Information for Contestants – Rules


Information for Contestants in the 2010 Ingersoll Oratory Contest

To be held at high Noon on Sunday, October 24, 2010, in Dupont Circle, Washington, DC

The contest will be limited to 15 contestants.

You must register no later than October  17, 2010 by sending an e-mail to  , or calling 202-657-6346, or sending  a letter  to:  Ingersoll Contest, c/o WASH, PO Box 15319, Washington, D.C.20003 with the following information:

  1. Name:
  2. Address:
  3. Phone:
  4. e-mail:
  5. How you will pay the $20 registration fee ( by check or “click & pledge” at the WASH web site)


Registration fee:  $20. 

Contestants who attend the event and arrive on time will be eligible to receive a refund of $10.  Those who withdraw with at least seven days’ notice will be entitled to a full refund.  Confirmed contestants who withdraw less than seven days before the event, those who fail to attend, or who arrive later than 11:45 am will not be entitled to any refund. 

Applicants who are waitlisted and not subsequently moved to confirmed status will be eligible for a full refund.  A waitlisted applicant offered a spot as a confirmed contestant may opt to decline and receive a full refund, or to accept the position and be subject to the rules for confirmed contestants. 

Payment by check may be sent to: 

Ingersoll Contest

c/o Washington Area Secular Humanists

P. O. Box 15319

Washington, D.C. 20003

To pay online with a credit card, visit  and purchase the item: Contestant Registration fee for the Ingersoll Oratory Contest 2010 for $20.00.

Applicants are given priority based on the date their application is received so long as payment of the registration fee is received within seven days.  Otherwise, applications will be treated as received on the date payment is received. 

Instructions to the contestants: 

Please select a passage from the works of Robert G. Ingersoll that has relevance to topics current today. Bring the text and read or recite it.  You should choose a passage that will take at least three minutes and no longer than six minutes to read.  We’re looking for excellent oratory primarily.  Imaginative presentation, such as costume or props will be rewarded in so far as they enhance your oratory.

To summarize:

  • Select a topical passage
  • Bring a text and read or recite it
  • At least three and not more than six minutes long
  • Move the audience with your voice.


Official Rules:

  1. 1.       Eligibility:  Individuals who are registered.  The following are not eligible:  the First Place winner from the prior year’s contest;*  members of the contest organizing committee, the judges, or any members of their immediate families.  

* Each year, the First Place winner will be invited to be a judge for the next year’s contest and will not compete.  He/she will also be invited to deliver, if they wish, a non-competing Ingersoll excerpt per the contest rules.

2. Format: Each contestant will prepare and deliver a three to six  minute excerpt from one or more of Robert G. Ingersoll’s  speeches *.  Timing to begin when the reading starts.

3. Subject/ content:  Contestants are free to select one or more excerpts from any of Ingersoll’s speeches, but they must state the source i.e. speech title, of their chosen excerpt on the sign-in sheet before the contest and announce the source or speech title(s) for their selection (s)to the audience,  i.e. from which speech or speeches is it taken.   Contestants may briefly (in a few sentences) say why they chose it before they begin the excerpt.  Note: This will not be counted in the three to six minute time limit.   

4. Delivery:  Contestants may choose to use or not to use a microphone( which will be provided).  Speakers are encouraged but not required to deliver their excerpt from memory (as did Ingersoll). 

5.  Evaluation: Judges will evaluate each contestant’s presentation on the following criteria and point system:

Points are awarded on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) for each listed criterion, for a maximum total of 35 possible points per judge per contestant.  One point will be deducted if a presentation exceeds the six- minute limit or is shorter than the three-minute minimum. 

Category Criterion
Selection Salience, relevance to current events. 
Audibility.  Can s/he be heard easily?  Does the contestant rely on volume to be heard, or is s/he able to project her/his voice without just shouting.  
Passion Or engagement with the topic.  Is the speaker’s delivery appropriate to the content?  Does it indicate the speaker knows what s/he is saying?  Does the speaker convey that meaning to the audience? 
Pacing and intonation.  Is the overall speed of delivery appropriate?  Are pauses used to effect?  Is volume varied to add emphasis? 
Clarity/enunciation/ pronunciation  Can the speaker be easily understood?  Are words pronounced clearly and correctly? 
Crowd Engagement Is the speaker engaged with the audience?  Do spectators respond to her/his delivery? 
Creativity and Authenticity Additional elements that enhance the presentation, e.g. costume, props, memorizing.


6. Awards: Each winner will receive a prize as follows:

  • First Place –            $150
  • Second Place – $100
  • Third Place –           $ 75
  • Fourth Place – $ 50

in addition to cash, other items may also be awarded. All contestants will receive a certificate

 7. Standby list and sign in: if you register after the first 15 contestants, you will be added on to a standby list.  You will be informed by e-mail of your registration status and position on the list.  

Contestants must sign in at the Judges Table before the contest.  You must arrive by 11:45 a.m.   After 11:45 you will forfeit the right to claim the $10 refundable portion of the registration fee and may lose your place to someone on the standby list.  Contestants arriving after noon will not be permitted to compete.  Only registered contestants will be allowed to compete for prizes. 

8. Video recording of this event is anticipated.  This is a public event.  Contestants will be asked to sign a “release” form allowing their image to be used by the contest sponsors.  If a contestant declines to sign this, their image will not be used or shared.

The winners and prizes will be announced and presented at the end of the contest.  Checks for the cash portion of each prize will be mailed by Nov. 1, 2010 to the address you provided at registration.

You may call 202-657-6346 or e-mail Steven LOWE at  with questions or to register.

Visit for more information and updates.

9. In case of rain or inclement weather, the contest will be held  at the James Hoban’s Irish Restaurant & Bar, , one block away at One Dupont Circle, NW.  (202-223-8440).

*Ingersoll’s speeches may be found (among other places) :


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