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Practicing Before Big Tournaments

In this article, Ananth Veluvali provides a strategy for practicing before big tournaments.

The old adage “practice makes perfect” certainly applies to extemp. Indeed, extemp is a demanding activity, and one that requires mastery of oratorical, rhetorical, and research-related skills.

However, to quote staff member and nationally-acclaimed extemper Katelyn Cai, “figuring out an effective practice schedule for extemp can be a challenging task.”

This is especially true for bigger tournaments, whether it’s a national-circuit competition or a state championship, where questions like how often should you practice, what should you practice, and when should you start practicing are often-asked by competitors eager to perform well.

Below is an easy-to-digest routine to help you practice in the run-up to important tournaments. You may notice that it has both a 3 day schedule and a 5 day schedule. This is to accommodate extempers who may not be able to fit in 5 days of practice a week. You also also notice that I suggest to practice in tournament conditions. This simply means that you should approach a speech as you would at a tournament. Give yourself 30 minutes of prep time, make sure youe speech is around 7 minutes long, and either record yourself or have a coach/friend watch so you can gather feedback.

Oh, and one last thing: take this routine with a grain of salt. What works for one extemper may not work for another, so feel free to modify this practice schedule as you see fit.

5-6 weeks before big tournament

3 day schedule

  • 1 day: Structured research and topic discussion
  • 1 day: Outline & deliver “perfect speech” with focus on substructure
  • 1 day: Practice in tournament conditions

5 day schedule

  • 1 day: Structured research, filing, topic discussion
  • 1 day: Drills, AGD/on-top brainstorming, “mini-speech” with intro & one point
  • 2 days: outline & deliver “perfect speech” with focus on substructure
  • 1 day: practice in tournament conditions

3-4 Weeks before big tournament

3 Day Schedule

  • 2 days: practice in tournament conditions
  • 1 day, choose from the following:
    • Structured research & topic discussion (if baseline knowledge is your weak point)
    • Outlining (if analysis/substructure is your weak point)
    • Drills  AGDs (if delivery is your weak point)

5 Day Schedule

  • 1 day: Structured research & topic discussion
  • 2 days: Practice in tournament conditions
  • 2 days, choose from the following:
    • 2 days outlining (if analysis is your weak point)
    • 1 day outlining and 1 day drills/AGDs (if delivery/personality is your weak point)

1-2 Weeks Before Tournament

3 Day Schedule:

  • Practice in tournament conditions every day
  • Try really, really hard to find ONE more day to add to your schedule

5 Day Schedule:

  • 1 day: Free Choice
    • Research/Topic Discussion
    • Drills/AGDs
    • Outline
  • 4 days: Practice in tournament conditions

By Ananth Veluvali

Founder, the Extemper's Bible.

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