Extemporaneous speaking

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Extemporaneous Speaking, colloquially known as Extemp, is a limited preparation speech event based on research and original analysis. Extemporaneous Speaking is a competitive speaking event in the United States in both High School and College forensics competition. Extemporaneous Speaking provides 30 minutes of preparation time, followed by a 7 minute speech. When preparation starts, speakers are offered three questions to answer. Questions are based on current affairs. Topic areas generally include international and domestic policy, economic policy, and social or scientific issues. Speakers generally speak persuasively, with some areas of the United States offering informative speeches.[1][2]

Basic information and format[edit]

Extemporaneous speaking is a speech that is either persuasive or informative in nature. At top levels, extemporaneous is a smooth, dynamic performance that incorporates research, background knowledge, and opinion. A successful extemporaneous speech has an introduction that catches the listener's attention, introduces the theme of the speech, and answers the question through three, or sometimes two, areas of analysis which develop an answer to the question. These areas of analysis are followed by a conclusion, which summarizes the speech. Extemporaneous speaking allows for the use of index cards, but many extemporaneous competitors forego their usage.

Debate and public speaking (collectively called "forensics") are generally stratified into novice and varsity levels. A varsity level extemporaneous speech typically contains anywhere from 6 - 15 sources, while averaging 8-10, to provide a basis of fact for analyzing the question. References are often referred to as a "cite" or "citation." Quality sources include newspapers like the New York Times and Christian Science Monitor, magazines like the Economist and Foreign Policy and journals like the The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs and Foreign Affairs. For a speech dealing with a certain region's issues, say Africa or the Middle East, it is good to include regional sources as well, like All Africa and Al Jazeera respectively.

During the speech, competitors are evaluated by way of comparison to the other speakers in a 'round' of competition. Generally, there are five to seven competitors in a given round. Judges give speakers time signals to help them pace their presentations, usually starting from five minutes remaining. Judges rank all students in a room in order, with the first rank being the best and the worst speaker ranked last (sixth, for example in a round of six competitors).

In High School competition, the National Forensic League (NFL), Stoa USA, the National Christian Forensics and Communication Association (NCFCA) and the National Catholic Forensic League (CFL) host most Extemp tournaments in High School. Both leagues have a national tournament at the end of every year, with the NFL tournament drawing a larger number of competitors. There is also the Extemporaneous Speaking Tournament of Champions, held each May at Northwestern University. In addition, there are highly prestigious "circuit" tournaments, as in Policy debate, Public Forum, and Lincoln-Douglas. These include the Glenbrooks Tournament in Chicago, the Yale Invitational at Yale University, the Patriot Games at George Mason University, the Barkley Forum at Emory University, the Berkeley Tournament in University of California, Berkeley, and the Invitational at Harvard University. There are also two major round-robins, held at George Mason University and at Montgomery Bell Academy (MBA).

In collegiate competition, the American Forensic Association (AFA) and the National Forensic Association (NFA) are the organizations responsible for Extemporaneous speaking. Collegiate competition is almost identical to High School competition, with most tournaments hosted by Universities. The AFA hosts a National Individual Events Tournament (NIET), usually in April. The NFA hosts a separate tournament with easier qualification requirements known as NFA Nationals. Additionally, collegiate competition consists of dozens of tournaments across the country, like the Norton Invitational, hosted by Bradley University, and the Hell Froze Over swing tournament.[3][4]


Extemporaneous Speaking involves research before tournaments. Competitors use sources like articles from newspapers, academic journals, magazines, reports from think-tanks, and books. Before tournaments, competitors file either physical copies or electronic copies of sources.

Physical filing for Extemporaneous Speaking utilizes a system of bins and folders. Bins are split into topic areas like Asia, the Middle East, or Domestic articles. Large and small folders are used to create a nested system of organized folders.

Physical filing often utilizes individual folders with "clipped" or "cut" articles. Physical filing can also use an index system, where a single document is kept with a list of all articles, and entire magazines are kept in a numbered system.

