Organizing the Boxes

Organizing the boxes for Extemporaneous Speaking prep can be a very tricky process. Because the boxes are used by the whole team, and by both Foreign and Domestic Extempers, it presents a challenge on two fronts. First, how should a team organize the boxes? Second, how to accurately update them in such a way where it works to everyone’s advantage? It is amazing how some teams can have one box for Extemp while others will have eight or nine. Every team chooses different ways to organize their files and ultimately everyone seems to do fine. Basically, in order for the boxes to be efficient, it is important that they are organized so team members can find and quote publications quickly. This article will give an overview of some of the ways the boxes can be organized. It will also give information on how to avoid frequent hassles in order to save time and prevent frustrations. When there are only thirty minutes to prep for a round, it cannot be afforded to waste five minutes trying to find the right article.

With that said, here are a few suggestions for the most efficient storage. Keep in mind these are merely suggestions of what has worked for other teams--some modifications specific to personal preference may be needed. First of all, consider having three or four boxes. By doing so there will not only be enough boxes to supply all the content needed, but a team will not be overwhelmed by extraneous articles. Also, using multiple boxes prevents an overload of paper from being stuffed in a box. Further, this allows for the separation of Foreign and Domestic topics. Separate the boxes into categories that are simple. The first box could be major countries and their issues. The second box could be a list of minor countries with key stories about their governments. And the last box could be dedicated solely to domestic issues. This box organization will be used as example for the remainder of this article.

In the first box alphabetize the major countries of the world and their issues. This box is going to be used by the Foreign Extempers and will provide the resources they need for about ninety percent of their topics. Foreign countries should consist of China, Japan, Britain, Iran, Russia, Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, and possibly Canada. Obviously, these countries are just suggestions. But any Foreign Extemper knows that most of the questions they draw are directly linked to one of these countries. Within each of these country’s folders would be months of the year. An Extemp box should have articles from each quarter of the last year kept in order so an Extemper can look back as far as a year ago and make analysis based on that information.

The second box would consist of countries that are not nearly as forefront as the countries listed above. These would include India, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, South Africa, Italy, France, and Spain. Although there will not be nearly as many questions concerning these countries, there will still be enough to warrant having sources concerning them. The one advantage to knowing these countries’ issues is that it will help to stand out in a tough event. A judge may be deadlocked between two competitors, but chances are he/she is going to choose someone who is informed about a lesser known topic because it is more impressive and shows dedication for preparation. For instance, if the two best speakers talk about Iraq and Germany, the judge will probably lean toward the one who spoke on Germany because it is not as publicized in America as Iraq. This is not to say that picking one country over another is definitely going to ensure success. However, in the event of a tie a judge will look for unique factors to give one student the edge. It is in a speaker’s best interest to do everything possible to be that student with leverage.

The last box should be dedicated to domestic issues. There should be two huge folders in this box; one for health care and one for cap and trade. These are going to be the two most marquee issues of the year, and an Extemper must have up-to-date information on them. Other issues to consider for this box will be mid-term elections, Barack Obama’s policies and approval rating, Nancy Pelosi, and issues on the future of energy in America. One thing to consider, especially with this box, is that organization by recentness is particularly crucial. A speaker has to know not only the issue at hand but how it has progressed through time.

Any format can be taken for organization, but know that sources will need to be found in a rapid-fire manner to do well. Another thing to think about is the number of files a box contains. Do not be a pack rat when it comes to using sources. This is unnecessary. There is no need to file an article on a flood that washed away a small town in Saipan. Extemporaneous Speaking is never going to give topics on something like that. Focus on what is important, and leave the other stuff behind. Worst case scenario, a topic is drawn that the Extemp boxes do not have an article for. But that is the beauty of getting to choose one topic from the three drawn--there are options to fit other information stored away in the box.