Category: Strategy Page 1 of 2

Strategy: Five Ways to Improve the Organization of Your File Boxes

Since extemporaneous speaking is a limited preparation event, it is crucial that extempers be as organized as possible.  This is very crucial when it comes to filing.  Extemp files that are unorganized are not useful and greatly hamper the chances of an extemper to do well at a tournament.

To help novice and veteran extempers alike, Extemp Central presents five tips that can make your file boxes more organized and effective.

Answering “How” Questions

by Logan Scisco

Most of the people reading this strategy piece are extempers who have at least one tournament under their belt.  If you fall into this category, and assuming that you are attending a tournament that has only two preliminary rounds, you know that over the course of said tournament you are presented with at least six different questions during preliminary rounds, of which you will choose two to speak on.  If you are an astute extemper, you might remember the questions that you drew at tournaments or at practice sessions so far this season.  Take a moment to reflect on questions that you have run into thus far.  What did they ask you to do?  After pondering this for a moment consider this:  you can usually tell what an extemp question wants you to do by looking at the first word of the question.  For example, a “can” question asks you to assess whether a certain event is going to take place while a “should” question asks you to make a judgment about whether doing something is right or wrong.

Editor’s Corner: The Significance Statement

By Logan Scisco

Of all of the techniques speakers use in extemporaneous speaking, I would argue that one that nearly half of extempers fail to employ is the significance statement.  I will admit that for the first two years that I competed in the event I had no idea what a significance statement was and it was only by competing at CFL and NFL Nationals that I saw speakers using it.  However, a significance statement is arguably the most important piece of the introduction as it gives your speech a sense of urgency and can establish as powerful a connection with the audience as an effective attention getting device (AGD).

A significance statement is simply a statement in the introduction that comes after you have given some background information on your question.  This statement, which is only a sentence (although sometimes it can be stressed to two) describes why your topic is so important that we must find an answer to it.  As a judge, one of the questions that always lingers in my mind when an extemper starts speaking on an issue is why they chose the question.  After all, in draw they had three questions to choose from so why did they choose this topic to speak on?  What made this issue so relevant/urgent that they needed to give a speech on it for their audience?  These are the questions that the significance statement needs to answer.

Before I clarify further I need to debunk one myth about the significance statement.  The significance statement does not always need to be a source in the introduction.  Sometimes it can be analytic based (without a source).  Similarly, all sources in the introduction is not a significance statement.  You may have a source that identifies the rate of U.S. employment, how fast the U.S. economy grew last quarter, or how many Democrats voted against the healthcare bill but if you do not tell the audience why those issues are relevant to your question they cease to have meaning.  Also, if you fail to explain why they are important in the “big picture” and why the audience should care about them they cease to have meaning.

Extemp Roundtable

exfilesept09-01with Nicholas Cugini, Mark Royce, Logan Scisco, Rob Warchol

Extemp Roundtable is a new addition to The Ex Files for this season.  In this column a panel of recognized extempers will examine a question that could come up in a future round and they will reveal their feelings and how they would tackle the question if it was posed to them in a round.

This issues panel is made up of the following individuals:

Nicholas Cugini placed third in United States Extemp at the 2009 NFL National tournament.  Last season, we was also the winner of United States Extemp at the St. Mark’s Heart of Texas Invitational and was a finalist at the MBA Round Robin and the International Extemp tournament at St. Mark’s.  He attended Cypress Ridge High School in Texas and was coached by Scott Baker.  In the fall, Nicholas will attend Yale University.

Mark Royce was the runner-up in International Extemp in 2002.  He coached at Montgomery Bell Academy, and is now a Ph.D. candidate in political science at George Mason University.

Logan Scisco was the national final round champion of United States Extemp at the 2003 NFL National tournament.  He was a four-time national finalist in extemp while competing for Danville High School in Kentucky and for Western Kentucky University.  He currently coaches for Boone County High School in Kentucky and for Western Kentucky University, where he is pursuing a masters degree in history.

