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Event Overviews and Resources 6: Extemporaneous Speaking (Feat. YuYu Yuan and Jean-Luc Willson)

Welcome to A Long Winter's Clap: 12 Days of Speech and Debate Event Overviews and Resources. Today we are taking on Extemporaneous Speaking - featuring tips from Cheyenne East Speech and Debate Senior Superstar YuYu Yuan and Hot Springs County High School Speech and Debate Junior Juggernaut Jean-Luc Willson.


Extemporaneous Speaking is an individual event in which a competitor draws three current domestic or international topics, chooses one topic from these three drawn topics, prepares for thirty minutes, and then presents an evidence supported, logical, and engaging speech five to seven minutes in length.

Here is a description straight from the NSDA competition guide:

“Extemporaneous Speaking, typically called extemp, is a speech on current events with limited preparation time. A student’s understanding of important political, economic, and cultural issues is assessed along with critical thinking and analytical skills.

Students have a lot to do in 30 minutes—they must select a question, review research, outline arguments with supporting materials, and practice at least part of the speech before time expires. Many tournaments prohibit the consultation of notes during the speech in which case speech structure and evidence need to be memorized during prep time as well.”

Extempers live on the edge a little bit. They go into Extemp Draw to find out their topic and then rush to research, write, and memorize a speech that will wow judges in a round… all in 30 minutes.

Full confession: Extemp is probably my favorite event. I love what it does for student competitors. Excellent extempers need to be keeping up with current events both domestic and international, they need to be masters of organizational writing and speaking, they need to be able to quickly and efficiently research all sorts of topics, and they need to be able to connect with judges using the ethos, pathos, and logos tools in their speaking belt.


Extemporaneous Speaking Tips from YuYu Yuan - Cheyenne East Senior powerhouse debater and superstar speaker of both Wyoming and National distinction:

1. Read and Listen to the News 2. Figure Out Your Speech Style 3. Develop a Memorization Strategy 4. Have Confidence 5. Have Fun!

(Listen to the episode for more details from YuYu!)

Best Things to Keep in Mind for an Extemporaneous Speech from Jean-Luc Willson - accomplished Hot Springs County High School debater, competitor, and all-around great guy:

  1. Do what you need with your prep time: You don’t need to stick to an exact structure when using your prep, just be sure to leave yourself enough time to practice. Don’t be afraid to use a couple extra minutes than you normally would to find good content, that’s the most important part of the speech.

  2. Only practice the important bits: If you find yourself a little strapped for time, just make sure that you're practicing what is important, like the attention getter and the quotes. The rest of it can be filled in naturally, but those pieces are super important to have practiced.

  3. Use a good attention getter: After a judge has watched six different extemp speeches, they’re not going to remember every little detail for the ranking. They will, however, remember a really good attention getter used at the beginning and the end of the speech. Try to use something relatable to the judge, like a tv show, a song, or a personal story that you can relate to your topic. Make sure you flow that attention getter into the topic, and always make sure to reference at the end of the speech.

  4. Don’t apologize for your stumbles: Everyone gets off a little bit, but many judges won;t notice it if you don’t tell them. It is much better to just try and move on. If you’re stumbling a lot, it may mean you need to slow your pace down a little bit. Take a small breath and continue from where you left off, with a little more focus. These stumbles will become less frequent over time, but they will never go away, so make sure you know how to deal with them.

  5. Be knowledgeable of the world: The best thing you can do to prepare yourself for extemp speeches is have a small level of knowledge about the topic before you even get it. Go over the NSDA list of practice extemp topics and do a little bit of research so that you know what is going on with that topic and when you draw them or topics similar to them you can just find the quotes to fit into your speech.

  6. Answer the question: Make sure that you are using your body points to prove your answer to the question. Background should go in the introduction, the body should be dedicated to constructing an argument about the topic that answers the question that was given to you.


Thanks so much to YuYu and Jean-Luc for the gift of this Extemporaneous Speaking wisdom for competitors. If you’d like to hear more from YuYu and Jean-Luc on One Clap, check out YuYu's PF Topic Analysis and Jean-Luc's contribution to the World Schools Debate episode:

Rock On! Debate: 2021 Jan. PF Topic Analysis, Aff Arguments, & Neg Arguments w/ YuYu Yuan

Episode 24: Ins and Outs of World Schools Debate w/ Coach Cozzens, D. Mueller, and JL. Willson


If you have any ideas for the podcast or would like to help out with content here at One Clap Speech and Debate, send me a message on the website or an email ( As the Speech and Debate season hits its stride, I have less time to create content for the podcast and the website. But, I'll continue to do my best to get usable, inspirational, and helpful content out there.

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More links to helpful resources for Extemp:

NSDA Competition Guide:

Speech Resources Video from the 2020 Wyoming Coaches Conference, Presented by Marcus Viney and Ashley Schulz:

Extemporaneous Speaking: Engaging with Current Events by Jessica Bailey

Extemporaneous Speaking Resources from

What to expect in International Extemporaneous Speaking from a Student's Perspective from NSDA:

What to expect in US Extemporaneous Speaking from a Student's Perspective from NSDA:

Resources for Extemp from Judge Training:

Extemp Resources from

Extemp Skills and Drills PPT from NSDA:

Sample Extemporaneous Ballot from NSDA with comments:


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