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 US in both high school and college forensics competition. Extemporaneous Speaking provides 30 minutes of preparation time, followed by a seven-minute speech. When preparation starts, speakers are offered three questions to answer. Questions are based on current affairs, and topic areas generally include international and domestic policy, economic policy, and social or scientific issues. Speakers generally speak persuasively, with some areas of the US 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 ten, 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 forgo 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. Prominent tournaments that do so include 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.


  • Attention Getter - A device used to get the attention of an audience. Some examples include quotations, statistics, history, narratives, political cartoons, anecdotes, and pop culture references. A typical attention getting device (sometimes referred to as an AGD) seeks to set the tone for an extemporaneous speech and acquaint the audiences with the particular style of the speaker.
  • Link - A logical connective between the Attention Getter and the topic of the speech, like how the Godfather applies to United States foreign policy. Links can be abstract (connecting the attention getter to the topic using a one word comparison that usually employs 'like' or 'as') or concrete (making multiple connections between the attention getter to the topic).
  • Background - A section that includes basic information about the subject, so the judge understands the context the question is asked in.
  • Credibility Statement/Source - A credible source to provide information about the subject. Most effective introductions contain at least one, but often two sources. Sources are used to build credibility in the speaker and provide a connective from the topic area to the exact wording of the question. Sources can be used in the background area of an introduction or to justify the statement of significance.
  • Significance Statement - A sentence justifying the importance and relevance of the chosen topic. The significant statement is often phrased as a preface to the question, like "and because Mexico's drug war affects both Americans' security and the U.S. economy, it is important to ask the question..." This sentence can occasionally be ignored if the importance of the question is obvious.
  • Question - A word-for-word recitation of the question (topic) that is selected by the speaker (e.g. "Is the United States doing enough to combat Islamic militancy in North Africa?")
  • Definition - A definition of any vague words in the question that are critical to the argument of the speech (e.g. "militancy")
  • Answer - An answer to the question. The answer can either be a close ended answer, like "yes" or "no," or be an answer to an open-ended question. Additionally, many answers to even close ended questions contain a thesis, or an overarching reason why the answer to the question is true.
  • Preview - A preview of the body areas of the speech. Each point should be a short declarative sentence. ("First, Brazil's economic performance will outweigh the alleged corruption.")


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:

  • Transition - A logical connective between points, the introduction, and the conclusion. These links can either be based on a reference to the Attention Getter, or a logical link.
  • Tag-line or Claim - A short, simple tag-line for the area of analysis.
  • Sources - Two to three sources used at the beginning of a point. Sources are generally cited as the source name and full date, including the month, day, and year. Next, the source includes a short summary of the fact or argument presented in the source.
  • Analysis - The logical link from the sources to the impact of the point. Analysis should be unique, and created by the speaker. Judges generally prefer original analysis as opposed to a literature review.
  • Impact - The impact to the question. The impact is generally a link from the logical links and evidence earlier in the point to the answer of the question. Impacts also can include a source. Finally, impacts should include the wording of the question.[5]

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.

  • Question - A word-for-word restatement of the question.
  • Answer - A restatement of the answer to the question.
  • Review - A review of the two or three points or areas of analysis of the speech.
  • Greater Context - The relevance of the question to greater trends in current affairs. Although this section is not utilized commonly, many Extemporaneous competitors discuss broader trends or the context surrounding the question, to try to increase the question's significance.
  • Attention Getter - A reference back to the Attention Getter. The same 'vehicle' or theme that was used to initially introduce the speech is used to conclude it as well.
  • Interesting Closing Line - A clever or interesting closing line is frequently used to end the speech.

Current rankings[edit]

The Rankings for High School Extemporaneous Speaking are maintained by two organizations, Extemp Central [7] Extemp Central , and the Institute for Speech and Debate.[8] Both use a points system which assigns points to tournaments on the national circuit based on the size of each tournament's field, and it's prestige.

Institute for Speech and Debate Rankings (as of 1/11/2015)[edit]

Ranking Name Point Total School
1 Josh Wartel 386 Lake Braddock (Virginia)
2 Eitan Sapiro-Gheiler 324 Durham Academy (North Carolina)
3 Justin Graham 304 Trinity Prep (Florida)
4 Yijia Liang 283 Upper Arlington (Ohio)
5 Jasper Primack 253 Newton South (Massachusetts)
6 Karna Venkatraj 251 A&M Consolidated (Texas)
7 Brian Anderson 240 LaRue County (Kentucky)
8 Nathaniel Saffran 208 Trinity Prep (Florida)
9 Lindsey Li 179 Cinco Ranch (Texas)
10 Davis Larkin 170 Parish Episcopal (Texas)

Extemp Central National Points Race (as of 1/11/2015)[edit]

