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The Statement of Significance: An Underutilized Tool

The statement of significance is an important, albeit underutilized tool in extemporaneous speaking. In a single 10 second statement, your judge will either feel connected or distanced from your topic. Thus, nailing this part of the speech is critical to being a successful speaker. In this article, learn some tips about how to utilize statements of significance! This article was written by Ananth Veluvali.

What is the Statement of Significance?

The Statement of Significance (SoS for short) is a one or two sentence blurb introduced before your question, and it explains why the topic you chose matters. Given how unfamiliar a judge may feel with a certain topic, having a strong SoS will make your judge feel invested in your speech. This is also a great part of the speech to add vocal variety into. Since many extempers underutilize the Statement of Significance, this is a place in the speech where you can stand out.

In short, there are three reasons why a strong Statement of Significance matters:

  1. It adds exigence to your speech, making your judge more likely to listen. After all, if given the choice between listening to some random topic or something that impacts to real people, the judge will almost always choose the latter.

    That’s why it’s key to turn abstract ideas (for example, Russian influence in the Arctic hurts the US) into something more concrete for the judge (for example, Russian influence in the Arctic further jeopardizes the future of an ecosystem that is the world’s first line of defense against climate change).
  2. It is a great place to add “sticky” details—details that stick with the judge after the round—and teach your judge something new.
  3. It is underutilized by other extempers, which means if you utilize the SoS effectively, you will stand out.

So, how do you utilize the Statement of Significance?

Ultimately, a strong SoS ties an unfamiliar topic to something the judge is familiar with. It also highlights the urgency of asking the question. Let’s take a look at a few examples:

Example #1: Every X Minutes

This is, in my opinion, the most perceptually dominant and sobering SoS. You’re showing just how urgent it is to ask your question by tying your SoS to time itself. For example, “Considering that every 10 minutes, a child under the age of 5 dies in Yemen because of preventable causes, we must address Yemen’s humanitarian crisis by asking today’s question…” is a lot stronger than “Given that Yemen has 29 million citizens, we must ask today’s question” (this type of SoS where an extemper simply lists off a country’s population isn’t effective; for all we know, the topic at hand only affects 0.01% of the population).

Example #2: “The Wowza Factor”

In this type of SoS, you’re contextualizing the numbers in your SoS by linking it to something the judge is more familiar with. For example, “Considering that more Americans have died from opioids than from the entire Vietnam War, we must ask today’s question” is a lot stronger than “Considering that opioids are killing Americans, we must ask today’s question.”

Example #3: Anecdotes

Sometimes, to really humanize a speech, you can tie the topic to a specific individual. This works well in situations covering a humanitarian topic. For example, “Considering that people like Kayrat Samarkand, a Uighur citizen in China who was tortured, beaten, and forcefully indoctrinated, have been waiting for justice for far too long, we must ask today’s question” is much more effective than “Considering that Uighurs continue to face persecution, we must ask today’s question.”

Example #4: Powerful language

Sometimes, it’s hard to find a statistic or anecdote you can use for your SoS. That’s totally fine. Ultimately, specificity is your friend in the Statement of Significance. Thus, you can accessorize pathos by creating visual, powerful language. For example, “Considering that countless American citizens have been locked up, deprived of their humanity, and mistreated by prison guards, we must examine the fundamental injustice present in the US prison system by asking today’s question” is more effective that “Considering that the current American prison system mistreats people, we must ask today’s question.”

Overall:

Overall, the SoS is your best friend, and it is a great way to stand out in a round. While the four SoS frames provided above are certainly helpful, there are no hard-and-fast rules to creating a statement of significance; as such, feel free to use your own framings too. Spend some time trying these out in your practice speeches and best of luck!

By Ananth Veluvali

Founder, the Extemper's Bible.

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