Extemporaneous Source Memorization

When something is optional should you make use of it or forgo its help and look more professional by working unaided?  This is a query every Extemporaneous speaker must pose to themselves.  The event of Extemporaneous Speaking allows for the use of a note card during the speech.  The note card is intended for notes, mainly to be used to remember sources.  The question becomes should you take advantage of this helpful piece of paper? 

  • Use it?  If you are new to the Extemporaneous Speaking world, or have a poor memory, it could be in your benefit to write your sources down.  Having to research, "write"/outline a speech, and then improvise your Extemp is stressful.  Fun, but stressful.  Why place added pressure upon yourself by trying to remember your sources?  Relief of unnecessary stress will help boost your confidence and thus lead to a better delivered speech.
  • Ditch it?  Those who aspire to Nationals, or dominating their circuit, need to be professional.  That usually includes not using a note card.  In some areas of competition it even is expected to not use a card if you even want to consider breaking.  There is just something smooth and fully engaging about an Extemporaneous speaker who can deliver a speech without glancing down at notes.  It gives the subliminal impression of total control and knowledge, and audiences love a confident speaker.

Decided to lose the card?  These tips will help you with memorization:

  1. Just jump in and force yourself to not use cards.  It will be hard when you first begin, but practice makes perfect.
  2. Create a mental image of the source logo/date to go with each point.
  3. Make up a pattern or quirky way to remember a date and source name.  It's amazing, but a silly jingle or rhyme helps with retention.  Actually, anything you create for memorization increases the chances of you remembering because you spent time thinking of the topic.
  4. Repetition.  Many people memorize through speaking or writing (or both) something over and over and over and over again. 

Whichever you choose to do, always remember that using or not using a note card will not deter you from receiving a good rank if your Extemporaneous speech is excellent.  Extemp is about your analysis, not whether or not you can memorize the date of a particular CNN article.  However, if you do freeze or mess-up never show it and continue forward as if that was meant to happen.  The best part of an event where you improvise a speech is that there are no lines to remember; you can pick-up from any spot and speak yourself back to the point.