Ranking Name Point Total School
1 Josh Wartel 299 Luke Braddock (Virginia)
2 Brian Anderson 250 LaRue County (Kentucky)
3 Justin Graham 228 Trinity Prep (Florida)
4 Eitan Sapiro-Gheiler 214 Durham Academy (North Carolina)
5 Yijia Liang 154 Upper Arlington (Ohio)
6 Noah Wexler 152 Nova Senior (Florida)
7 Phobe Lin 145 Plano West (Texas)
8 Jack Glaser 135 George Washington (Colorado)
9 Jasper Primack 110 Newton South (Massachusetts)
10 Davis Larkin 101 Parish Episcopal (Texas)

Past Champions in Extemporaneous Speaking[edit]

Past AFA Champions in Extemporaneous Speaking[edit]

  • 2014: Colin Metcalf (University of Alabama)
  • 2013: Michael Scott (George Mason University)
  • 2012: Christy Liu (University of Texas at Austin)
  • 2011: David Kumbroch (University of Alabama)
  • 2010: Will Bellows (George Mason University)
  • 2009: David Kumbroch (University of Alabama)
  • 2008: Jesse Ohl (Kansas State University)
  • 2007: Jesse Ohl (Kansas State University)
  • 2006: Liz Coleman (New York University)
  • 2005: Stephanie Cagniart (University of Texas at Austin)
  • 2004: Audrey Mink (California State Long Beach)
  • 2003: Jason Warren (Northwestern University)
  • 2002: Audrey Mink (California State Long Beach)
  • 2001: John Parsi (Arizona State University)
  • 2000: Hiren Patel (Rice University)
  • 1999: Chris Kristofco (St. Joseph's University)
  • 1998: Nance Riffe (George Mason University)
  • 1997: Matthew Whitley (University of Texas at Austin)
  • 1996: Ted Scutti (Southern Colorado University)
  • 1995: Jeff Archibald (Cornell University)
  • 1994: Tim Shultz (Kansas State University)
  • 1993: Mark Price (University of Colorado Boulder)
  • 1992: Rita Rahoi (University of Wisconsin Eau Claire)
  • 1991: Scott Cummings (University of Texas at Austin)
  • 1990: Kim Fisher (Arizona State University)
  • 1989: Larry Rosenberg (Cornell University)
  • 1988: Andrew Jacobs (University of Illinois)

Past NFA Champions in Extemporaneous Speaking[edit]

  • 2014: Carolyn Evans (Western Kentucky University)
  • 2013: Alexis Elliot (Western Kentucky University)
  • 2012: Joshua Hiew (Northwestern University)
  • 2011: Joshua Hiew (Northwestern University)
  • 2010: Seth Peckham (Western Kentucky University)
  • 2009: Austin Wright (University of Texas at Austin)
  • 2008: Merry Regan (University of Texas at Austin)
  • 2007: Jill Collum (University of Texas at Austin)
  • 2006: Liz Coleman (New York University)
  • 2005: John Geibel (St. Joseph's University)
  • 2004: Michael Chen (Seton Hall University)
  • 2003: Jason Warren (Northwestern University)
  • 2002: Rob Barnhart (Ohio University)
  • 2001: Matt Ross (Ohio State University)
  • 2000: Greg Lipper (Northwestern University)
  • 1999: Chris Kristofco (St. Joseph's University)
  • 1998: Colin O'Brien (Ohio State University)

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]

Past Montgomery Bell Academy Extemporaneous Round Robin Champions[edit]

  • 2014-Lily Nellans (Des Moines Roosevelt High School, Iowa)
  • 2013-Lily Nellans (Des Moines Roosevelt High School, Iowa)
  • 2012-Lily Nellans (Des Moines Roosevelt High School, Iowa)
  • 2011-Nabeel Zewail (San Marino High School, California)
  • 2010-Dillon Huff (Southlake Carroll High School, Texas)
  • 2009-Matt Arons (Millburn High School, New Jersey)
  • 2008-Becca Goldstein (Newton South High School, Massachusetts)
  • 2007-Tex Dawson (Plano West High School, Texas)
  • 2006-Alex Stephenson (Eagan High School, Minnesota)
  • 2005-Kevin Troy (Eagan High School, Minnesota)
  • 2004-Josh Bone (Milton Academy, Massachusetts)
  • 2003-David Tannenwald (Newton South High School, Massachusetts)
  • 2002-Rana Yared (Nova High School, Florida)
  • 2001-Andrew Korn (Syosset High School, New York)
  • 2000-Brian Garfield (Dowling Catholic High School, Iowa)
  • 1999-Jay Cox (Milton Academy, Massachusetts)


  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. ^ [1]
  8. ^ Sheard, Robert. "Debate Rankings - Extemp". Debate Rankings. Institute for Speech and Debate. Retrieved 11 June 2014. 

External links[edit]