In this article, Ananth Veluvali lays out a four-step practice routine that novice and varsity speakers alike can follow during Spring Break to become a better speaker.
Without the stress of school or other extracurricular commitments, Spring Break is the perfect time to improve your extemp speaking skills. However, figuring out where to start can be a daunting task. Speaking personally, it took me two years to create a routine that helped me become a better extemp speaker, but still respected the relaxed atmosphere afforded by Spring Break. Ultimately, I discovered that there are four steps you can take to elevate your extemp knowledge.
Step 1: Build Up the Fundamentals
To become an effective extemporaneous speaker you need to, unsurprisingly, know how to do extemp.
For novices, this means learning the basics. You should know what goes into an extemp speech & the basic ABC substructure format.
For varsity extempers, this goes deeper. Beyond knowing what a Statement of Significance or AGD is, you should know what makes them effective. Fortunately, the Extemper’s Bible has resources on all of this: just search for the topic you’re seeking to improve in!
Step 2: Learn the Content
Once you know how to structure a speech, you’ll need content to fill your speeches with. Given the sheer breadth of extemp, a lot of extempers have gaps in their knowledge of contemporary affairs. As such, you should first build up frameworks that can be broadly applied to any extemp speech.
For example, you should understand what facilitates economic growth & what hampers it. That way, if you ever draw a question on how a specific country can grow their economy, you’ll have a set of ideas to draw off of.
Learning so much can be daunting! Check out our “Camp Resources” page for more information about different topics. During Spring Break, you’ll ideally go through 1-2 presentations a day and take notes.
Step 3: Reinforce the Content
Once you have a general understanding of different extemp topics, you’ll want to get a specific understanding. For this, good ol’ reading will do the trick. Pick 3-5 sources (or even more!) and start following the news. Over time, you’ll know more about the current situation in the United States and abroad. To solidify this understanding, I recommend taking weekly news quizzes provided on sites like the New York Times and Slate. You can also follow us on Instagram @extempers! We post “Questions of the Day” on our Instagram about different issues in the news.
Tired of reading full articles? You can also subscribe to Daily News Briefings or listen to podcasts that cover the news.
Step 4: Deliver, Deliver, Deliver
Once you know the basics of an extemp speech, have a general framework for broad questions, and have the content knowledge for specific questions, the next step is to start delivering speeches! Try to deliver a few speeches over break and do a few more drills. Record yourself and take notes on what you can improve upon.
Through this iterative process, you’ll emerge a more confident speaker, with more dynamic delivery and interesting content.
Here’s an example routine you could follow:
Day 1: Review the basics of an extemp speech and deliver a practice speech, so you can see how you spoke at the beginning of this process. Then, rewatch the speech to see what you can do better. Pick out news sources you’re interested in reading.
Day 2: Go through 2 presentations on our website. Afterward, do some specific reading on those topics on your own. Outline an answer to a practice question (you don’t have to deliver the speech) on one of the two topics. Conclude the day by reading 10 articles from some of the sources you picked out.
Day 3: Go through 2 more presentations on our website. Once again, afterward, do some specific reading on those topics. Outline an answer to a practice question (this time deliver it and record it) on one of the two topics. Rewatch it and see what you did well and could’ve done better. Conclude the day by reading 15 articles from some of the sources you picked out.
Day 4: Go through 2 more presentations on our website. Do some specific reading on those topics, and (optionally) do another outline to a practice question. You don’t need to deliver the speech. Conclude the day by reading 10 articles.
Day 5: Go through 1 presentation on our website. Deliver a speech on the topic (rewatch, as always) and conclude the day by reading 10 articles. Take the most recent weekly news quiz and the past two weeks’ news quizzes as well.
Day 6: Read 25 articles in the news and redo an introduction and a random point from a speech, paying special attention to your hand gestures and delivery.
Day 7: Rewatch your first speech, noting what you did well & what you did poorly. Then, deliver a final speech and record yourself. Rewatch it and notice the improvement!
If you did the routine above, you would have gone through 6 presentations, read 70 articles, and delivered 4 speeches in the span of one week! While this practice routine isn’t conclusive, that process alone should hopefully elevate your speaking skills.
The best extempers are the most consistent. While this routine may help you become a better speaker, you should stick to an extemp routine after Spring Break to reinforce your newfound knowledge. Extemp is a marathon, not a sprint; being consistent in your routine will help you build up a solid foundation that will return dividends in the long run. With time, you’ll become a markedly stronger extemper!