Rob Warchol competed for Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngtown, Ohio. With the help of Karen Wright, he was a 3 time state qualifier, and a 2 time national qualifier in United States Extemp. He placed 7th at the 2009 NFCL National Tournament and 8th at the 2009 NFL National Tournament. Rob is continuing his extemp career under Jason Warren at George Mason University, where he plans on majoring in Government and International Politics, with an aspiration of law school.

Elements of Style for the Modern Extemper Now Available As a Printed Edition!

Logan Scisco’s extemporaneous speaking textbook, Elements of Style for the Modern Extemper, is now available for saleelements as a printed edition.  This is meant to satisfy customers who would prefer a physical copy over a digital copy.  The textbook breaks down extemporaneous speaking structure, delivery style, details cross-examination techniques, drills to improve, and much more.

Extempers who prefer a digital copy can buy it for $20. For printed editions, the cost will be $27.50 to take into account standard shipping, binding, and copying charges.

The items are currently available from the SpeechGeek store.

On Developing Style

buzzBy: Sebastian Pyrek

Being a speaking event, extemp relies not only on substance but also on style. The process of becoming better at the event is an uphill struggle, with each step becoming more difficult to grasp than the previous, but yet there is something that many extempers will overlook or save for very end that could be developed earlier along with the other facets of the event: style. Observing the final rounds of the higher extemp championships demonstrates the varied styles that each speaker has, and these varied styles reach the final because they work well at uniquely setting the speaker apart in prelims and outrounds. But don’t let yourself think that completely emulating these styles will land you the championship spot at the state or national level. The point behind the event is about finding a way to place yourself into the information, and this is the way that developing a style should be viewed.

NSDA Roundtable

strategyThe NFL national tournament is where extemp legends are made.  With a format of thirteen rounds, two differentiated forms of extemp, three rounds of cross examination, a final round that takes place in front of hundreds of people, and $6,000 in scholarship money going to the winner, NFL is an experience unlike any other.

To provide a preview for this tournament, Extemp Central has brought together three national finalists to discuss their preparation for the tournament and the work that had to be done in the trenches to get them onto the national final stage.

NSDA National Tournament Psychology

strategyBy Omar Qureshi[1]

Nowhere will you find a bunch of 250 extempers more competitive than at the NFL National Tournament. There is not a competition that matches its size, depth, or prestige.

With emotions running high, there is no better piece of advice than to just relax. Regardless of how many people are there, the goal is still very much the same: to give the best extemp speech you can give every round. It is prudent to consider the tournament as something outside of you. It exists outside of your paper, pens, boxes, and the prep room. From the time you pick your topic to the time you give your speech, all that exists is the event. In that zone nothing else matters. It matters not how good the speeches were in your room. It matters only that yours is a dedicated reflection of your ability as an extemper.

Can Do and Don’ts: A Discussion of Canned Intros in Extemp


OMAR: First of all, I believe that discussion of introductions in extemp will continue until the end of time. They call on ideological differences in the school of thought on extemp so it will never be easily resolved. That being said I recall a conversation I had with NFL National Champion Spencer Rockwell, where we came to the agreement that it doesn’t matter where and when someone comes up with an introduction so long as it pertains directly to the topic. Whether that be a minute before the round or at home three months before.

HUNTER: Thus far, I agree with my friend. However, once we delve deeper into the issue, he and I come to some serious disagreements about what is kosher and what is not in terms of how far developed the idea should be before a tournament.

OMAR: When it comes to the event of extemp, I believe that everything must be intrinsically rooted to the topic. A good speaker should read a substantial amount of material before tournament time and think about  particular areas of analysis from his/her reading. Just like preparation should be used with evidence and analysis I think good preparation includes introductions. This isn’t to say I advocate a “canned” intro. Rather, I am in favor of developing the concept of an intro and perhaps even giving it in the practice speech setting if it has a clear and direct link to the topic at hand. I think it is important I clarify what I mean by a link to the topic.  A link to the topic means that the subject of the introduction is explicitly the topic area. For example a funny story about Yulia Tymoshenko that a  speaker read about a month before the round and made into an intro could be used perfectly in a Ukraine speech because it is tied directly to the topic. I think that is a mark of a well prepared extemper.

