Extemporaneous Speaking: Things to Know

Extempers are some of the most diligent people in Forensics. Not only are they competing in an event most speechies know little about, Extempers need to be masters of organization, research, improvised speech delivery, public speaking, and current events in politics/history. They basically have to deliver a research paper after being given a fraction of the time you would take to write one—and deliver it with only the aid of an index card. With so much to focus on, what are some basic things to remember to excel in Extemporaneous Speaking?

1. Know what is happening in the world and America. Because topics are chosen from current, major events being aware of the world you live in is critical. Find a way to follow the news that works for you: read the paper (newspaper or on-line), watch the news, or listen to radio news programming. Whatever you choose to do, be consistent with your following and try to learn from a few different sources—tracking only one news provider limits your news intake. For example, I like to keep current with CNN, BBC America, and The Daily Show.

2. Know how to research. There is magic inside that Extemp file folder, and it’s found within the articles filed away for competition. From following the news you will be aware of what is happening and able to speak on a subject. However, Extemp requires sources. And sources equal research. Learn how to use a library, on-line data bases, and the internet. Learn what constitutes reliable sources (to learn more on what makes a reliable source, please follow this link to The Owl at Purdue http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/553/01/).

3. Know how to stay organized. Those articles will mean nothing if they are disorganized. If you have to share a box, be sure to come-up with a system that everyone knows to avoid chaos. Separate by subject not by source. Brian White wrote a good, quick article on organization: http://www.forensicscommunity.com/extemporaneous/team-organization-extemp.

4. Know how to utilize your note card. If you chose to use a note card as an aid during your speech, you better work it. Make sure you know how to make an outline so that you do not get lost in the card. Write legibly to avoid the blunder of trying to read your notes when you should be speaking. Further, master the art of the glance to help make the card as unnoticeable as possible. Your speech is to be delivered to the audience, not a card.

5. Know the basics of impromptu speaking. True, you get to research and plan a speech, but you ultimately are left with a note card and your wits. Practice impromptu speeches to get better with quick thinking. Remember to slow down your speaking voice. This helps keep your voice clear and allows you and your audience to process what you are saying. If you are having issues forming a sentence, remain calm and try not to use placeholders (your “um”s and “ah”s).

6. Know the basics of public speaking. Diction, volume, facials, hand gestures, movement, eye contact, presence, etc all need to be polished. As this event is somewhat improvised, you will need to be more aware of how you are speaking/moving. Are you rocking? Is your right hand doing the same gesture too often? Are you being articulate? Can those in the back hear you? Do your eyes scan the room or are they stuck in one corner? Do you look confident? All of these questions, and more, need to be an undercurrent in your mind. As an Extemper you must be in control of not only the words you craft into a speech but also your body.

Knowing these six essentials will help you to be a better Extemper.