What you are about to be told can possibly be the greatest Impromptu advice you will ever read. Ever. Well, maybe not ever. That sets the bar rather high. BUT, this can be the one thing that is guaranteed to improve your game. Anticipation slowly gnawing at you? Get ready. Get set...
Novel advice huh? While this is a common sense type of approach to improvement, it is absolutely, 100% true. Practice is the only way to progress in anything. It is not only that you practice Impromptu but how you practice as well. Merely doing mock rounds is simplistic; there is more you can be doing.
- Devise a schedule to get feedback. Practicing Impromptu once a week may work for some, but to the truly dedicated more time might be required. This event is unlike some of the other speaking events in that you do not have a piece to really work with. Everything about Impromptu is abrupt. Therefore, it is not like you can go home and work on a speech. There are aspects of the event you can tighten alone, but it's hard to do mock rounds at home without some feedback. Unless you have a camera or tape recorder it can be tricky. You can work on timing, but reviewing your speech could be difficult. So set aside some time to work with a coach a couple times a week to receive criticism.
- Topics. Impromptu offers a host of topics to speak about. It is a diverse event covering the obscure, the weird, the popular, the insightful, and the random. Thus, as you begin to practice try to collect as many possible/assorted categories to speak about. If the team or coach is supplying topics keep them secret so practice truly is impromptu (pun intended).
- Audience. To work on speaking skills as you practice, it usually helps to have an audience. People tend to get stage fright when others are watching. By having a round with a small audience you help to make the practice as honest as possible. You have introduced the stage fright factor and can work on controlling and using it while speaking. This is especially helpful for newbies to public speaking. After a couple coach only practices invite a small audience to watch. If the Impromptu Speaker is feeling adventurous, or is Varsity/"comfortable", they might even suggest the audience write a few constructive notes of criticism. Either way, you are putting the audience to work and getting used to their presence.
- Judge critiques. Love them or hate them, critiques do offer some good pointers. After every tournament you should read your comments, take what you can work with, and go about implementing them into your speaking.
- Can only improve with work. Impromptu is unique in that there is little you can do to get better at the event without practice rounds. You can work on making fast outlines. You can better your articulation and projection. You can mess around with timing and pacing. But to honestly advance in thinking on your feet and using you wits, an Impromptu Speaker's tools, you have to practice with mock rounds.
- Have fun! Forensics is about fun. Not to say every Impromptu practice should resort to gags, but every once in a while having an Impromptu round with absurd topics can be hilarious. You get to practice and use your skills, laugh, and are rehearsing for the day you do receive a ludicrous topic in an actual round. It happens. You should know how to handle yourself. At least, that is a justification you can use to get your coach to brainstorm 5 silly topics for your next practice.
There are certainly other methods behind Impromptu practice that exist. If you are an Impromptu Speaker reading this, and have suggestions, please do leave a comment! These are just meant to serve as ideas for practicing. Cliché or...no, it is one. But a very true one. Practice does make perfect.