Which is a better movie: Avengers: Endgame, or The Shawshank Redemption? Endgame is far more action packed, funnier, and grossed more at the box office. Despite this fact, most would argue that Shawshank is a better movie overall. How so? Good movies are fun to watch, but great movies leave you with something. In other words, impact carries a lot of weight.
Obviously, what I’m trying to highlight here is that impact is just as important to consider while writing and delivering speeches as it is while playing the part of a film critic. The “impact” section on your ballot is by far the most important, more so even than your ranking. As Christian communicators, our primary goal is to be a mouthpiece that God uses to speak to our judges’ hearts. Realistically, no one will remember the one liners you deliver and characters you play in your speeches. But if you’re lucky, your speech may be a method that God uses to change someone’s heart, consciously or unconsciously.
In my personal experience, extemporaneous is an especially difficult speech category to impact. Sometimes, it seems impossible for a topic about overseas energy companies or domestic voter attitudes to have any kind of meaningful message. To further complicate matters, the questions asked are specific to the point where giving a personal impact may feel like a deviation from the rest of the speech.
Difficult, But Important
While it may be tricky to impact an extemp speech, I don’t think that we shouldn’t try. There are valuable skills to be learned from extemp other than giving applications, but it’s a far better use of your judges’ time when you choose to include them. Using the topic of national debt as an opportunity to discuss the danger of personal debt, or using an example of government overreach in a foreign country as a warning about our own government may require a slight branching out from the question on your card, but improves the overall quality of your speech by leaps and bounds.
All good extempers answer the question they are given, but great extempers do more. They use their specific topic to illustrate a broader principle. To do this, you have to be a bit self aware. You’re not the President at a press conference, but rather a high schooler speaking on a random concept with 20 minutes of offline prep. The reality is that life will go on regardless of how well you answer the topic, but you have the opportunity to illustrate a greater idea that will matter to your audience for far longer than the 7 minutes that you speak.
A Christian Worldview
If you’re an NCFCAer reading this, you may have questions about a recent change to ballots that expects extemp speeches to be given from a Christian worldview. To clarify, the official word from the NCFCA is not that God must be mentioned in your speech, but rather that it needs to be delivered from the perspective of a Christian. If your topic is about the Doomsday Clock, it’s not too difficult to bring God into the issue, but the NCFCA understands that not every topic lends itself to such connection. I believe the intent behind the change is not that you weave a connection between Jesus and tariffs (a Christian perspective on tariffs is probably not at all different from the worldly perspective) but rather to encourage Biblical impact where possible and to discourage heretical analysis.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure if this intent has made its way to the judging pool. I’ve been dinged on several ballots for not using “a Christian worldview,” despite all perspectives being those of a Christian (myself). This misunderstanding is completely understandable, in my opinion. Many of us are used to receiving news from Christian sources such as World News or The Briefing where God and the Bible are explicitly mentioned, so it isn’t surprising to me that judges would expect to see the same connections drawn in our speeches.
Hopefully, this will be clarified and remedied in the future (I will probably email the league regarding the issue, and I’d encourage you to do so as well. They really do listen.), but until then be careful to not impact to the Bible for the sake of a higher ranking. Impacting is so important, but it ought to be done for the right reasons.
Jeremiah Mosbey is a current NCFCA-er who competes at the national level. Formerly a policy debater, he made the switch and is enjoying the new experience of value debate. Debate aside, he competes in a variety of speech events with an emphasis on Platform and Limited Prep. He’s extremely involved in the speech and debate community, crediting much of his growth as a high school-er to the lessons learned and relationships made through NCFCA. Jeremiah loves helping younger competitors and watching them gain the same love for the activity that he has.