Boone County High School Forensics


Impromptu Speaking


In Impromptu, you will prepare and give a speech after limited preparation. In prelim rounds, the judge will give you two quotations, and you will choose one to speak about. In final rounds, you are given a different topic, usually an object. Once you have selected your topic, you have seven minutes to prepare and give a speech. You must speak for at least four minutes, which means you cannot prep for more than three minutes.


Your speech can be about anything as long as you can clearly connect it to the topic. While there is no required outline for the speech, successful speeches are clearly organized, similar to extemp. An example of an outline is:


  • Introduction: statistic, personal anecdote, story, etc. to catch the audience’s attention. A clear statement of the “thesis” or main idea of your speech. Make sure you state what the topic is (e.g. if it is a quote, say the quote and the author) and your supporting points.

  • Body section: Anywhere from 2-4 points supporting your main idea. Make sure each point clearly relates back to the topic and main idea.

  • Conclusion: briefly bring back what you mentioned in the introduction. Restate your topic, main idea, and body point.

For an example of how an impromptu speech outline may look, click here.


Like extemp, you are allowed a 3×5 notecard to take notes while prepping and use while speaking; also like extemp, more successful impromptu students do not use a card, and it is more difficult to stop using one.


Tips and tricks:

  • Although you have up to three minutes to prep, aim to use one or two minutes only. This way, you have more wiggle room when it comes to speaking.


  • It may be tempting to choose a handful of topics or ideas to cycle through different rounds. This is called canning, and if a judge finds out you have been canning a speech, you could be disqualified. If you notice that you are accidentally using some points over and over again (e.g. if you always mention The Catcher in the Rye or Ariana Huffington), then make it a goal to retire those points for a while.


  • However, it is okay to be thinking of ideas or points to use so long as each speech is original. You can pull content from books you’ve read, plays or musicals you’ve seen, current events, etc. While it is typically best to stay away from using personal stories except in the intro, those are okay too if they are especially relevant to your main idea.


  • Like with anything, the best way to get better at thinking on the spot is practice—and it doesn’t have to be formal practice either! You can practice impromptu by searching random quotes or looking at different objects in your room and thinking of how you could create a short speech about those topics.


  • If the topic is a quotation, don’t try to memorize it or spend time writing it down on your notecard. Instead, place it on a desk in front of you to pick up/put down when necessary. If there is nowhere to conveniently put the quotation, then just hold it in your hand during the speech.


For more detailed practicing tips, check out the KHSSL handbook (Impromptu starts on page 27 ).