The Structure of a Speech

Although there is some freedom, the structure of an Extemporaneous speech is much like any other speech; it should be in the standard five-paragraph format. Presence should be established with a strong introduction and then followed with a transition into the body of the speech. Lastly, the conclusion should sum up the speech’s stance and allow for a reiteration of the thesis. In this article, the major components of an Extemp speech will be gone over in greater detail to illustrate what is necessary to not only compete but to win.

The introduction is one of the more important parts of an Extemp speech. Just like any other speaking event, this is where a first impression will be made that will influence an audience’s impression for the remainder of the speech. Although it should not be this way, understand that first impressions will effect the rest of the speech. Judges are people who can base a rank off of an impression. How a speaker conducts themselves in the first minute is important in both how and what is said. The introduction should grab the attention of the audience. Use this time to set a speech’s tone and pick a direction. The introduction is not the place to start using facts and statistics; that is what the body of the speech is for. Pick a strong attention getting device, and if applicable insert a joke to add even more flavor. Towards the end of the introduction make sure to transition into a strong thesis. The thesis states the speech’s stance and outlines the three or four major points that are going to be made for support. Do not overcomplicate the thesis. Keep it simple for two reasons. First, a simpler thesis is easier to remember. (Not only does a thesis need to be memorized for the intro/conclusion, but it also serves as an outline for the whole speech. Know the thesis, and organizational issues for the speech are reduced while creating better flow.) Secondly, a simple thesis is better for a judge since they have to listen, write comments, and keep time signals all at the same time. A judge knowing exactly what the speech will be about, and what points will be developed, gives them an idea of what precisely to listen for and what to critique.

After stating a thesis, transition into the body’s main points. Make sure to physically move while transitioning as well. This makes the transition that much more obvious to the judge, and it helps a speaker to collect their thoughts. Depending on the topic, the format for the points will be slightly different. It is important to note that an Extemp speech is not about trying to convince the judge to change his or her opinion; it simply proves to them that the thesis, the speech’s stance, can properly be supported. In order to do this effectively, the first point should address what the problem is. For example, the topic reads “should the current health care bill pass the way it is or are there better alternatives?” Regardless of personal opinion, the first point should address the current crisis. An accurate source needs to be cited (using this example, possibly one that gives a specific number about the number of uninsured Americans). There is an opportunity to reveal the crisis behind the topic. In addition, an Extemper should express a concern involving the topic. With the example, it can be stated that there are not enough drugs available to those who are less fortunate (financially).

After the first body paragraph transition into the second point. This is where a speaker now moves from the issue itself to the current proposal. During this time make it clear what both sides of the topic are saying and what their arguments are. This is setting up for the last point which will be the speaker’s own argument. Anyway, the second body paragraph is a good time to quote politicians on both sides of the issue. Unless using a note card, usually whole quotes will not be able to be remembered so make use of the paraphrase.

The third and final paragraph is where to really state personal position. By this point the speaker has proven they understand the issue, and the legislation surrounding it, so now they are able to say what they believe, why they believe it, and forecast the future as bleak if their side is not the ultimate outcome. Offer strong support and analysis to ensure little criticism. Make a lasting impression by being decisive and showing the effects of the same issue throughout history.

Lastly, the conclusion should summarize the speech, restate the thesis (with main points) in new words, and leave the audience with a zinger of a last sentence that provokes thought/a laugh/smile/etc. (called a clincher). The conclusion should last less than one minute. Never add new facts or points. Bring the speech to a solid conclusion and be done. Also, the attention getting device could be referenced in the clincher or at the beginning of the conclusion to bring the speech full-circle.

The structure of an Extemporaneous speech is much like that of other speech. A speaker’s ability to win will be dictated mainly by how interesting their introduction is and how well they can support the arguments presented using credible sources. Accomplish this with good speaking skills and a high rank is possible. Be sure to practice these steps for crafting a great speech and outline, and the process will get easier and quicker--yet another way to improve the odds of obtaining a high rank.