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Why Extemp isn’t the Best Event

In this article, Mukta Dharmapurikar lays out the benefits of diversifying your Speech and Debate experiences in order to better your own extemp and our community.

We were sitting around a table having dinner at one of the biggest extemp tournaments in the country, and she casually remarked, “Info’s way better than extemp.”

For a few seconds, it was dead silent. The extempers were in pure shock, as if they had just realized that next round was going to be the econ round.

Finally, they got themselves together, and questions began pouring out of their mouths:
“How is that even possible?”
“Why would you like Info more?”
“Extemp is obviously better!”

Okay, I may be exaggerating just a bit here…but the premise is still true. Many extempers believe wholeheartedly that bar none, extemp is the best event. Yes, extemp is pretty great, but sometimes, this mentality can have negative implications for how we view ourselves, how we interact with others, and even for speech and debate as a whole.

I have heard far too many extempers put down interpers. And that doesn’t reflect well on our otherwise supportive community.

And it’s not just interp–extempers have a reason lined up for why every single event is worse than extemp: Congress is just an easier version of extemp, platform and interp don’t require analysis, debaters have weeks to prepare their cases, and so on.

But do we ever talk about how debaters also have to analyze economic and political subjects, plus defend their position against someone else’s, AND prepare attacks against the other side? Or that interpers have to cut, memorize, and perform the same ten-minute speech for the entire year, perfecting it down to every single word? They don’t have the luxury of choosing a new topic each time. And as for Congress, don’t even get me started on the challenges of sitting through 3-hour sessions and researching close to 20 bills for one tournament.

The point is, there is SO much we can learn from other events, but we don’t always take advantage of that. Our teammates do amazing things every single day, but we’re often too wrapped up in our event to recognize it. I’m not saying that congress or PF or POI is better than extemp; rather, I’m asking, how can we know which event is “better” if we haven’t tried many of the others?

Last year, I got the opportunity to try events ranging from PF to OO to Congress to Prose. I learned (the hard way) that giving a PF summary is shockingly similar (and arguably harder) than giving an extemp speech. I learned that even just figuring out the right way to hold a prose binder can feel like an impossible task. I also realized that there is so much that we can learn just from watching other people do their events. One of the best extempers I’ve ever known once told me he would watch interp to learn how to pause at the right times while giving extemp speeches. And doing Congress taught me how to take in, synthesize, and adapt information far more quickly.

It’s not just our fault–because we’re often stuck in the prep room, we don’t get a chance to see other events. But we can change that. While the pandemic has significantly decreased social interaction, the first step to getting to know people is understanding and appreciating what they do. Extemp can’t evolve without learning from other events, and we can’t improve our community until we educate ourselves about it.

So, I have a challenge for you. Try to learn something new about another event. You could sit in on a teammate’s practice or watch a video of an event you haven’t seen before, even if it’s a random NSDA supplemental that was only offered one year. It could be as small as watching an interview with a competitor you’ve never met or as big as entering a tournament in a new event. Try talking to others about their experiences in Speech and Debate as well. You might find yourself learning something completely new about your teammates’ experiences, struggles, and achievements!

By taking these small steps, we can make a big difference not just on our own lives, but on the Speech and Debate world as a whole. After all, we’re part of a community, and our community can’t grow unless we do. 

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