Tips on Extemp Speaking

Here is a 6 step process for doing extemporaneous speaking (taken from Breaking Down Barriers: How to do Individual Events):


Usually, you go to an extemp prep room where topics are posted on the wall. Bring your research materials (your “extemp tub”) to the room. Find out what speaker you are and then listen for the announcement of your speech. For each speaker, usually three topics are posted. These topics are almost always questions about national political, economic, and social issues.  You usually do have thirty minutes to prepare for your speech but you should choose the topic you feel most confident about shortly--within five to ten minutes. Pick a topic that you know you have materials on, that you like to talk about, and that will interest your judge and demonstrate your expertise. That will make preparing the speech much easier.



This is simple!  Think about the topic you’ve chosen. Now, answer the topic question. “Was Clinton a good president?” What do you think? Yes or no?  Write your answer down on a sheet of paper or notecard to tell you what to do.



Take a moment and think up what would support your thesis.  I suggest that at most you make three points--you only have a very short time to speak.  Write the points down on a sheet of paper, leaving room after each one so that you can add supports for them. 




The key to your organization is to provide points that directly support your answer to the question.


For a policy question (e.g. What should the U.S. terrorism policy be?)

1. Problem, 2. Current policy isn’t solving/causes this problem, 3. This policy would solve the problem


For a fact question (e.g. Will Al Gore run in 2004?)

List out 2 to 4 reasons why your answer is correct.


For an update on events type question (e.g. What is going on in Pakistan?)

List out the key events that are taking place.


Make sure you have covered the topic thoroughly



Now, write down supports for your points.  Look in your extemp tub and write down short quotations, summaries of key points in your articles, stories and other key points of analysis that you have for your points.  Have at least two supports for each point if you possibly can and most extempers are expected to cite at least six sources during their speeches.  Write down the supports. 



Write down ideas for an introduction.  Give a quick attention getter, state the thesis, tell why it is important to you and your audience.  Write down a conclusion.  Tie the speech together, build to a higher point and give it a sense of conclusion.


The Introduction.

1.     Start with an “attention getter”.  Use a story, analogy or joke to captivate your audience. Avoid starting a speech with a quotation if your topic is a quotation, this may confuse your judge.

2.     In your introduction, state the question exactly as it is worded.

3.     State your answer to the question; your thesis.  Even if you don’t have a clear cut yes or no answer to the question--state why you say yes but . . . or no but . . . (don’t leave it vague with “sometimes yes and sometimes no; you can leave it hanging but with a clear direction “the answer is yes but there is a critical exception which I will explain in my third point.”)

4.     why is this topic important to the audience?

5.     why are you an expert on this topic?

6.     Preview your main points.


The Conclusion.

1.     Restate the question and your answer to it.

2.     Summarize briefly how your points and supports demonstrate that your answer is correct.

3.     Close by referring back to your introduction.



Your preparation of the key points in your speech should take 20 or less minutes. In the last 10 minutes, you should walk to where you will present. Along the way, take time to practice the speech. Go through the intro, the main points, the conclusion. Think about what you are saying, make corrections. If you arrive at your room early before other you are to speak, then take advantage of the chance to practice in the hallway or an empty room (although keep close to the room so that when they announce you are up next, you hear it). When the judge calls you, enter the room and deliver away with your speech.


Use a system that works for you, but here is a good way to organize the many extemp articles you should have:

Have a foreign issues box: try to organize it by regions of the world (Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia, etc) and then alphabetically by country within each regional section.  Topics will cross borders often, but that’s why you have the option in extemp of pulling out TWO files instead of just ONE!

Have a domestic issues box: again, organize by major general topics, and then alphabetically within each general topic.  Domestic issues will be tougher to fit entirely under general topics, so don’t force things that don’t fit because you will lose them.  Instead, stick to simple generalizations (like sticking all politicians in a single general category, arranged alphabetically) and try to avoid filing things in ways that might obscure them later.



You need to stay up on the latest news events and policy issues. What’s the latest in the war on terrorism? What are the arguments for and against expanding social programs? Who is likely to win the next election? Suggestions for doing this:

1. Purchase the West Coast E-News Package. This is an amazing resource with hundreds of pages of great background information as well as the very latest news. Click here for more information

2. Research on the web using West Coast’s extemp resources page: Click here for West Coast’s extemp web resources

3. Listen to the news each evening

4. Read the newspaper each day; Read a news magazine or two each week

5. Discuss news issues with friends, family, and teammates

6. Work with your coach to setup assignments so a variety of issues get researched

7. Do Checks! Have other people ask you news questions and then see if your tubs have the material you need. If they don’t, then do research to fill in the gaps!