Mastering the Art of Oration: What We Can Learn From Cicero

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“In an orator, the acuteness of the logicians, the wisdom of the philosophers, the language almost of poetry, the memory of lawyers, the voice of tragedians, the gesture almost of the best actors, is required. Nothing therefore is more rarely found among mankind than a consummate orator.
~ Cicero

Cicero

Marcus Tullius Cicero is widely regarded as one of the greatest orators of all time, and when it comes to the power of oration, he is mentioned in the same breath as Demosthenes. A Roman statesman and man of letters, Cicero became a powerful figure in Greece solely on the basis of his power of prowess at public speaking and his ability to deliver a stirring public speech that could inspire and motivate the audience.

His career has been marked by many highlights, with the orations against the Roman senator Catiline being the most seminal ones.

Cicero’s Strategy To Create an Impactful Speech

According to Cicero, there were five main elements that speakers should work around to deliver a persuasive speech. These elements are:

  1. Invention
  2. Arrangement
  3. Style
  4. Memory
  5. Delivery

Invention

First of all, you need to ask yourselves what is the goal of your speech. Once you have narrowed down on the key message, you can generate different ideas and points to construct the edifice of your message. The evidentiary proof and reference points can eventually be added around your main points.

Arrangement

This revolves around how well you structure your speech around the main components – Introduction, Body, and Conclusion. Your points should be arranged in the most impactful manner with the appropriate amount of signposting so that it is clear, well-structured, and creates an immediate and lasting impact on the audience.

Style

This pertain to the style you adopt for your language. The words you use should be clear, vivid, and create a strong, positive impact on the audience. You need to rehearse well and read it out loud so that the speech seems pleasing to you. You also need to be clear on the rhetorical devices you use – statistics, storytelling, quotes, visual-aids etc. Structure them all together so that they are interwoven into a cogent and coherent text.

Memory

Create mind maps so that you can easily connect every aspect of your speech. Your research should be thorough and all quotes, facts, and statistics should be memorized by heart so that you don’t cut a sorry figure during the Q&A.

Delivery

This is the actual part of delivering a speech. This encompasses everything – your body language, facial expressions, your voice modulation, intonation et al. Pace your speech properly. Maintain eye contact. Make sure your pronunciation is correct.

Structure The 5 Elements Around This 2000-Year Old Technique By Cicero

This six-part technique by Cicero in the dialogue “De Oratore” (“On the Orator”) written in 55 BCE, outlines how speakers can master the art of powerful of persuasion, and also provides an effective framework for debates and arguments.

Cicero Art of Public Speaking

  1. IntroductionEstablishing credibility with the audience.
  2. NarrationState your points in a clear and concise manner.
  3. DivisionExplain the other side of the argument.
  4. ProofState your evidence, point by point.
  5. RefutationAddress the arguments of your opponent.
  6. ConclusionReserve your strongest points or recap the most potent arguments from your content to inspire the audience.

Writing, Oratory, and Legacy

Cicero was trained in three Greek philosophical schools: the Stoicism of Lucius Aelius Stilo and Didotus, the Epicureanism of Phaedrus and the skeptical approach of Philo of Larissa, head of the New Academy. This had a significant impact on his philosophical understanding, which he considered to be of paramount importance for mastering oratory. His writings, which mainly constitute speeches, letters and treatises, have been analyzed and admired by several generations. This is a testament of his lasting legacy. His ideas, thoughts, and turn of phrases were borrowed by later Enlightenment thinkers like John Locke, David Hume, Montesquieu and Thomas Jefferson. In fact, the famous first century Roman critic Marcus Fabius Quintilianus said that Cicero was “the name, not of a man, but of eloquence itself.”

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