Introduced in 1983, the St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival provides Greek Orthodox teenagers the opportunity to write and talk about their faith. Over 200 parishes and 1,000 participants take part in the festival each year. As with any church program, our goal is to always increase participation and keep people interested in the event year after year. With that in mind, we wanted to provide you, the chairperson, a few tips you can utilize to market the Oratorical Festival in your parish.
- Collaborate with Sunday School teachers. Sunday School teachers work with the parish teenagers on a weekly basis. As a chairperson, your first stop to increase participation, after discussing with your parish priest, should be to the Sunday School teachers. Ask them to begin mentioning the Oratorical Festival to the students. Once they are aware, you can stop by each class for a brief introduction and share more information about the festival.
- Send emails to parish parents with information on the Oratorical Festival and tips on how to talk to their children about it. This step should be tied closely with the first one, as it would be helpful for the parents to be aware of the festival, so that they may continue discussing with their children. Teenagers have competing priorities between school work, sports, spending time with friends, and part-time jobs, parents need to know why the Oratorical Festival is beneficial to their children.
- Invite previous participants back to discuss how the Oratorical Festival impacted their lives. To get buy-in from teenagers, you might want to consider inviting previous participants/former students back to Sunday School to discuss how the Oratorical Festival impacted their lives. If this is your first year bringing the Oratorical Festival to your church, consider reaching out to other local parishes who have participated to see if they could come to talk to the students. Additionally, share the “Where Are They Now?” blogs with parents and students (these will begin posting next week, make sure you are following the Facebook and Instagram accounts to be the first to know). There are numerous stories of people who had participated and how it helped them get to where they are today.
- Host training sessions. You might have some students in your parish who would like to participate, but are a bit nervous and don’t know how to go about writing and presenting a speech. To help them, consider hosting one to three training sessions. You can have an afternoon session broken out into three segments: selecting a topic, writing a speech, and presenting in front of an audience. Or you could break out the sessions into three different days. Be sure to utilize the participant packet to help guide your training sessions.
- Book some time in the church a few days before to help students get comfortable in front of a microphone. Many students have never stood up in front of a microphone before and might feel a little hesitant doing so. Booking some time in the church a few days before the festival will help students get comfortable in front of the microphone. Perhaps, you do a dry run of the festival where you will have the students pick numbers to determine the order in which they will practice at the microphone. Instruct students to run through the greeting and introduction paragraph only, and show them what the time cards will look like when they are speaking. This will help assuage some nerves and make the students feel more comfortable during the festival.
We wish you the best of luck this season and thank you for your dedication to the Oratorical Festival!
Stay in touch with the Oratorical Festival by liking our Facebook page and following the oratorical_festival account on Instagram. If you are a previous participant and would like to share your story, or you are a passionate advocate for the program and would like to write a blog with advice for students, parents or chairpersons, please contact Stephanie Orfanakos.