Original Oratory Curriculum

Oratory @ InterProd

We take special pride in the dozens of students, of all levels of experience, who come to us each summer and/or work with us online—then go on to reach elimination rounds at these national tournaments.

Mastering speaking, writing, and competing is essential to an educational and fulfilling career in the activity. It is an investment that will serve the students far beyond their high school years. What’s more, the curriculum is designed to teach us how we and the students can collaborate to take Original Oratory in new directions—rather than merely following others’ trends. But at the end of the camp, the student will return with a speech from which any audience will benefit—and a speech, true to the student’s voice, that will instill confidence, clarity of expression, and the passion to change how others think and act.

Over the past three years alone, the curriculum have sent more than 30 students to the NSDA National Tournament, a third of them sophomores who had never tried the event before the school year. The students embrace the InterProd process of learning, creating, embracing, practicing, improving, and then sharing their skills with their teammates.


Bob Ickes

Oratory Director

Bob Ickes, a national finalist himself in 1981, Bob Ickes has been coaching original oratory for 30 years and has directed the oratory program at InterProd since 2011. Since that time, the curriculums for InterProd Oratory/Informative Speaking and its Summit Debate Original Events Online extension have produced original oratory and informative/expository champions at Yale (twice consecutively); The Glenbrooks (twice  consecutively); Emory University’s Barkley Forum; The Bronx High School of Science’s New York City Invitational; Villiger at St. Joseph’s University, The University of Florida’s Blue Key Tournament (twice consecutively), Sunvitational (three champions, including a double champion in OO and Informative in 2016); The University of Kentucky Tournament of Champions (twice in three years); The Berkeley Invitational; and the state championships of Iowa, California, Florida (three years consecutively, as well as a novice state champion), and Arizona. At Harvard, the curriculums have produced champions and finalists in three of the past four years; as well as an NCFL champion and multiple finalists, and 16 finalists and semifinalists at the NSDA nationals, including, this past year, two students who reached the championship round of original oration at the NSDA nationals in Salt Lake City—one of whom was awarded the President’s Bowl for having won the final round.

Bob has parlayed the writing, speaking, and deadline skills he learned in high school speech and debate into a three-decade career in newspaper, magazine, book, and online journalism. He has edited and/or written for The New York Times, Newsweek, Details, New York Magazine, and Vogue, among other publications. Over the course of that time, he has written and edited profiles of Tom Stoppard, Robin Williams, Tony Kushner, Edward Albee, Paul Simon, Nobel laureate Derek Walcott, Sigourney Weaver, Stockard Channing, Samuel L. Jackson, Glenn Close, Renée Zellweger, Audra McDonald, Christopher Durang, Christine Baranski, and Julie Kavner. He has also edited 23 books, including, most recently, for William Morrow, “The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan,” by Laurence Leamer, the exclusive account of the last reported lynching in America—which occurred as recently as 1981.


Amy Sukserm

Oratory Staff

Amy Sukserm is a fresh graduate from Trinity Prep where she served as the team’s Oratory and Interp Captain. During her four years on the circuit, she has competed in Oratory, OI, POI, and Duo. She has reached elimination rounds at Harvard, Yale, GMU, Berkeley, Sunvite, Emory, the Tournament of Champions, NCFL Nationals, and the NSDA National Tournament. She has also reached final rounds at Blue Key, Bronx, and the FFL Varsity State Tournament, and is a three-time NSDA qualifier. Speech has given her the opportunity to find her voice, a platform to share ideas with an open-minded community, and a chance to passionately advocate for what she believes in. She emphasizes the importance of speakers carrying themselves with grace, humility, and sincerity. Her ultimate goal is to help others discover their voices and passions while truly enjoying what they do. She will be attending the University of Florida in the fall on the pre-med track and can’t wait to work with you all this summer!

The InterProd Oratory Difference:

Our curriculum offers a ground-breaking and results-proven alternative to traditional forensics instruction. Yes, we design our program to teach the development of a speech—but we are equally concerned with sharing a highly educational process that the students may take back to their coaches and teams. They will be able to rely on this process throughout the school year as they revise their speeches and come to understand how and where they can improve and thrive.

  • We begin to work with students before they even arrive at camp. All students are given at least one free individual pre-camp Skype session, from the comfort of their homes, to meet with our Original Oratory Director. In the session(s), the students discuss topic ideas, and we arrive at a topic and thesis before the official summer session even begins. We help the students choose topics organically, through fun dialogues about their lives and what matters most to them. Usually, it’s a topic that comes straight from their everyday experiences—yet one they had never even considered. We never choose topics from a list or ask the students the standard “What do you hate about the world?” question. It is here that we learn their goals, concerns, experience level, and any regional standards that govern their participation in the event.
  • The students arrive at camp with a topic already chosen (it can easily be changed on-site) and having already met the director. They arrive confident, excited, and are ready to hit the ground running.
  • We do not have “labs.” Every student meets and works with every other instructor. This permits the student to gain multiple insights from expert educators with varying perspectives and life experiences.
  • There is no divisive “top group,” although we ensure that lectures are appropriate to those who hear them—we wouldn’t, for instance, share our introductory thesis lecture with veteran competitors (unless they want to attend!). Nor would we require novices to attend our group seminar on advanced structures.
  • We begin extensive speaking exercises on Day One and continue them every day of the summer session.
  • We do not divide our curriculum into nine intensive days of write-write-write, then two days of memorization, leaving perhaps two days for mastering delivery. By selecting the students’ topics with them before they arrive, we are able to devote three hours every day at camp to fun, interactive speaking exercises and challenges.
  • The final delivery showcase is a true test of the speaker’s imagination—involving costuming, visual aids, and audience participation.

    InterProd Original Oratory emphasizes three distinct skill sets, each with its own provocative curriculum, throughout every single day of the camp:
1) Speaking. It is our hallmark belief that no camp can teach the transformational power of original oratory without relentless focus on speaking technique. Each morning session addresses a different aspect of presentation: gestures, eye contact, the mastery of the walk, the approach to the front of the room, vocal choices, posture, inflection, vocal reaction to one’s own words, and so forth. We also teach proven memorization methods and how and when to practice at home. We have found that sharing our own joy in these skills is highly contagious—and that we therefore motivate students to write the words that these techniques will help them express. This leads logically to our afternoon sessions ….
2) Writing. Having begun to appreciate the power of their own voice every morning, the students are even more motivated each afternoon to benefit from all that our revolutionary writing instruction has to offer. Lecture is limited to one hour. The rest of the afternoon involves private tutorials and small-group sessions. We discuss approaches to structure (an organic structure that develops naturally from the students’ topics and personalities, not one that is pasted onto them)—as well as humor, radically atypical approaches to research (not merely Googling but interviewing, mining classmates’ experiences, and other journalistic techniques that will set the students apart), finding the perfect example, transitions, revisions, the art of the introduction, and the forgotten power of the conclusion. We synthesize speaking and writing every evening in our third component …
3) Competing. Here we tie in what we have shared and learned from one another in the morning and afternoon—with a series of unusual exercises designed to replicate the tournament environment. We address judge interaction, etiquette, the art of being an audience member, ballot analysis (even when the ballot comes back blank!), reacting to stone-facing, composure when things go wrong, room-space adaptation, time signals and when/how to ask for them, adapting from preliminary to elimination rounds, and regional differences in approach and decorum.