Delivery Strategy

The Benefits of Impromptu

In this article, Mukta Dharmapurikar discusses how extempers can best utilize Impromptu Speaking to strengthen their speeches, all with the help of some memes!

There are two camps of extempers who do impromptu. One takes impromptu as seriously as any other event, spending hours practicing ahead of time and putting together examples. The other is pretty much the exact opposite, spending most of their practice time coming up with memes about the event. Most of us fall into the latter, but even though impromptu is sometimes hard to take seriously, it can actually be a valuable experience, especially for extempers who are just starting out. 

Impromptu Speaking is an event where students are typically given seven minutes total to prepare and deliver a speech in response to a prompt. Prompts can be quotes, comics, movies, characters, foods, abstract concepts, or pretty much anything else under the sun! Most speakers split their time into 2 minutes to prepare their speech (usually structured similarly to extemp, with an intro, thesis, 2-3 points, and a conclusion) and 5 minutes to deliver it. The short preparation time can make impromptu a daunting event when first starting out, but after overcoming the initial barriers, double-entering in impromptu can come with a lot of benefits! To name just a few…

Impromptu Improves Fluency

A common fluency struggle

Fluency is the ability to deliver a speech smoothly, minimizing stuttering and stumbling. Of course, it’s impossible to have perfect fluency, but with a lot of practice, strong extempers are able to get pretty darn close. Research, analysis, and personality are all important in extemp, but there’s few elements that are as critical as fluency. It provides a baseline for a speech that is clear, precise, polished, and easy to follow. Whether a judge is more delivery-focused or analysis-focused, whether they’re a seasoned coach or a parent, whether they come from a policy or interp background, they’re unlikely to rank a speaker who isn’t fluent very highly.

As a result, strengthening fluency is essential, especially for speakers who are just beginning in extemp. Impromptu can really help with this. There’s no better way to improve your fluency than to be forced to start talking with only 2-3 minutes of preparation! Impromptu drills and speeches force the speaker to think up new ideas–and ways to express them–on the spot even more than extemp does. After delivering numerous successful impromptu speeches, maintaining fluency in an extemp speech feels like a piece of cake! 

Impromptu Strengthens Analysis

So you have to come up with an example on the fly!

In extemp, it’s important to go beyond just listing facts and statistics. Providing concrete examples for the judge can make a speech much easier to grasp. These can include historical scenarios where a policy solution has been used, geopolitical relationships that are parallel to the ones you’re describing, or even analogies from everyday life!

Impromptu provides practice thinking of examples that are strong, substantive, and most importantly, relevant to the judge. In fact, giving current events or politics-centered impromptu speeches can be a great way to practice if you don’t have time to give a full extemp speech! Focusing on putting together a powerful AGD, engaging transitions, and illustrative examples can help extempers get out of a citation-focused mindset and develop stronger storytelling skills. Once the sources are added back in, it’s amazing to see how much increasing your use of examples can supplement and strengthen your analysis!

Impromptu Develops Stamina

Stamina is essential in extemp: rounds are long, questions are often tough and confusing, and you have to refresh yourself on a completely new topic with every speech! Double-entering in impromptu can be a nice way to get more practice and make the best of each tournament without burning out. It helps you get used to back-to-back rounds and warm up your speaking before an extemp round. While it might seem like giving impromptu speeches could tire you out between rounds, they actually can often be very energizing, because they’re short enough to give you some practice speaking while not feeling like a burden.

So…you should try out impromptu!

Double-entering in impromptu can be a really fun way to improve your extemp skills, meet new people, and distract you from the stress of tournaments. Even for novice extemporaneous speakers, it’s not too daunting to start and can help speed up your progress in extemp. There’s also, of course, the obvious benefit: you could win an award! 

If you’d like to learn more, below is a list of resources to get started in impromptu and impromptu-like drills for extemp. No matter which impromptu camp you fall into–the preparers or the memers–try some of these out to help get you started! Who knows, maybe you’ll even find yourself coming up with some new memes…

Impromptu Resources:

AGD Tips

Extemp Drill List

NSDA Prompts

Creating a Database

Final Round Videos


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