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At the third qualifier this past year my and a few of my friends decided to play a game we called impromptu bingo. To play the game we created a 5×5 bingo card of different actions we had to try to include in our limited prep speeches. This included things like opening a speech by yelling, singing, spinning in circles, making animal noises or getting the judges to laugh at your pain. Acknowledging that many of these actions would be really hard to work into our speeches smoothly, we all expected to do worse than normal in that tournament, but that’s not what happened. At the end me and my friends who were playing impromptu bingo took first, second and third in impromptu, and me and the one other person who filled out the entire card both got our best placings in impromptu ever at that tournament. In hindsight, I can see several reasons why impromptu bingo made our speeches so much better that tournament.  

Unique and engaging  

One thing impromptu made us do was try things that were way less common and way more engaging than normal. Starting our speeches by yelling at the judges or doing other crazy things got the judges attention and made us stand out from other speeches that started with a more typical opener. Overall, our speeches became far more unique and harder to forget.  

Over the past year I’ve discovered, if you can read through a speech like an essay and all your point are just as clear as if you had given your speech, then your speech has the potential to be more engaging. When you are giving a speech there is so much potential for you to use features of your delivery to make points and engage the audience. Use this potential! Run around. Jump up and down. Vary your tone from yelling to a whisper. Interp sections of your platforms and limited preps. You have the opportunity to do this in your speeches and it will get you judges attention. 

Got us out of our comfort zone 

For experienced impromptu speakers, it can be really easy to fall into somewhat of a rut in our speaking, where we go up and give the same style of speech round after round, and one thing I’ve found is sometimes judges can notice this. They can tell that even if they think your speech is pretty good, you couldn’t care less and for you this is just one of the many speeches you are going to give this season, but doing something a bit crazy in your speech can break you out of this cycle and put some of the original nerves and excitement back in impromptu that really comes across to judges that this isn’t just any old speech for you, it’s exciting for you too. And best of all, nothing builds your confidence like doing something crazy in the middle of your speech. 

How to implement it  

The ideas in impromptu bingo are useful, not just for impromptu, but any time you are speaking in front of others, because judges need to be engaged in debate and informative too. Try including some more unusual actions in your next speech. For platforms you can put some forethought in how to make it fit smoothly. And for limited preps you can use these as ideas when you are looking for content. One way to come up with more engaging actions to include in your speeches are to think through some of the more unusual things you can do with either your vocal or physical delivery, such as: 

Vocal delivery: 

  • Yell 
  • Whisper 
  • Stand there in silence 
  • Speak unnaturally slow 
  • Sing  
  • Talk in an accent or different voice 
  • Making animal noises or other forms of onomatopoeia 
  • Any other unusual vocal deliveries 

Physical delivery: 

  • Interp a section of a platform or limited prep 
  • Run around  
  • Jump up and down  
  • Spin  
  • Wave your hands above your head  
  • Anything else you want to try 

If you’re feeling daring and want to have some fun at the next tournament make your own impromptu bingo sheet including any of the items named in this article or anything else you want, from reciting poetry, to referencing memes. All it takes is a five by five grid and a little creativity. 

D. J. an economics major at North Carolina State University. Her debate philosophy is that debate should be fun for everyone, so keep it ethical so your opponent can enjoy the round, keep it entertaining so the judge enjoys it, and keep it lively and humorous so you can enjoy the round too.

To learn more about D. J. you can read her bio here: https://www.ethosdebate.com/djmendenhall/ or book coaching with her here: https://www.ethosdebate.com/xl-3/

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