Judging Criteria

Guidelines for your speech

To the judges, delivery counts as much as content. The lists below are not rules, but they provide an idea of what speech characteristics will increase your chances of selection.


  • Face the camera and maintain eye contact. If your speech was recorded in class from the side for space reasons, then redo the recording from the front at home, if possible.
  • Engage your viewer. This may be more difficult with only a camera than it is when you speak to a live audience with whom it is easy to gauge rapport.
  • Speak clearly and with some variation of tone.
  • Speak at a moderate speed that is easy for your audience to follow.
  • Speak with controlled conviction. It is important to strike a balance between showing a real passion for an emotive subject, and restraint that indicates maturity and thoughtfulness.
  • Use some facial expression to reflect your message.
  • Use occasional, moderate, and non-distracting hand gestures to reflect your message.
  • You are welcome to use cue cards or other notes, but be sure to look at the camera much more than you look down at your notes.
  • You are welcome to use a few, simple visual aids, but if you do so, you still should be in the camera’s focus, in other words, do not disappear from the shot and be a voice-over. What you say and how you say it matters most to the judges. Your person is the primary vehicle for your message.
  • Do not go over the time limit. Although you officially have between 3.00 and 7.00 minutes, the best length is most likely to be around 4.00 minutes.



  • Open with a few sentences that will seize viewer attention and expose the beating heart of your topic
  • Very briefly give your name and say what your speech title is. (Your topic is broad and is not identical to your speech title, which is specific. E.g., if your broad topic is “Mental illness” your specific title might be “Combatting prejudice against self-harmers”, or “The need for the NZ government to allocate more funds to mental health services”.
  • Develop your argument carefully, supporting the major claims you make with facts and figures from reliable sources (e.g., Statistics New Zealand; World Health Organization; Greenpeace; Doctors Without Borders)
  • Make use of persuasive language through the use of imperatives, rhetorical questions, analogies, etc. and figurative language such as metaphors.
  • Keep your message straight and simple.
  • Be specific where appropriate. Statements starting with the claim “Someone once said…” or “Everybody knows that…” do not prove you have carefully researched your topic.
  • Stay on your topic. It is fine to have a few different threads on the whole, so long as you draw these together in your conclusion.
  • Provide a clear and memorable conclusion. If you can suggest a sensible solution to the central problem you have outlined, that will strengthen your submission. It can be helpful to include a “Call to Action”.