Starting an Extemp Team: Practices

In this article, Ananth Veluvali breaks down how you, as a captain, can run practices for your extemp team. This will be Part 2 in a longer series about starting, managing, and leading your team.

In the first part of this series, we discussed how to recruit new members for you speech or debate team. But once you’ve recruited, you may be wondering: what now?

The answer is that you need to start practicing! That can be easier said than done, though, as many extempers are unable to decide what they ought to cover in their extemp practices. Below is a list of ideas that could help you run more effective practices!

Suggestion #1: Practice Speeches

Extemp is, at its core, an activity that requires practice. Indeed, successful extempers on the national circuit will often given dozens of practice speeches in the run-up to big tournaments like NSDA Nationals or the TOC.

While delivering practice speeches isn’t an effective strategy for every extemper, it does a good job of helping most extempers elevate their speaking skills.

During practices, it’s advisable to give one or two practice speeches a week (and likely more in preparation for important tournaments), so you can guarantee that your team never feels rusty while actually competing.

There are two types of practice speeches you can give. If you’re looking to master the fundamentals of extemp, you might want to take more than the allotted 30 minutes and work on crafting the “perfect” (or at the very least, near-perfect) extemp speech. This helps you discover what your ceiling is as an extemper and what you should focus on.

If you’re looking for something more similar to actual tournaments, try giving a few practice speeches with only 30 minutes of preparation. This will give you a more realistic representation of how you’ll perform at the tournament. Either way, you can’t go wrong!

Suggestion #2: Reading and Discussion

Extemp covers a wide breadth of issues. Topics—both in the United States and abroad—pertaining to culture, politics, economics, technology, and science are all fair game for potential questions you might draw.

Team practices that are centered around readings and discussions of these topics could help ensure that team members have the knowledge to speak on nearly any question that comes their way.

If you’re looking for educational materials that provide more general topic knowledge—that is, materials that assess the history and fundamentals surrounding a certain topic area—you can check out the Camp Resources page of our website. While some of its materials have become outdated because of the fast-paced nature of contemporary affairs, many of its insights are still applicable today. Check it out!

Suggestion #3: Drills

A good captain or coach will also recognize when extempers need a break from full practice speeches. Taking 30 minutes to prepare a speech, then 7 minutes to deliver that speech, and potentially many more minutes revising that speech can be tiring!

This is where drills come into play. They can help extempers target certain areas they need to work on, while not causing the same exhaustion a full practice speech might. Plus, if you’re ever crunched for time, drills could be very useful!

Curious what drills to run with your team? Check out a list we published here!

By Ananth Veluvali

Founder, the Extemper's Bible.

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