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Tutorial on building an Extemp Box

AKA Building an Extemp Box 101


  Most brand new speech programs rarely have too much success doing extemp their first year because they rarely understand the necessity of a good quality extemp box.  While extemp is a speaking event and not entirely judged upon how much one can memorize one wouldn't be able to give an intelligent speech with both style and substance if they don't have an extemp box that not only has the articles that they need, but also is designed such that the information can be found in a quick fashion while they are in the prep room.


  Before one even decides what type of box they ought to buy one should buy hanging file folders.  Some might wonder why hanging file folders as opposed to simple manila folders?  The reasons for doing this are both aesthetic and practical.  First, hanging file folders simply look better.  For practical consideration, one also has to consider that once one writes onto a manila folder that one must throw away that folder once they find that topic irrelevant.  While hanging file folders don't last forever, (I have seen the metal bar come out, but this typically takes years) they will typically last longer than manila folders.  I would suggest that one to buy about least a hundred.  Within the first month you should have already created about 30-50 and by the end of the year you will easily have 80-100 folders.  While hanging file folders can come in different color folders and different color tabs I tend to believe that the conservative green folder and clear tabs are best because they are virtually always cheapest and I have never heard of anyone create a logical system that would use different color folders that would benefit the speaker during their prep time.


  To begin one needs to pick their boxes.  While not all competitions or states have separate foreign and US extemp events it is generally a good idea to have separate US and foreign boxes.  The reasons behind this are actually rather simple.  First, the perfect extemp files would probably not fit into only one box and also because separate files makes it easier for the speaker not to find the specific file that he/she is looking for.


  So how many boxes should one start off with?  I believe that one should probably start with at least a US box, a foreign box, and a magazine file even if one could theoretical fit all their files in one box.  If one doesn't purchase three different boxes one will likely be forced to move files from one box to another for no reason.  If one keeps up with their article cutting they will easily outgrow past one box.


  As for what type of box there is no one box that I would recommend, but I would advise against any box which can not easily fit 50-75 empty hanging file folders.  There isn't a lot of point in buying a box which you quickly discover will only fit 30 hanging file folders and then find that you have outgrown.  Any large plastic storage box that is designed for hanging file folders will do.  I have seen people who even use storage boxes that weren't even designed with for hanging file folders originally who have added the metal bars to hang their folders inside the box.


  Any good extemp box will also require a couple of accessories.  A laundry list of recommended accessories is as follows:

Invisible tape

Stapler (large)

Staple remover

Highlighter (one color)


Quotation book



One last thing that one might also want to bringing to carry their boxes is a dolly. I once took my high school's extemp box to the scale, they weighed over 70 pounds, and it wasn't even the end of the year!  Without a dolly you will probably need more than one person (unless you just started your box or you are pretty strong) to carry the boxes more than a few yards without putting the boxes down again.  While you can always have multiple people move the boxes this usually takes more time than having just one person who can just wheel their boxes around.