It barely counts as a speech category, right? I mean, every time someone lists out the the speeches that they are competing in, they always end with, “Oh yeah, and I’m competing in impromptu“. It sometimes feels as if impromptu has been permanently identified as a second-class speech that people either do because their mother signed them up for it without any warning or because they just want to boost the number of speeches that they are competing in. Well, I’m here to tell you that this is not always the truth, especially for the competitors who are making podium finishes at tournaments in impromptu. Just like other speeches, a successful impromptu presentation involves a respectable amount of hard work and practice.
What does this preparation look like? That is the question that most competitors are stumped by and the reason for why impromptu is seen as a side-hustle when compared to other speeches. In this article, I want to start a mini series that will lay out some of the fundamentals behind how you can prepare for an impromptu speech the way that a champion would. This article start this series by establishing some strategic groundwork…
The first thing that we need to cover is what you should do with your 2 minutes of prep time. Below is a layout of how you can organize your prep time:
0:00 – 0:10: Select your topic. This part should not take you very long. Essentially, these ten seconds should cover the time it takes for you to draw your card and walk over to your seat as you read the topics that you can choose from. Within the first couple seconds of sitting down, you should have selected your topic. If this seems a bit overwhelming, take a deep breathe. I know that it might feel like there is a lot riding on this decision, and that if you choose the wrong topic you will mess everything up, but I am here to say that that is not true. Just select the topic that you feel like you can give the best speech on and trust that the success of your speech is not based on a minor decision at the beginning, instead, it is based on the rest of the two minutes…
0:10 – 0:30 – Create a thesis and select an outline. This is when you decide what you want to talk about in your speech and how you want to approach it. When developing your thesis, set a goal of making sure that it is roughly one sentence long. Another thing to consider is whether or not you want to make your speech an informative or a persuasive style; this will impact the nature of your thesis. You also want to try and leave room for some type of lasting impact. if your speech is persuasive, then this usually means a call to action, if your speech is informative, this usually means that you will be elaborating on an idea from a perspective that they likely have not heard before. Once you have selected your thesis, you need to choose an outline that best develops your thesis. To do this step correctly, you should be familiar with roughly five to seven different organizational patterns that you can use in the speech. We will cover this in more depth in later articles, but essentially, in your practice time before the tournament, you should have spent some time memorizing different outlines that you can use.
0.30 – 0.45 – Develop your first point. With your outline in mind, begin to think about what you want to discuss in your first point. Ask yourself, “What is the main thought that I need to communicate in this point to help develop my thesis”. Upon asking this question, things that you can consider using to develop your thesis within this point include things like jokes, stories, principles, and ideas. Don’t stress about it to hard. You do have something to say and this point is important to help the judge understand your message.
0.45 – 1.00 – Develop your second point. Repeat the same process that is listed above
1.00 – 1.15 – Develop your third point (if relevant). Repeat the same process that is listed above. If the outline that you choose does not include a second point, then you are free to reallocate this time to think about a different step of your speech.
1.15 -1.30 – Create your intro and conclusion. Now that you know what the meat of your speech will be about you can decide how you want to begin your speech. Classic options for how you can do this include things like stories, questions, or jokes. When you are working on your conclusion, it is traditionally assumed that you will reference some part of your intro. As you decide what part of your intro you want to emphasize, consider how you can do this in a way that helps to develop your thesis.
1.30 – 2.00 – Review. You have thirty seconds left and now it is time for you to review everything you just thought about. Keep note here that there is a high chance that you probably took a little bit of extra time to complete one of the early parts of this outline so you will more likely have around fifteen to twenty seconds. As you are reviewing your speech, be sure to run through each of the different sections of you speech and what you want to say
Alright! Time the time is up and now you are ready to give you award-winning impromptu speech!
This is very helpful! Thanks Jala!
Recommendations for future articles: The most important components of a good impromptu speech, I have found, are personal impacts — both to me and to the judge. This means telling personal stories AND giving the judge something tangible to walk away with. Convince them to physically do something. Challenge your audience. A speech that does nothing but talk about a random topic will be exactly the same as the other seven speeches and no better.
It also helps if the speech is funny, and being conversation and not stumbling seem to really boost your score.
I like using a 3-4 letter acronym as my roadmap, whereas my fallback if I can’t think of an acronym is “Lessons for me” and “Lessons for you” (what I have learned, what you should do)
Thats a great thought! I’ll look into creating an article on that topic!
Thank you so much for this helpful article! I’m really looking to improve my limited prep speaking skills, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the articles in this series! 😀
I have one question: all of this is really great information on effectively managing prep time, but how should I practically work on improving my ability to do so? Do you just practice trying to do each step in the allotted amount of time until your brain can do it that quickly, or are there others methods you’d recommend to implement these tactics?
Hey Sidney! Great Question! That is one way that you can practice! I would also recommend looking at the 4th article in this series! It gives some useful tips on how to practice impromptu:)