The Five Minute Blitzkrieg

Impromptu has to be one of the best categories in Forensics. Almost no one does Impromptu as their primary category, but everyone loves to compete in it. This helps to remove some pressure and loosens speakers, which in turn creates a fun atmosphere. There is also the randomness of the topics that add intrigue. Further, in so many of the Speech and Debate categories there are barriers in place to maintain professionalism. Impromptu is less formal. It is fun, fast, and makes for the most stressful five minutes. That is why this article is entitled The Five Minute Blitzkrieg. This article will outline how one can successfully progress from the prep time through the speech. In addition, the issue of consistency will be addressed. Consistency is necessary to not only place well each round, but to earn a top spot at the end of the tournament.

Impromptu is a fast event. Whether speaking first, second, or last it seems like the prep time starts and ends almost instantaneously. At the beginning of each round, the judge running the prep room will state the category of the round. It may be a person or a quote or an abstract object. That means the three potential topics drawn are all going to relate to the category of the round. When a speaker draws their three topics it is their first chance to prove that they are a seasoned veteran (whether they are or are not). Look at each topic and start thinking about what to say. Many Impromptu competitors look at the topics, choose one they like and then progress toward their prep time. This is a mistake. The five minutes does not begin until a topic is chosen and the other two are returned. Do not select a topic immediately. Use thirty seconds or so to think about where the speech could be taken. This is precious time that can really help with prep later. The direction of the entire speech could be decided before prep time begins. This is critical, especially when there are only a total of five minutes to work for prep.

Those new to the category of Impromptu are shocked the first time they compete. The prep time goes by so quickly! But just like every other category, everyone is at the same disadvantage. However, prep time presents the chance to rise above. If a speaker selected their topic and direction before prep time began, prep will now be easier because the idea of the speech has been chosen. A speaker can now focus on the points the speech should cover; but do not worry about all the details. There is no time for details. Further, if the details become too elaborate during prep there is the possibility that they will not be remembered while delivering the speech. Attempting to remember every detail might cause unnecessary pauses or stammering in delivery. Keep it simple and remember that just as quickly as the prep time went, that is how quickly the speaking time will pass.

After the prep time is up, a speaker walks to another room where they deliver their speech to the judge. This moment is where there is another opportunity to think about the direction and details of the speech. It will take about a minute or two to walk to the room, depending on how far away it is. Use that time to think while walking. Never stop and chat along the way, nor walk incredibly slow for time. That is cheating. But there is nothing illegal in thinking while heading to competition. When there is such little time for everything in this category, a few seconds here or there can make a major difference.

After handing the topic to the judge (and agreeing upon suitable time signals) begins the delivery of the speech. This is another place where competitors tend to get overwhelmed. Remember, this is not going to be a well-polished speech. This is improvisation at its best. Do not be random and tangential in style, but be creative and utilize all resources. Do not be afraid to quote people or publications when remembered. Citing sources helps a speaker appear to be knowledgeable on the topic and provide some backing for their stance; a rare find in the category of Impromptu. During the speech keep the three points of the thesis simple so they are easily remembered. This is more important for the speaker than the judge. The reason for this is that because a speaker is thinking on their feet they simply do not have the mental capacity to remember a highly complex thesis. Do not make Impromptu harder. While talking, do not be afraid to throw in a joke as it comes to mind. Impromptu is supposed to be light and comical, not deep and philosophical. Prove to the judge that this speech is unique and thoughtful.

In the end, Impromptu can most accurately be summed up as a blitzkrieg. It is fast from the time a topic is drawn to the end of the speech. But the competitors who keep their composure throughout are going to not only be the most consistent, they are going to be the most successful. While approaching the tournament, do not be afraid to take mental notes of each round. Read the judges’ ballots and learn from their comments. Critiques can offer some valuable feedback from an observer’s perspective (a view a speaker can never have). Lastly, aim for consistent rankings. If placing first in one round and last in the next, that should be an indicator that there is the ability to succeed. There just needs to be a focus to master the other categories of topics Impromptu offers while broadening speaking skills.