Beginner Impromptu Advice

After approximately thirty minutes of staring blank-faced at a white computer screen, watching the cursor's pulsating blink, an idea has finally entered my mind.  I have noticed an influx of Impromptu articles on The Forensics Community, and I have decided I could do my part for the good of Forensics by writing a piece about this quick-paced event (wow, that sounded pompous; honestly, I'm not).  This might not be the most original conclusion ever, but as the only event I can think about currently is Impromptu, I say let's boogie.   

I've been thinking, what would be practical?

Now I know.  I have a brother who did Impromptu for two years.  He went to Regionals and received generally good ranks.  I thought, wouldn't he be a good person to ask for advice?!  What are some essentials every Impromptu beginner should know?


Lis: Why did you get involved with Impromptu?

Mike: Well, you were in Speech and enjoyed it.  I liked public speaking.  And it was football's off season, haha.

Lis: What is the biggest perk for the doing the event?

Mike: Minimal practice and preparation?  Haha, no it fits who I am.  I like to make stuff up on the fly. 

Lis: Biggest annoyance?

Mike: I HATE when you get a topic and have no clue what it is.  Example: the pot calling the kettle black.  What was that?!  I think I asked you 15 minutes after my round was over for clarification.

Lis: So what do you do when you have no clue what the topic is about?

Mike: With the previous example, I stuck to the basic 3-point format and used context clues to create some sort of definition for myself.  I ended-up linking the phrase back to racism and then fleshed out three main points.  I placed 4th without knowing what that meant.  You just have to speak what you know...and be confident doing it.  If you can make the judge believe you know what you are talking about it goes a long way.  

Lis: What is the one trick that carried you through Impromptu rounds?  A tactic you used at most tournaments?

Mike: I noticed early on that the Impromptu speakers that won usually had an arsenal of main point categories to link the prompt back to.  For instance, this one guy who placed a lot would take a prompt and usually end up relating it to a Reagan speech, a certain book, and some sort of current event.  I guess canned speeches to a certain degree?  Typically in a speech, at least in Illinois where I competed, that's what speakers did.  Put some control back in your hands.  Obviously I would try to come up some new points in a round, but I did keep a list of possible things to talk about in case I got trapped.     

Lis: How do you get over being nervous?

Mike: Ummm, I wasn't really ever nervous.  I have always been a class clown.  It just seemed natural to me to be the focus of the room.  Just go out.  Speak to people!  The more you talk, the more comfortable you get.  Plus, bombing a few times helped me realize that there is only one place to go, and that's up.

Lis: How long does it take before you get good at thinking fast?  Really?

Mike: In Illinois we have an 8 minute time limit.  When I first started I would do a 3/5 split.  For the first 5 weeks I would write frantically, filling up the note card with an outline and completely using 3 minutes to prep.  But gradually after that 5th week I started writing less, planning more in my head, and turned that 3/5 split into a 2/6 one shortly after.

Lis: Anything else?

Mike: Branch out for things to talk about.  Watch some news.  The Daily Show & The Colbert Report are always great!  And judges love older literature, so read The Grapes of Wrath or something like that.  Most importantly, get that confidence.  Even if you know it's false-bravado you have to own the room. 


If any Impromptu speakers out there have any questions for Mike, please send them to me (either in an e-mail or as a message on my wall) and I will make sure my brother answers them.  I know where he lives.  It shouldn't be hard :)