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In the first publication of this series about impromptu, I explained how to effectively use the two minutes of prep time that each speaker is given. It is both a delicate and extremely intentional process that requires discipline and repeated practice to yield results, but once mastered, it is transformative to your ability to succeed as an impromptu competitor.

The next element for you to incorporate into your toolbox is typically referred to as “The Impromptu Notebook”. For some of y’all, this book may be a digital note on Google Keep or Notes on Apple. For me, this looked like a hand-held notebook with minimal tabs for organization. Inside was the key to my success.

The Impromptu Notebook consists of two main sections: the Story Log and the Outline List. This article will explain the Story Log…

This portion of your book contains quality stories that are genuinely captivating and cover a long range of topics. Generally speaking, a solid foundation for your notebook will include at least two or three stories on the following 5 topics:

  1. Personal Stories
    Personal stories are extremely important because they are the fastest way to connect your audience with yourself. One of the foundational pillars of success is relationships. Most of the time, however, the judges who are evaluating you do not actually know you as a person or are familiar with your personality. Incorporating personal stories into your notebook gives you a chance to relate yourself to your judges. Personal stories invite the listener to view you through a unique lens that builds a connection through relatable experiences.
  2. Current Events
    Current events can include a wide range of topics: Politics, Sports, Fashion, Science, etc.. The point here is two-fold. First, these types of stories demonstrate that your interests are well-rounded. As someone who may be your judge in the future, I can tell you through first-hand experience that a speaker who can incorporate stories from multiple, distinct, areas of their life will have a far greater appeal to me than a speaker who does not. The second main reason why current events can be a game changer to your impromptu success is because they can offer an element of surprise. Judges are far more likely to appreciate a speech if they had the pleasure of learning something new about the world. In addition to this, stories are a classic way to help instill a piece of information.
  3. Historical Figures
    For myself, this is, one of my favorite things to include in an impromptu speech. From the perspective of the audience, it demonstrates that you pay attention to the past and that you have the maturity to appreciate it. Some of the people that I incorporated into my notebook included Anne Frank, Louis Zamporini, and Billy Graham. If you are having trouble thinking of a person, then ask around for biography recommendations, pay attention to sermons or speeches and see if the speaker mentions someone, or you can also watch a biographical TedTalk:)
  4. Interesting Facts
    Sometimes, all it takes to reel back the attention of your audience is a classic, yet fascinating, fact. Did you know that butterflies smell with their feet? Did you know that Amazon sells 5 foot tall, inflatable, rubber duckies? Did you know that a full NASA space suit can cost $12,000,000? Interesting, right!? Think of ways that you can play around with these facts to help add dimension to your speech. One idea that I wish I would have done was to have played Two Truths and a Lie with my judges throughout my speech. In practice, I would have started out my speech announcing three facts (two of them true and the last one a lie) and then asked them to think about which one they believed to be the lie. At the end of the speech, I would reveal the lie. The three facts could be about yourself, plants, or even the government of Costa Rica! You name it, be creative!
  5. Stories from Others
    This is a solid idea to help expand your pool of stories. The next time you hear a speaker or a friend or anyone say something that you find to be captivating, write it down! Maybe your pastor opened up his sermon with an incredibly interesting story, or your friend just told you a hilarious event that he/she witnessed… the point is, if you hear something that entertains you, write it down and add it to the notebook later!

These five categories are not exhaustive. If you begin to find yourself using various stories that do not seem to find a place under one of these categories, then add a sixth!

The only thing left for you to do is purchase a notebook and start writing!


Jala Boyer has earned numerous 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place medals and competed at the NCFCA National Championship in five categories. As an intern on the Student Advisory Council of the NCFCA, Jala worked alongside the executive director, Kim Cromer, to learn the inner workings of competitive speech and debate, helping students create long-term and meaningful success. Jala is currently an Honors student at Liberty University studying communications with an emphasis in politics. To book a coaching session with Jala, follow this link https://www.ethosdebate.com/ coaching/book-coach/

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