HUNTER: Well, Omar and I got to the disagreements before I estimated we would.  As I said earlier, I am not against “coming up with” and intro before a tournament. To me, though, that means something entirely different than what Omar was hinting at.

To me, the development of an intro should stop entirely after the initial brainstorming. Going back to the Tymoshenko example, if a speaker read said article and thought, “Hm… that could be a funny intro…” I have no problem with that. However, if that speaker read the article and then began to plan what they would say/how they would say it and then began to practice it, that is where I would take offense. To me, the practice of the intro, or the development thereof beyond the brainstorming, perverts the event and turns it into more of an oration and less of a limited prep event.

OMAR: Allow me to apologize for not smoothly delving into our disagreements.  Hunter is far more subtle than I am, and I feel it is his punishment for allowing me to begin the conversation. I believe that the nature of extemporaneous speaking is dynamic- that is to say it changes with every speech every day- and it requires a dedicated focus of preparation. While I do agree that extemp must be a limited preparation event, I strongly believe that extemp tournaments are won outside of the tournament itself.  I think that coming up with an intro beforehand that pertains to a topic actually enhances the event. It places a focus on preparation. Instead of perversing the event, as Hunter noted, I believe it shows the most prepared speakers. Just like quality analysis shows the most prepared speakers in the gathering and reading of evidence. I feel like an introduction is an extension of the preparation before the limited preparation. Despite sounding redundant, I strongly believe that this event is bent upon preparation as I am sure Hunter agrees. I don’t see a problem with fully developing an introduction and practicing it. It will change with every speech and become better. Showing a true mastery of the event itself, not a butchery of it. I mean eventually the introduction will be fully thought out-
why not earlier than later?

Keeping Their Attention: A Judging Analysis

strategyby Colin West

Every extemper has, at some point, received a ballot after a tournament and wondered “was my judge even listening to my speech?” I know I have. But now that I have moved from the realm of high school competition into the pool of college judges, I can tell you the answer. They weren’t listening. At least, not to all of it.

Of course it is rarely the case that judges are simply tuning out for long passages of your speech. More likely, they are distracted by writing comments on your ballot, by trying to remember what time signal to give next, or because you said something so clever that it caused them to spontaneously recall an article they read in last month’s New Yorker. But the result is the same:  a few seemingly random moments from your speech will have a great deal of influence on your final score; the rest is simply background.

What this means for you, as a competitor, is that you need to think more like your teacher does when he or she prepares a lesson plan. After all, it’s not easy to get teenagers to focus on anything for more than 15 seconds, unless “Pimp My Ride” and “Panic! At the Disco” are somehow both simultaneously involved. Applying this strategy starts at the very top of your outline, with the intro. Of course, it’s a well-known fact that the introduction serves as an “attention getter.” But such devices generally serve as just this and nothing more: they grab the judge’s attention momentarily, but relinquish it moments later when the speaker moves on to more substantive (read as: “boring”) issues.

The Shark, The Guppy, and the Jobber

strategyby Hunter Kendrick

People who know me realize that I do not mince words. I say what I am thinking at the moment I think it. For example, I once remarked to my coach in practice that, “So many of the world’s problems could be solved with a handgun and a well-placed café waiter,” (a viewpoint I would not recommend espousing in a round). Sometimes my candidness is good, other times people hate me. But, at least I am honest and upfront.  Now and then, the people I express my opinions to are somewhat surprised at the words that flow forth from my mouth. One such incident happened at the 2007 NFL National Tournament.

The conversation occurred sometime between the octafinals rounds and the semifinals postings for US Extemp. The conversation involved me and a good friend of mine, Jack Grennan, from North Alleghany Senior High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Jack had asked me a very simple question. My answer, however, wasn’t as simple.

