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In my opinion, Extemporaneous speaking is the most technical speech in NCFCA/Stoa. Sure, if you’re doing a digital presentation or an expository, then your speech might involve more technology, but barring that, Extemp requires you to learn technical skills that no other speech incorporates. 

The main factor that contributes towards success in Extemp is, of course, your ability to speak well and communicate your ideas effectively. But equally important, in my opinion, is your expertise with researching in prep time. I’ve watched/heard of countless times where the competitor gave a sub-par speech because they didn’t know enough about the topic or couldn’t find enough sources. 

How does one combat this?

To start, you have to put significant time into mastering your research platform. What many competitors don’t realize is that searching on Extemp Genie/Prepd is very different from searching on Google or another search engine. This is for two main reasons. 

First, the search engine built into your software is nowhere near as powerful as the algorithms and servers behind Google, Bing, or DuckDuckGo. 

Second, the amount and type of articles are much more limited when using your debate software. Extemp Genie and Prepd work by downloading hundreds of thousands of articles to your computer from sources that you pick. That’s nothing compared to the billions (if not trillions) of articles Google has access to, and many of them are from sources that you wouldn’t think to add to Extemp Genie. 

You still need to find your sources though, so to combat these limitations, you have to learn to think like a computer. This is true for general research as well, but it’s especially critical in Extemp when AI-powered search engines don’t have your back. 

When considering how to phrase your query, you have to think about how the computer will recognize the text and try to find the articles. A search like “who will win the Florida governor’s race” will return all sorts of results that you don’t want like: 

  • articles about governors of other states besides Florida 
  • articles that mention Florida somewhere in there but have nothing to do with elections
  • articles about track and field races in Florida that happen to have the word governor in there. 

If you weren’t convinced before, you should now be certain that computers are stupid. A better search query would be something along the lines of “Florida State governor elections 2022”. It contains no extra words, and the query is crafted so that you’re more likely to get the exact results you want. Now the computer knows that you’re talking about governor elections in the state of Florida, in 2022. You might still get some unrelated articles (in fact, you will) but it should be substantially less. 

Some other tools you can use are the date range constraints (look for articles only from a certain time period) or the “includes all of” or “include none of these words” boxes, which help narrow down your search. 

Cutting down on search time in Extemp is really important, the more pertinent information you are able to peruse in prep time, the more knowledgeable your speech will be and it should boost your confidence. Make sure you’re not ignoring the hard skills. Learn the ropes of your debate software. 

Nathanael Morgan is a sophomore at the Saint Constantine College in Houston, Texas. As an accomplished debater with 3 years of competitive experience in Stoa and numerous awards, he enjoys researching and coaching others. He is studying to be a cybersecurity analyst and currently works for a telecommunications company based in Wisconsin.
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