Spontaneous Events

If you like thinking and talking on your feet, then the Spontaneous Events are for you! In these events, students are completely unaware of their topic until a limited amount of time before they must speak on it, and are expected to deliver a coherent analysis of the topic. 


GENERAL RULES: Students have no knowledge of their topic prior to the round. Speeches generally follow a "five-paragraph essay" format, with an intro, two or three main points, and a conclusion. 

TIME LIMITS: See table below. All spontaneous events have a 15-second grace period. Time signals MUST be given unless the student prefers to time themselves.

The standard convention for time signals is as follows — counting down, judges will hold up their hand with a number of fingers to show how many minutes remain. When 30 seconds remain, the judge instead holds up their hand in the shape of the letter "C". At ten seconds remaining the judge should hold up all ten fingers, and may optionally count them down until the time is up, at which time the judge should display a clenched fist.

AIDS: The speech must be delivered from memory. No visual aids or notes of any kind may be used, though referencing the topic slip with the given question or quote is in many cases acceptable.



EXT (NX / IX) 30 Minutes 7 Minutes Newsworthy Topics
IMP 2 Minutes 5 Minutes People, abstract ideas, quotes, etc.



These events will be available at almost any tournament.

Extemporaneous Speaking

Extemp students meet in a prep room prior to the round, where they will have 30 minutes from the time they draw their topic to compose their speech. Extemp topics generally take the form of a question addressing a "newsworthy" subjects, and as such require extensive research and cataloging of news sources prior to the tournament. Strong extemp speeches will present their own analysis in answer of the questions, and will generally draw upon a variety sources to support (but not supplant) it.

In California, Extemp is usually split into two events — National Extemp, dealing with domestic issues and U. S. foreign policy, and International Extemp, which focuses on global current events and international politics. (Some tournaments call these Domestic and Foreign extemp, but they are otherwise identical to their counterparts.) A third, more difficult flavor of this event exists, called simply "Extemp", which addresses topics found in both NX and IX. 

Since the topics dealt with in this event are those of public policy, is it very possible that the speech may touch upon topics the judge has strong feelings about. It is imperative that judges try to remain objective and open-minded, judging the speech on the merit of its writing and and the skill of the student's delivery. It is possible that a subject might be uncomfortable for a judge or one with which the judge has personal experience; judges should ideally try to keep their personal biases out of their rankings and judge solely on the strength of the student's writing and oratorical skill.

Learn more about Extemporaneous Speaking [PDF]


Impromptu speeches are prepared literally in the round, with the judge overseeing their preparation. A series of paper slips will be provided of a similar type (e.g. abstract ideas, quotations, historical figures, hot political issues) and occasionally on a loosly related theme (e.g. animals, song lyrics, anime quotes, inventors). One at a time, students will draw three topics from those provided, choose one and return the other two (though some tournaments have prescribed sets for each speaker), at which time they begin preparing the speech. They may make notes during this time, but cannot use them while speaking.

While there is no required format for the speech, it must at least loosly relate to the selected topic and should have some kind of internal structure or organization that makes it coherant and easy to follow. Many students who compete in this event eventually build up a library of prepared examples the can readily draw upon since the preparation time is very short, but it's important that those examples are tailored to fit the topic rather than merely "shoehorned" in to fill up space. 

Outside of California, some tournaments use the NSDA's more liberal approach to time management — the student may divide the total of 7 minutes into prep and speaking time as they wish.

Learn more about Impromptu [PDF]