George William Curtis Prize in Oratory

Term: Spring

Awarded annually to Columbia College students who demonstrate excellence in informative or persuasive speaking

The 2023 competition will take place on May 4, from 3pm-5pm, in the conference room in 202 Hamilton. Sign up to participate here!

The George William Curtis Prize provides an annual cash prize to Columbia College students who demonstrate excellence in public speaking. The prize was established by Samuel Putnam Avery, class of 1896, an associate of George William Curtis in the work of civil service reform.

Participants may sign up to make either an informative speech or a persuasive speech. One prize is awarded in the informative speaking category, and one prize is awarded in the persuasive speaking category. Speeches are made without the use of devices, tools, materials, or notecards.

An informative speech should last 4-6 minutes in length; it should educate the audience about a particular subject. The topic is up to the participant and can center on talking about a person, event, process, place, or thing. Informing an audience about the chosen topic is the goal of this speech.

A persuasive speech should last 5-7 minutes in length; it should influence the audience with regard to a particular position, topic, situation, etc.


Participants in the competition are evaluated on how effectively they achieve the following in the shaping, delivery, and overall presentation of their speech:

1. Shape and organization of the speech


  • gain interest and attention
  • introduce topic and preview body of the speech
  • relate to the audience
  • establish credibility


  • make points clearly
  • support points fully
  • organize content effectively
  • use accurate, clear, and appropriate language
  • use effective connectives and transitions


  • prepare audience for conclusion
  • reinforce central idea
  • provide vivid ending

2. Delivery

  • begin and end without rushing
  • maintain appropriate pace throughout
  • maintain eye contact
  • avoid distracting mannerisms
  • articulate clearly
  • pause effectively
  • use vocal variety for impact
  • present visual aids effectively
  • communicate enthusiasm for the topic

3. Overall

  • deliver what is promised
  • address a challenging topic
  • keep the speech within the time limit
  • engage the audience
  • maintain poise and focus

Fact Sheet

Arts and Architecture, Humanities, Social Sciences, STEM
CC students only
Fellowship Type:

Dates & Deadlines

Application Deadline: 
Friday, March 24, 2023
Admissions Decision Date: 
Friday, March 3, 2023