It’s a simple truth that oftentimes, if we choose to make life a little bit harder for ourselves in the short term, it becomes a lot easier in the long term. In my opinion, the impromptu speech event is a perfect illustration of this. It’s an incredibly daunting event that sometimes requires a lot of nerve (depending on how introverted you are) but always requires quick thinking. However, the payoffs are absolutely enormous.
Several Ethos bloggers have recently offered tips on impromptu, with excellent articles such as this one that go far more in depth than I plan to in this article. I have two main thoughts that I would like to share on the subject, and if thoughts are indeed worth a penny then I guess you could call this my two cents on the topic. The first idea is directed towards anyone who does not have impromptu as an event that they’ve decided to compete in at every tournament, and the second idea is directed towards those who have.
Make Impromptu Part of Your Regular Tournament Schedule
So, you’ve never competed in impromptu before. Or maybe you do compete in the event or have competed in it, but you don’t consistently at every tournament. If this is indeed the case for you, I would encourage you to rethink, to “Reform your current policies regarding impromptu competition,” if you will. The way I see it, competing in impromptu in every tournament has two major benefits.
First, it allows you to get the most out of an event that allows you to benefit enormously in the real world. As Kyle wrote in one of his articles, it pushes your thinking and speaking to the absolute maximum. Every speech event offers its own unique benefits, but the benefits offered by impromptu are the ones that will stay with you the longest and help you the most. Maybe you have a captivating speaking style developed by prepared speeches, but that doesn’t help you as much as impromptu does when you are asked an unexpected question during a job interview. Even the other limited prep events, as helpful as they may be for understanding current events and defending your faith, do not prepare you for such a range of subjects in the way that impromptu does.
This is why I would encourage you to make impromptu the last event that you would ever drop. Even if you need to drop a speech so as to not go over the maximum allowed, try to sacrifice other speeches if it is at all possible. Impromptu is so valuable, I cannot stress it enough. But, the real world benefits are only the first reason why I would recommend that you make impromptu a regular part of your tournament schedule. The second reason is that it can help you perform better in your other events.
My very first year in the league, I received a lot of comments on my debate ballots like this one: “do impromptu, it’ll help with thinking on the fly.” And boy, were those judges right. After I began competing in impromptu, the skills I learned caused my speaker points to soar. And then, foolish person that I am, I chose to drop the event during my third year. I thought that removing speech events would give me more time and energy to focus on debate, allowing me to perform better, but this didn’t happen. While the season was successful, I firmly believe that I could have performed better with impromptu as a part of my schedule. But this principle doesn’t just apply to debate: I think that impromptu boosts your performance in every other speech event, when you cross-apply the skills that you learn.
Make Impromptu Harder On Yourself
So, maybe the previous section didn’t apply to you. Maybe you compete in impromptu at virtually every tournament. If that’s the case, and you’re willing to go hardcore, I’ve got an idea for you, to help you squeeze even more juice out of the event. Try taking less prep time. The less prep you allow yourself, the faster your brain is trained to think. Start doing it for practice speeches at club: force yourself to give the speech after only 1.5 or 1 minute of prep. If you adapt to it, you could use even less time, or possibly even do it during actual tournament rounds.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished that more leagues had options for true impromptu: no prep, you just receive a topic and start speaking. Sure, it means a less elegant speech, but it also teaches true on the fly thinking where you build every part of your speech as you give it. Alternatively, you could use the more difficult of the two potential topics, to further push yourself out of your comfort zone. The harder you make things for yourself, the more you’re going to get out of them, and the better prepared you’ll be for the future. Remember: life doesn’t give you prep time.