How to Speak Extemporaneously

Extemporaneous speaking, also known as "Extemp". it is a competitive speech event usually found in high school and university settings and is a way of testing one's "on-your-feet" thinking and delivery skills. Students must speak about a current topic that has been chosen half an hour before appearing before the audience to discuss the topic. Usually articles will be left in the preparation room to enable the speaker to draw additional information in putting the speech together. Extemporaneous speaking is generally divided into the two categories of US and International.


  1. Image titled Speak Extemporaneously Step 1
    Go into the draw room. When your name is called, take three topics, but only choose 1 to speak on. Choose the one you know the most about.
  2. Image titled Speak Extemporaneously Step 2
    Use your 30 minutes wisely. Find any articles in your files to help you, but don't spend too much time reading. A dedicated extemper will read and know the contents of his/her file box before each meet. Highlighting of files is allowed but only in one color.
  3. Image titled Speak Extemporaneously Step 3
    Take at least 10 minutes to practice, especially if you're going to try it without a note card (although 1 note card is allowed in regular season meets, but not at sectional and state meets).
  4. Image titled Speak Extemporaneously Step 4
    Give your speech. You will usually have five to seven minutes to speak. Be confident, gesture, cite some sources (publication, date, and author), and act like you know what you're talking about because you should.


  • Have a good posture, gesture, and enunciate.
  • Be Confident! You'll be amazed at how much nervousness can negatively impact your speech.
  • Use other examples in your speech to demonstrate your knowledge.
  • Be nice to your judge(s). They will remember who was polite and who made negative comments. This does NOT decide a round but making a good impression will give a judge more respect for you and for what you are saying.
  • Prior the the event, research current events in the world so you get background information
  • Smile.
  • Write down and outline of your speech on a note card and use some of your prep time to practice giving your speech to the wall. You may think you'll look corny, but EVERYONE does it. Some meets may let you use your note card during your speech.
  • Be sure to use the speech structure and state the topic (intro, point preview, point 1, point 2, point 3, point review, conclusion, plus transitions).
  • Look sharp. Wear a suit or other nice outfit.
  • Watch your time. You only have 30 minutes of prep time and 7 minutes for a speech. (if you are worried about going overtime on your speech, ask the judge for time signals. Some states allow you to go a few seconds overtime, but try not to push the limits.
  • Own the room.
  • A great way to practice is to draw topics out of a bin and have someone watch and time you.
  • Use credible sources. Publications such as Newsweek, US News and World Report, and Time are the main publications used. Successful, more experienced extempers will want to use more obscure publications such as CS Monitor, Wall street Journal, Foreign Policy, Harvard International Review, The Economist, Politics Magazine, etc.
  • There are varying levels of Extemp from beginner to advanced.


  • No electronic devices are allowed in the prep room at most competitions.
  • Going overtime on a speech will cause you to lose points.
  • DON'T rely on a note card. Many meets (including sectionals, state, and national) do not allow you to use one during your speech. Those that do allow a note card allow a maximum of 50 words on your note card- yes, some judges will ask to see your note card and will count the number of words.
  • Make sure to rid your file box of illegal materials (previous outlines, uncopyrighted sources, tip sheets, etc) before entering the prep room.
  • Watch out for bad judges.

Things You'll Need

  • suit
  • Files
  • Note card (optional)
  • Topic
  • Judge
  • Draw room (where you draw the question)

Article Info

Categories: Public Speaking