Are you on the fence about jumping on the IO/Expos bandwagon? Now is the time to check out what others have to say (including Nate Thompson) about this fabulous event! TONIGHT, Lasting Impact! will have a team of experienced speakers and constructors of “the speech event that uses boards and easel for visual aides”. IO/Expos is so much more than that! But don’t just take my word – come TONIGHT (sign up now). And don’t forget to read the article below…
An (Illustrated) Orator’s/ Expository Manifesto
Warning: herein lie the ramblings of a Definitely-Qualified-DudeTM
The content of an IO/Expos is the same as literally any other platform speech, with one caveat. Don’t make a speech an IO/Expos just because you kind of feel liking doing an IO/Expos at some point. Make a speech an IO/Expos because you need visuals to convey your ideas, or your ideas would be greatly enhanced by visuals. If I could close my eyes during a speech, and not feel like I was missing a part of it, either your speech shouldn’t be an IO/Expos, or you have failed your job at incorporating boards and props.
Intricate boards are far from being important to an IO/Expos. While they can be a nice addition, most judges don’t really care about the nitty-gritty details. IO/Expos with over-the-top board will do well in competition, but they don’t win on a national level, what wins is the best speech. Boards are supposed to fulfil the role of enhancing the speech, not making it. Don’t let your boards become nothing other than a neat gimmick.
Also, just because all of your boards look absolutely stunning, and each one of them could be framed in an art gallery, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best that your boards can be. I’ve seen IO/Expos’ that each and every board was meticulously made, and looked amazing, but the overall effect was rather monotonous. It comes down to the law of diminishing returns: at some point, putting more effort into making your boards look nicer has a negligible effect on tournament outcomes.
There are some things you can do to make your boards better while not making them more intricate, per se. Make them interactive. IO/Expos boards are often as boring as all get out. It’s all the same: the speaker moves to a board, sticks a piece of cardstock with a magnet glued to the back on, moves to a new board and sticks cardstock on, moves to a new board and (to spice things up) this time there’s a flap instead. Judges see the same thing every round, so to stand out, do something different. You don’t have to do anything ground-breaking or so original nobody has ever seen before, but make sure you are switching some things up. For example, you could have a little platform that comes down from one of the easels that you do something on, or you could have a board that covered in white board material so you can write directly on it with a dry erase marker, or something that hasn’t been done (to my knowledge) you could have a massive drawing pad, and just have the entire speech be a Bob-Ross-style art lesson with an impact at the end. There are so many things you could do, and many haven’t been tried.
My favorite category, and the most criminally underutilised aspect of IO/Expos, is props. Most people outright dismiss props by saying they are nice, but aren’t important in any way since you don’t need them to win, though you may as well chuck one or two into your speech just for kicks and giggles. One person even went so far as to say that they can detract from the speech if you focus on them too much.
While I agree with those points on a technical level–it is true that you don’t need a proper utilization of props to win, and focusing on them too much can harm the overall speech–the same thing is true of the boards. What makes props so much more important than boards is twofold:
1) They are so much more versatile than boards. What you can do with boards is relatively limited, but you can do pretty much anything with a prop, so long as it fits in the box behind your easel. Again, make these props interactive, not just something you show to the judge, but something you do something with. In my IO, I had a portable smoke machine, I had a full deck of cards I did magic with, a Rubik’s cube that I solved, a coin I bit a chunk out of, among other things. Stuff, it can go without saying, boards definitely cannot do.
2) It makes you stand out. Since they often go unused, when someone does come through and takes advantage of the fact they can use props, judges notice.
Before you start constructing your boards it can feel intimidating, but once you start you will realise just how much you underestimated how labor-intensive the process could be. There are so many things involved with building a single board, so many materials to deal with, things to cut, glue, velcro, and so on. It’s a hassle. And this is coming from someone who put minimal effort into his boards.
Here are a few things I learned from working on my IO, and helping a few others out with theirs in subsequent years:
- Give yourself plenty of uninterrupted time to work on each board
- Sketch out an idea for what you want each board to look like/do before buying materials
- Be prepared to spend money for materials
- Enlist help of others to do grunt work like cutting
- Don’t try to do all your boards in one day
- Expect the boards to look different in real life than in your head
- Expect to add, delete, or change boards between tournaments
- Practicing with Board and Props
You have a good speech and unique boards. Is that enough? It’s a good start, and it could be enough. But although IO is listed as a platform speech, it also needs some choreography to make it fluid. Choreography means practice with the boards and moving pieces, not just memorizing the speech.
Practice, practice, practice. You don’t want to stand on the same side of the board the entire time, and you need your props accessible, so you need to know ahead of time where you will be standing during each part of your speech. You should never put your head behind your boards to find a prop, which means you need to know exactly where your props are. Some competitors Velcro props to the legs of the easel in the order they will need them. Others arrange their boxes so they can grab them without looking. It takes practice to make your movements natural.
There are so many separate things to be judged in an IO/Expos. Some judges focus on the content and writing of the speech, some on the impact, some on the creativity of the boards, some on the integration of props and presentation skills. Overall, the IO/Expos that wins rooms will be the one who accomplishes most of these the best. Your goal is to do your best at everything without completely neglecting anything.
TONIGHT we will be completely exploring this category with Nate, along with other National Champions and Finalists, as well as the parents, who helped construct the boards. You will learn tips and tricks, as well as view all the amazing boards used in past competitions. This is definitely the workshop, you don’t want to miss!
Nate Thompson was the 2016 NCFCA Illustrated Oratory Champion. Since then, he hung up his boards but loves to help others create speeches (and visual aides) with impact!