Whaikōrero are formal speeches generally made by men during pōwhiri (formal welcome ceremonies) and in social gatherings. In some tribal areas women also whaikōrero.

The whaikōrero is an opportunity for the speaker to display his or her mastery with Māori language and a competent speaker is able to embellish their speech with imagery and metaphor.

The basic format for whaikōrero is:

  • Tauparapara (ritual chant): a prayer or chant suitable to the purpose of the meeting to invoke the gods’ protection and to honour the visitors.
  • Mihi ki te whare tupuna (acknowledgement of the ancestral house): pays tribute to the central ancestor and descendants through the generations until the present.
  • Mihi ki a Papatūānuku (acknowledgement of Mother Earth): giving thanks for Mother Earth and all living things.
  • Mihi ki te hunga mate (acknowledgement of the dead): paying tribute to the dead who live on in the spirit realm.
  • Mihi ki te hunga ora (acknowledgement of the living): giving thanks for our continued existence.
  • Te take o te hui (purpose of the meeting): the purpose for which the groups have gathered.
  • Waiata (song): an opportunity for the group to lend support to what has been said, usually appropriate for the occasion and relating to the purpose of the hui. The waiata also removes tapu (restrictions).

Protocols determining the order of speakers vary between iwi (tribe) and hapū (sub-tribe). There are two types of speaking order for the delivery of whaikōrero used by different tribes: tau-utuutu and pāeke.

Tau-utuutu is when the speaking order alternates. It begins with a local speaker, followed by a visiting speaker, another local speaker and so on. The last speaker is from the tangata whenua.

Pāeke, all but one of the host speakers speak first. Then the right of speech is handed to the visitors. A final speaker from the hosts completes the whaikōrero phase of the pōwhiri.