“Do you think that (name has been omitted for obvious reasons) will do well?”

“Oh yeah, he’s a shark.”

“A shark?”


“Ok, ok… What about (see above parentheses)?”

“Hell no.”


“He’s a guppy.”

“A guppy…”

Impacting – It’s THAT Important

strategyby Sebastian Pyrek

The typical extemper probably has multiple areas in which he/she needs to improve in to reach ultimate perfection, be it delivery, knowledge base, or anything out of the myriad of qualities that makes the ‘good’ extemper good. One thing that is arguably the most important is analysis, because we are answering a question, and our ranks depend directly on this answer. Also, after a season, having only 7 minutes to speak is a curse – it is difficult to gather a focus and be deliberate in what we want to say. This is where impacting can come in and save the common extemper and add a whole new dimension of organization to a speech.

Strategy: Question Analysis

by Jonathan Carter


What is the first rule of extemp? Answer the question.  In the majority of rounds if you are able to answer the question, you will be one of the top extempers in the round.  When I say answer the question, I mean this very specifically.  Answer every aspect of the question, don’t just use it as a prompt to talk about what you want to discuss.  Because answering the question is so important, this brief is going to explain how to break down a question so that you know exactly what it is asking.  Once you know this, you can formulate a speech that is a direct answer.  Away we go, into how to answer the question land.

Alternate (Sub)Structure? Yeah Right

strategyBy Omar Qureshi

An Extemper’s dilemma

Extemporaneous speaking is perhaps the most demanding of all forensics activities. It requires the research skills of a policy debater, the theory of a Lincoln-Douglas debater, and the speaking of a polished orator.  However, there are a few key differences between extemporaneous speaking and the previously mentioned events.  The first of which being that in extemporaneous speaking there is no one arguing against the speaker (barring a round with a built in cross examination period), thus a speaker must sufficiently address all arguments in order to have a complete persuasive presentation.  The extemporaneous speech is more analytically demanding than an oratory, and its topics change every round.  Perhaps, the most vital difference is the fact that an extemporaneous speaker only has seven minutes and just one speech to relay to the judge a message.  The speech must include analysis that is as deep-if not more so- than a debate case, while speaking well and engrossing the judge.  For unlike a debater an extemporaneous speaker doesn’t have the option to speed up to include all of his/her information.  This brings up an overbearing burden on the modern speaker: how to most efficiently include arguments while not increasing the rate of delivery.

The clearest way to resolve this issue is to use substructure.  Despite the way that this word strikes fear in the hearts of speakers across the nation, it is actually quite beneficial.  Unfortunately, it seems that the world of extemporaneous speaking has been burdened with adherence to the universal two sub point formula.  This format is highly unspecific and maybe a hindrance to effectively answering a question.   The following paper will seek to resolve this particular quagmire by addressing three specific types of substructure with direct application to extemporaneous speaking.

How IR Theory Can Cure Your IX Problems

by Hunter Kendrick

What am I Missing?

Let’s face it: there is no such thing as a perfect speech. Competing in an innumerable amount of rounds has taught me one thing – the winner isn’t the immaculate speaker, but the speaker who makes the fewest mistakes. Of course, you can always “cover-up” what mistakes you do make by wowing the judges in other areas. And, perhaps the easiest way to wow your audience is to have complex analysis.

Whether you’re a seasoned champion or someone completely new to the event, it’s clear to all that extemp gets “deep.” What I mean is that a speech is not just a collection of random facts, it is the weaving of those facts together into a cohesive answer to the question. Competitors and audience members are often looking for the “deeper meaning” or the “connection.” Sometimes it is easy to find the connection, other times it takes more effort. But, when discussing international relations, it is actually easier to find that deeper meaning than most people seem to believe at first. And, successfully finding those themes (and incorporating them correctly into a speech) can be the jumpstart a speaker needs to propel them towards success.

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