massachusetts. 
Douglass was the most influential African American leader of the 1800s. He was so great an orator that people doubted he was once a slave.

Also ReadHow to Prepare for an Outstanding Speech

“Northerners at that time found it hard to believe that such a great orator had once been a slave”

Frederick Douglass, Wikipedia.com

4. Abraham Lincoln

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Best known as the orator who delivered the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln is one of my favourite orators. He is the 16th President of the United States, whose presidency at that time was pretty much unlikely. His only experience in elected position came during his one term as a congressman.

Lincoln had a profile of being staunchly against slavery in the United States; making him so unpopular. But using the magic wand in oratory, he delivered series of brilliantly crafted speeches that made him popular enough to be nominated as a Presidential Candidate for the then newly formed Republican Party.
His speech before a 1,500 audience at Cooper Thin Hall in New York City was said to have played a major role in his nomination for Presidency. And eventually his election as the 16th President of the United States.

“Had Lincoln not delivered such a triumphant address before the sophisticated and demanding audience that night, it is possible that he would not have been nominated, much less elected to the presidency the following November.”

Lincoln the Orator, American Heritage

Lincoln was a uniquely gifted orator, and a self-educated lawyer. I wouldn’t have expected anything less than his greatness in oratory.

5. Winston Churchill

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Churchill was a British Politician, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He led the UK into victory, delivering some of history’s greatest speeches. 
Churchill instilled hope and belief into all of the UK during those turbulent times with his well-crafted and delivered words. 

“He had long understood the power of words, writing at the age of 22: ‘Of all the talents bestowed upon men, none is so precious as the gift of oratory. He who enjoys it wields a power more durable than that of a great king”

– Did Winston’s Word Win the War?, BBC iWonder

6. Adolf Hitler

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Hitler is a good reminder that a gift as precious as the gift of oratory could be used for evil purposes. I think, I am an admirer of Hitler’s oratorical talent. And I must immediately note that I am a great despiser of how he decided to use his talent.

Adolf Hitler was a charismatic dictator who initiated the Second World War in a bid to enhance the Nazi Party’s influence all over the world. And of course, he wanted to maintain his status as the head of the Nazi Party while this purported influence spread. 
He was a propagandist, master of dark art in oratory. One who propelled himself into absolute power by capitalizing on economic woes, popular discontentment and the existence of a political infighting.

As a politician, he and his Nazi Party were never popular among the Germans. Evidenced by the fact that Nazis never attained more than 37% of votes at their peak. But as an orator, he was great, energetic and filled with passion (or rather hate, so to say).

7. John F. Kennedy

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John F. Kennedy rose to height of greatness when he defeated Nixon with the slightest of margin (49.7% to 49.5%) in 1960. Before his short-lived Presidency he was a fine orator. With an experience in the military and in journalism, I would say he had enough real-life opportunities to develop fast as an orator. 
As President of the United States, he was young, vibrant, and full of hope. He employed all this attributes into his speech: vibrancy, audaciousness and hope. 
His words are powerful, having the force to change the course of history and it did change the course of history.

8. Martin Luther King Jnr.

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Forever, King will be remembered for his ‘I have a dream speech’. King was the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize Winner for combating racial inequality through non-violence and civil disobedience.

“Martin Luther King Jnr. … became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement from 1954 until his assassination in 1968”

Martin Luther King Jnr., Wikipedia.com

Kings name is a frequently featured name in any well researched list of top orators of all time. His oratorical skills, I believe, was rooted in the fact that he was a trained preacher. Normally preachers at that time were trained to be highly skilled orators (persuasive speakers). King, son of preacher, who grew up to become a preacher, what else should one expect? 

9. Nelson Mandela

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Mandela is not just a great orator, he is one of the most thoughtful orators of all time. He emerged South Africans first black president in her first fully representative democratic elections. A revolutionist, an equality advocate and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. 
He is an oratorical master storyteller, and most of his speeches are a perfect examples of the power of storytelling in oratory. 
In my opinion, his 27 years in prison helped form and shaped him. The prison time paved way for the highly thoughtful, humble and exceptional orator in Mandela. After getting out of prison Mandela was levels high above ordinary in his speeches.

Also Read6 Successful Entrepreneurs that are Excellent Public Speakers

10. Barack Obama

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Obama so far is the 21st Century Finest and Greatest Orator. He served as the 44th President of the United States and the first black American President of the US.

His political rise to presidency, was carried on the wings of sound oratory. With the theme of his speeches usually revolving around “national unity” and “positive change”. Obama is a gifted orator. Who has the notable ability to connect with his audience by finding common ground.

“My personal favourite of Obama speeches, was the speech forbes.com claimed made Obama president. The 2004 National Convention Speech: The Audacity of Hope”

Henry Goodluck, Co-Founder Oratorshub.com

Also Read: How to Prepare for an Outstanding Speech


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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