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Tutorial on first extemp tournament

by Kristopher Augsburger


    When one first hears the rules of Extemp most people are turned off by the short prep time. 30 minutes doesn't sounds like a lot of time to prepare a speech seven minutes long, but once you become familiar with some of the basic techniques it isn't as daunting of a task.

I. Before the Tournament

    The most important preparation starts before you ever enter the room. In actual practice, it is very difficult to get a good understanding of some topics because it is just too complicated to completely orientate yourself about the question if you have never heard about it before.  By understanding the basics of something like the Middle East the more you productive your preparation time will be.

II. The Prep Room

    This is where the event officially begins. In the average prep room you will have a proctor who will be the keeper of the topics and the time.  He or she will at a given time call out speaker #x, which should at some point correspond with what speaker you shall be in for your speaking room. Once you are called to draw your topic you will make your first big decision. How you draw varies, some tournaments just give you a sheet with three topics, others have tons of small strips face down and ask you to draw three.  In either case it is pretty much luck in what you get. Some tournaments will require you to tell the number of your topic, but most won't. Once you receive your topic you will have to choose what you plan on doing within at most 2 minutes. Since your time starts once the draw begins it is important that you don't waste time because you are taking it out of your prep time.

    Once you have selected your topic we get to the actual preparation of your speech. The first thing you should do is to look into your extemp box to see what sources you have that could be used in your speech.  Once you have done this, you should make a decision on how you are going to answer the question. This doesn't mean that you should advocate extremist opinions since the judge(s) may have their opinions as well. To prepare for your speech you can't ideally spend the next 20 minutes reading to defend your opinion. If you did that you would have never had a chance to practice the speech. (Note: due to the demands of quietness of a prep room, most people lip sync their words instead of actually practicing) This is why most of the best extempers never attempt to write out the entire speech, rather they outline what they plan on saying and then merely memorize the cites and put those cites into the structure that they have outlined.

    While you are practicing your speech in the prep room you will have to build the structure. When you decide to do this is somewhat a matter of personal preference.  Some people prefer to make that decision when they decide on their cites. Others will do that while they are practicing the speech and seeing what fits together. Regardless of when in your prep you decide the organization you will want it to be clear to the judge. The best way to do this is to do what is called "signposting", which is simply to tell the judge in the speech where you are going. You need to keep the description brief. You are just providing the judge with an idea on where you are going in the speech.

III. Practicing your Speech

    While practicing your speech in the prep room you are going to want to treat it like you are presenting your speech to the judge. It's okay to make mistakes during this point. When you are practicing your speech you want to time how long it takes for you to go thru it. If after seven minutes, you aren't wrapping up your speech you are going to have to decide what to cut.  If you are nowhere close to finishing stop right there and start to think about what's unnecessary. Consider possibly dropping a point or if you only have two points you should try to make one or both of your points more specific and getting rid of the cites that don't relate to your revised points.

    While practicing you should be thinking about your hand gestures, where you are going to move as the speech goes on and what you want to emphasize. You want all of your body language to serve a purpose in your speech. When you decide to start moving your speech should be moving on as well. Therefore, you want to think about what type of hand gestures would be appropriate to use in your speech.

IV. The Speech

    When you are on your way to the room you should make sure that you make a good impression on the judge when you enter the room.  Make sure that you don't have your shirt unbuttoned, and you don't have anything that would distract from your speech.  Also, make sure that you arrive to your round on time.  There are two reasons for being on time: First, It leaves a bad impression on the judge to be late; and second, by arriving late you increase the likelihood of the tournament running late.

    When you walk in the room, you should be confident in yourself.  From the moment you enter the room until you leave you shouldn't insult yourself (or the Judge!)  Comments like that was a, "bad speech," just make it look like you want a four. If the judge doesn't ask for your topic, then just put your topic in your pocket.  Another common pitfall about the first moments in you room is that you ought to check what time signals the judge gives. Most judges, but not all judges will do five minutes down-30 sec- and a 10 second countdown. If you prefer something different you should make it clear with the judge before you start. 

    Before you start you should make sure that the judge is ready. After the judge tells you they are ready, you should start almost immediately. You should concentrate your attention on the judge when you speak. In other words your eyes shouldn't wander around the room. Even if you don't know what to do with your feet you should never pace. This will not only make you look nervous, but could be distracting.

    When you are speaking if you think your speech will be a bit short you may feel the need to ad-lib as one goes along so that it doesn't seem so short. Don't do this!  For one thing many people end up losing track of time and it usually doesn't fit together very well. You should always stick with what you planned on saying. It will almost always look a lot better.

    Finally, comes the ending. Never say "I am done". It is not only stupid, but it implies that you knew that your  conclusion wasn't obvious to the judge. Most of the time when people say that they usually lack conclusions. Your conclusion should try to bring everything together a lot like you would in a good essay. If you go over a few seconds you shouldn't worry too much since most judges won't make a big deal unless you are substantially over (15-20 seconds or more).  When you are done the only thing you should say is a customary "thank you". Don't get into a habit of saying "thank you for judging" and trying to shake the judges hand. It's brown nosing and makes you look like a real suck up. In all honesty it won't help your rank at all and there is the possibility that the judge thinks you are just a real kiss up.

Good luck on your speeches!