An Extemporaneous Interview

One Speech event that has always captured my intrigue is Extemporaneous Speaking.  The whole event boggles me.  I can research and write well.  I can form solid arguments, and my analytical skills earned me A's in even the more challenging college courses.  Yet, having to do all of that in the amount of prep time allotted to Extempers terrifies me.  Working under pressure is usually when I produce my best work, but Extemporaneous Speaking is insanity; only Superheros of intellect need apply!  Extemporaneous speakers always seemed like human encyclopedias--knowledge filled beings that knew more about international and national news than most adults. 

I may be intrigued by Extemporaneous Speaking, but I have never considered doing the event.  The box alone intimidates me with the promise of hours of weekly research for the thirty-some minutes a week it would be opened and in use.  I suppose an Extemper would look at Prose, my event of choice, and see the hours of devotion to the binder as a lame payoff as well.  Everyone has a preference.  And though mine always sided with the acting events, my researcher, nerdy side appreciates and loves the effort Extempers exude.  

Anyway, in an attempt to better understand the average Extemper, I asked my friend Denis Dupee some questions about Extemporaneous Speaking and what he learned while competing in the event in our high school days.  There is some good advice in here, so enjoy!

  1. What is your experience with Extemporaneous Speaking (years competing, major awards, etc.)?  I competed in Extemp for 4 years with my high school speech team. Although I occasionally tried other events, it was by far the best fit for me and the most rewarding. Apart from learning a lot, I met a lot of interesting people as well and the skills I learned in Extemp translated well to high school debate. I was only an average Extemper however, no state metals etc.
  2. How do you prepare and practice for Extemp. competition?  Primary preparation is staying current on news, both international and national. I read the major papers and the Economist. Another way to prepare is by going through a list of potential topics and making sure you have a good understanding of them before an event. A lot of people categorize their news sources by topic for easy quoting.
  3. What are some organizational systems you have used for your box and why did they work (or not work)?  My box was not as organized as it could have been, but essentially you think of possible categories and sort articles accordingly. The challenge is that there are always new topics in the news, so you have to keep current with the clippings. Quoting a 6 month old article is really not appropriate.
  4. What type of materials should every Extemper have in their black box arsenal? Any resources you always found reliable for good material to cite?  You should always have a copy of the most current Economist, New York Times and one other publication so that you can add at least one up to date reference to your speech.
  5.  What advice can you give for utilizing prep time efficiently?  Advice for prep time is to pick your three key points right away then use your time to add in detail. If you spend 15 minutes deciding what to say (what your main ideas are), you are in trouble.
  6. When outlining/drafting the speech, what are some tips you have?  When outlining and drafting the speech, you should not really go into detail, just bullets, but make sure it is like a good essay, points with sub-points and supporting examples or sources. The intro and conclusion should relate to each other, but again, don't spend half of your time thinking of a clever intro.
  7. What tools should every Extemper bring to a tournament?  Your box, several pens, a few index cards to practice, a notebook, current news editions, a smile.
  8. What do you do when you know nothing about your topic?  Okay, when you know nothing about your topic, at all, it means it really is an obscure topic or you are unprepared. Go through the current Economist, New York Times etc. and see if there is anything on it there, if not, sorry, all you can do is your best.
  9. Any tricks for delivering your speech?  Tricks for the speech: I think what really works well is a clever intro reiterated in the conclusion. This takes practice though. Watch a few good Extempers and they will have mastered the intro/conclusion tie in.
  10. Anything else to add?  You don't have to be "smart" to do Extemp; you have to be knowledgeable about the world and current events. Don't let the boxes intimidate you!!!     

There you are.  Some good, strong advice for the Novice or average Extemper.  I guess Extemporaneous Speaking is not as alarming as I once thought.  All the same, I look towards Exetempers in awe and will leave those boxes to the Superheroes of Speech. 


If anyone has any questions for Denis please leave a comment, write a note on my ForCom profile, or send me a message to deliver.