Computer filing systems for Extemporaneous Speaking are generally much more efficient. Laptops are much lighter than bins, and provide the same organizational benefits. Usually teams have common Extemporaneous files using a file-sharing service like Dropbox, Copy, or Google Drive.

Computer filing systems either use organized folders, mimicking the paper filing system, or a single, compiled folder. Organized folders are effective and allow the speaker to easily access articles. Single folders usually use search functions to look for keywords.


High school level districts generally offer two kinds of Extemporaneous Speaking. Extemporaneous Speaking is usually divided into Foreign Extemporaneous (FX) or IX) and Domestic Extemporaneous (DX) or United States Extemporaneous Speaking, (USX). The only difference in these events is topic areas of questions.

Additionally, some districts offer Persuasive and Informative Extemporaneous Speaking. These events are far less common. Some districts, like the state of Pennsylvania, offer Extemporaneous Commentary, which utilizes shorter preparation times, five minute speeches, more generic topics, a seated speaker, and newscaster-like commentary. Extemporaneous Commentary is also held at the National Forensic League's National Speech and Debate Tournament as a Supplemental Event.

Finally, many tournaments at the High School and Collegiate levels combine all forms of Extemporaneous into a single event. Many large High School tournamens like the Tournament of Champions in Extemporaneous Speaking at Northwestern University, the Barkley Forum at Emory University, the Harvard Invitational, and the NCFL National Championship. Almost every tournament in collegiate Extemporaneous Speaking offers mixed or combined Extemporaneous Speaking. Combined Extemporaneous can occasionally be more challenging, since speakers need more awareness of possible topics.

Speech structure[edit]

The structure of successful Extemporaneous Speeches follows the same basic pattern. Speeches have an introduction, 3 or occasionally 2 points, and a conclusion.



The body generally consists of three points, on occasion two. Individual point structures vary more than introduction or conclusion structures, but generally contain similar content. An example of an Extemporaneous point commonly used in high levels of competition goes as follows:

There are usually five basic patterns of organization: Chronological Order, Spatial Order, Casual Order, Problem-Solution Order or Topical Order. The vast majority of Extemporaneous speeches use Topical Order, which utilizes three points or areas of analysis, each containing two sub-points. Some arguments include three sub-points, in a specific structure: Theory, Application and Case Study.[6]


The conclusion is an opportunity to summarize the speech and conclude, frequently referencing parts of the introduction.

Current rankings[edit]

Rankings for Extemporaneous Speaking are maintained by the Institute for Speech and Debate, which assigns points to tournaments on the national circuit based on the size of each tournament's field.[7] The 2013-2014 rankings are:

Past Champions in Extemporaneous Speaking[edit]

Past AFA Champions in Extemporaneous Speaking[edit]

Past NFA Champions in Extemporaneous Speaking[edit]

Past NCFL champions in extemporaneous speaking[edit]

Past NFL champions in domestic extemporaneous speaking[edit]

Past NFL champions in international extemporaneous speaking[edit]

Past Extemporaneous Speaking Tournament of Champions winners[edit]


  1. ^ "NFL Competition Events Guide". National Forensic League. Retrieved 2013-11-22. 
  2. ^ "AFA Events Guide". American Forensics Association. 
  3. ^ "AFA Nationals Manual". American Forensics Association. 
  4. ^ "NFA Nationals Manual". National Forensic Association. Retrieved 2013-11-22. 
  5. ^ Kristofco, Chris. "Advanced Extemp". Victory Briefs. Retrieved 2013-11-21. 
  6. ^ Lucas, Stephen E. (2012). The Art of Public Speaking. 1221 Ave of the Americas, New York, NY 10020: The McGraw-Hill Companies, INC. pp. 169–173. ISBN 978-0-07-340673-2. 
  7. ^ Sheard, Robert. "Debate Rankings - Extemp". Debate Rankings. Institute for Speech and Debate. Retrieved 11 June 2014. 

External links[edit]