Extemporaneous Speaking and Staying Informed

Behind any competitor's success is a regiment of training, hard work, and dedication.  Every competitor has their secrets for achievement.  Forensics is no different.  If you were to ask any Extemporaneous speaker what was the one thing they could recommend to do well in competition, a majority would say to stay informed.  An Extemporaneous speaker's main task, one of them anyway, is to keep current with World and National news.  Two main principles for keeping current are:  

  • Being prepared --> saving time. Extemporaneous Speaking's topics are chosen from current news ranging from the serious (Economic issues) to the ridiculous (celebrity gossip).  The more you know of current affairs walking into a round the more likely you will be given a topic of some familiarity.  As most Extempers file new reports into their tubs on a regular basis, if you know of an event chances are that you have some articles located within your box, ready to be cited.  This level of preparedness will save you time pulling articles to quote, formulating an outline, and with the general organization of your thoughts.  The more time you save on putting together a speech, the more time you can spend on polishing your work.
  • Being prepared --> increased confidence. A direct effect of the above time saving can lead directly to increased levels of confidence in your round.  People who feel confident and relaxed about a project tend to reflect that in their presentation.  They know their speech, know their topic, and know they were able to put together the best Extemporaneous piece possible.  And confidence is a main ingredient to a good presentation, and therefore, potential for a good rank.
  • Where to look? On your quest for Extemporaneous knowledge there are an infinite number of sources for you to pull from.  Below are listed some:
  1. Newspapers, magazines, and on-line. Read the daily newspaper (preferably from a credible source, such as the Tribune).  Get a magazine subscription.  Cutting out and cataloging articles from major, reliable sources is a good way to build up your Extemp box.  Also, go on-line and checkout news websites.  The Internet opens up a wealth of information newspapers and magazines might not offer.  Plus, printing is relatively cheap!  Some resources Extemporaneous speakers tend to choose include: Time, The Economist, US World and News Report, Newsweek, Tribune, Washington Post, CNN, BBC and BBC America, and Science News.  Some Extempers even pickup a celebrity tabloid prior to competition on the slight chance that the topic will be celebrity based.  
  2. Television. Though you should read your news (more information available AND you can print/clip articles for filing), if you watch your news to get an idea of what is happening you are still helping yourself.  Keep up with the evening local and world news on the major stations.  Explore CNN as well.  Also, the BBC delivers news for the entire globe and is well respected so tuning into BBC America, if available, is encouraged.  If you are not in the mood for serious news, due to all the knowledge you have been reading, watching comedy shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report is perfectly acceptable (hey, you will learn AND laugh so why not?).

Staying up to date with current affairs is crucial to Extemporaneous Speaking success.  Knowing what is happening will keep you prepared for most topics thrown your way, which will help increase your confidence, and lead to a better presentation.  Keeping current can also be an easy process if you know where to look.  Even if you do not have a massive team, and cannot divide the research labor, simply picking out a few resources to follow can turn a one-person Extemp team into a well researched machine.