Extemporaneous Organization

Putting together a good Extemporaneous speech full of relevant, quality sources is only possible if a speaker maintains a well organized tub.  That black box is every Extemper's life source really.  If you are sketchy on a subject that tub could hold an article of enlightenment.  If you have a fantastic argument the box should hold exquisite evidence to support your claim.  But what good is that if you cannot find it!?  Ultimately, what effort you put into organization is what you will get out of it.  Tricks for organization used by Extemporaneous speakers include:

  • Alphabetically by topic. Arranging article topics alphabetically works if you have an alphabetical mind and do not mind Iran being by Healthcare.  If you like everything laid out before you this could be your method. 
  • Rows/sections with sub-folders. Another method of Extemporaneous organization is to separate topics into corresponding rows or sections.  For example, one row/section can be on Foreign Affairs/Countries, another row about National News, yet another on Economics and so on and so forth.  Whatever seems to be a rather large category that can be divided into sub-categories qualifies.  The idea is to go from a main topic into its branches (sort of like a word web/cluster graphic organizer; the bubble with branches expanding out).  For instance, row/section Foreign Affairs could have Iraq, England, Afghanistan, etc. sub-folders.  To create rows/sections, either color coordinate rows/sections (like all Economic folders be green) or place one row/section indicator folder at the start (use manila to distinguish from the colored sub-folders you have for example).  Do not go overboard with too many rows/sections though as this can become too tedious.   
  • Electronically. The new trend is to copy/paste articles into word documents, organize articles into sub-folders, and sub-folders into a master folder (such as Foreign Affairs-->Afghanistan-->War).  This is basically the rows/sections with sub-folders concept but electronic.  Electronic Extemporaneous organization is wonderful in that files can be shared easily with all teammates through use of a flash drive.  Electronic filing also saves the lives of trees.  The only issues are if a laptop/flash drive fails--which can be fixed with computer sharing--or if team members cannot afford or have the technology. 
  • Be on the same page. If you are the only Extemper on a team then devising a system is truly entirely your plan.  However, most people belong to a team with a few Extemporaneous speakers and sharing tubs is essential.  Divide research and organization labor between the Extempers to save yourself time AND pull more information!  Though, with sharing tubs comes the problem of sharing the same filing system.  Before you even begin to build a tub, sit down with your teammates and work out a system you all love and can easily use.  Fail to do this and sharing tubs, or working together, will become a nightmare.
  • Don't organize by source. This is just impractical.  How many different topics can one source have?  Endless, that's how many.  You will never find anything.
  • Be specific and save. Although you might be tempted to cut and file every article in a magazine, do not.  Keep what is most likely to be an Extemp topic; that means major issues and news events.  Too much useless paper slows down your research and takes up space.  You DO want to keep folders on oddball things like celebrities and major sporting events.  But do try to not file information that is so mundane it will never be used.  Use discretion; be a pack rat with limits.  Further, save all your articles during the season because you never know when you might need something you filed weeks ago.       

The key to any Extemporaneous speaker's success is in their tub.  Organize it.  Take care of it, and your research will take care of you.  Obviously every Extemper has their own system for filing--these are only a few techniques and words of advice.  Have anything to add?  Please share your wisdom with comments below, for what works for one might not work for another. 

Find your niche of organization and go forth with confidence.