While summer is the perfect time to enjoy the outdoors and the sweet feeling of freedom that comes with having no homework, it’s also a great time to improve your extemp skills. In this article, Ananth Veluvali delves into some tips and tricks for becoming a better extemper over the summer.
Tip #1: Read, read, read!
Without the burden of homework or other school-related commitments, you should hopefully have more free time over the summer. With that free time in mind, take roughly 15-20 minutes (or more!) every single day to read the news, keeping up with important, headlining events. You should also delve into topics you feel unfamiliar with.
In a 2013 interview with Extemp Central, former IX national champion Ashesh Rambachan recommended:
“Read, read and read some more, especially during the summer and the offseason. Use the extra free time to read books about current events and to catch up on long, academic journals like The Washington Quarterly and Current History. During the season, keep up with a national newspaper like the New York Times to stay up-to-date and think tanks like the Council on Foreign Relations for fast, high-quality analysis. There is no substitute for knowledge and understanding.”
Becoming a better extemper requires a nuanced understanding of complex domestic and global affairs. By reading more, you can feel more confident when answering any extemp question! Looking for extemp sources? Check out our source list here!
Tip #2: Practice (some) speaking!
Over the summer, you should continue to give practice speeches & record those speeches. Carefully watch each one, looking for holes and strengths in your analysis & delivery.
Personally, I recommend watching your practice speech twice: once to focus on delivery and once to focus on content. In turn, you can discover which side (delivery or content) is your weaker side.
It’s also important to respect your mental health during this process. For many extempers, this activity is a nine month long process, and the summer offers a nice respite from the mental strain of extemp. Accordingly, you shouldn’t force yourself to give speeches every day, especially if that feels uncomfortable.
Instead, aim to give a speech every week. If that feels too stressful, increase the time between speeches. If that feels too easy, decrease the time between speeches.
Tip #3: Watch other extempers!
Humans are observational learners, which means that seeing other people do something—in this case, extemp—is incredibly helpful. Fortunately, the NSDA has final recordings from the 1980s through 2018 in both USX and IX. Here’s the IX link and here’s the USX link. You can also find extemp speeches on YouTube.
After watching these extemp speeches, take note of what each speaker did well and poorly. You should discover what elements of each performance you liked and combine those elements to create a version of extemp that is authentic to yourself.
I’d really like to emphasize that last point about authenticity. When watching these videos, your goal shouldn’t be to copy other extempers; instead, you should be focused on how you can learn from them. It’s a small, but important distinction.
Tip #4: Go through our presentations!
While reading the news is very helpful, it may not provide comprehensive context into broad issues. No news article, for example, can adequately cover a majority of Middle Eastern affairs.
To that end, I recommend checking out the presentations on our website. They cover everything from US Healthcare to the European Union. After going through these presentations, you should get a general idea of the varying forces behind different contemporary issues. When read in tandem with the news, you’ll truly get a better understanding of US and global affairs.
Tip #5: Drill baby drill!
While extempers may have mixed feelings over drills in extemp speaking, I personally think they’re a very useful tool. Indeed, drills are intellectually stimulating, can help improve your speaking, and offer extempers the convenience of not having to prepare a full speech.
Check out a full list of drills here.
Summer is the perfect time to become a better speaker, but it will require practice on your part. Through reading, speaking, drilling, going through presentations, and watching videos, you should hopefully emerge a better speaker by the end of August. If you’re looking for a specific schedule on how to practice each week, check out this article! It walks through a practice strategy for Spring Break, but many of its insights apply to summer. Good luck!