Limited Prep Breakdown by: Catherine Alles

When I was competing in Speech and Debate, I loved the Limited Preparation speeches. Apologetics, Impromptu, and Extemporaneous gave me the opportunity to use my voice to speak about important issues, make an impact, and inspire people. I used to jokingly tell people that I loved limited prep because for me, “limited preparation meant no preparation.” But that wasn’t really true. I spent a lot of time preparing for limited preparation speeches, just not in the same way as for platform or interpretive speeches. Remember our Online Extemp Group starts in less than two weeks. Join Now!

When you are doing a duo, your prep involves picking a book, memorizing, and practicing blocking with your partner. For persuasive, you need to spend most of your time researching and writing your speech, and then fine tuning your delivery. In Limited Preparation speeches, you don’t need to memorize anything, work with a partner, or plan out your hand motions, body movements, or pauses ahead of time. Instead, the best use of your time is to be an inquisitive and fully present person. What do I mean by this? Let’s break it down for three limited preps- Extemp, Apol, and Impromptu… (Isabelle Clausen will break down the Mars Hill binder next week)…

Extemp Genie has made researching articles specifically for prep time almost obsolete. It is an incredible software and I think every Extemper should buy it. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, it automatically aggregates thousands of articles from top news sources and downloads them to your computer so you can search them while offline. It’s basically being able to use google for news articles. When I first started Extemporaneous, we had to go out and find articles, individually copy and paste them and format them into a Google Doc, and them spend a lot of time downloading them, and even then there wasn’t a great way to go through them. But just because Extemp Genie takes care of the bulk of the hard, grueling, time consuming work, that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook and don’t have to do any work. Instead, it just means that you can focus on improving your analysis skills and broadening your awareness about what’s going on in the world. Also, remember, Lasting Impact! will be hosting a 6 week Extemp Excel Class. We will be covering Extemp even more in depth.

There are 3 different levels of being prepared for Extemporaneous.

  • Level 1: Awareness.
  • Level 2: Opinion.
  • Level 3: Backing.

Level one is most important, level 2 is extraordinary helpful to already have established before your 20 minutes of prep time, so you can spend those 20 minutes focusing on finding backing, or evidence, for your opinion on the issue you’re already aware of.

Level 1: Awareness
How are you supposed to give a credible and informed seven minute speech on a issue that you hadn’t heard of until just 20 minutes ago? Sometimes, if you get an obscure topic and want to give it a go, this can be done in prep time. I loved giving speeches on topics about issues I’d never heard of, but they were definitely less prepared and polished speeches, and obviously it’s more ideal to have at least some background knowledge.

This doesn’t mean you have to know everything, but you should have a general idea about what’s going on in the world. If you were doing extemp August-October of 2018 and didn’t know who Brett Kavanaugh was, that’s a problem. If you don’t know about the caravan of over 7,000 people from South America marching to the US and what our president has said about it, honestly I would consider you not just an ill-informed extemper, but an ill-informed citizen. Awareness is something everyone should have throughout their entire life, but especially if you are competing in Extemp.

How do we gain awareness about major issues in an efficient and effective way? In my opinion, podcasts are one of best way to inform yourself about what’s going on in the world. I can listen to podcasts while I’m driving, cooking, working out, sometimes working, or going to sleep. There really is no excuse. The Ben Shapiro show (sometimes PG-13) is my all time favorite. I have listened to every single episode for over two years now, and he gives an incredibly informative, entertaining, inspiring and thought provoking take on the news. BBC Global News Podcast is incredible! 30 minutes a day, british accents, and it gives you a perspective on the news that doesn’t see the United States as the center of the gravity, which can be incredibly refreshing. Of course, there are many more podcasts that talk about the news and politics. Other ways to gain awareness include reading The Economist, skimming Fox/CNN headlines, watching a bit of the news, skimming google/facebook news, etc. News is all around us, and not hard to find. Find a way of informing yourself that appeals to your learning style and personality, and dive in!
If you want to be uber prepared, try taking notes! This will help you remember what you are hearing and possibly help spark your memory during prep time.

Level 2: Opinion
In my opinion, this is the hardest level to achieve. Extemp doesn’t just ask you to be aware about an issue, but it often asks you a probing question that forces you to develop an opinion and back it up. There are a lot of issues in the world, but sometimes it’s incredibly hard to know what we should do about them. Just to name a few big picture examples, I have yet to hear a politician say that they don’t want affordable and accessible healthcare. In a sense, both Republicans and Democrats agree with the end goal, but have completely different ways of achieving it and knowing what it would look like. This year’s NCFCA Team Policy topic is somewhat of a nightmare for debaters because we’re already doing just about as much as we can to stop terrorism, and in some cases it’s impossible to solve!

Some examples from extemp speeches I’ve given:
What does the future hold for Mauricio Macri in Argentina? To answer this question, I can’t just say “I don’t know.” I have to find specific areas that will change. My points addressed whether or not he will have economic success, electoral success, and whether or not his reforms would be popular. I gave a specific prediction for each point, not just saying “anything could happen it could go either way.”

Is Amazon going to be a disrupter in the healthcare industry? This is a yes or no question. I have to clearly take a stand and defend it. In this speech, I said yes, and supported that with evidence.
What should Ecuador do about it’s Julian Assange problem? In this speech, I had to come up with a solution to Ecuador’s problem. Reading articles helps, but you should already have some idea of what you believe about wikileaks and extradition.

Will Facebook’s “trustworthiness score” effectively combat misinformation? This question is a blank slate. Will this new system be effective? You as the speaker have the option to go either way, and there technically isn’t a right or wrong answer. Pick a side, and then make your case.

If you never come up with an opinion in a speech, the judges will probably mark you down for avoiding the question and never clearly answering it. It is important to develop an opinion in order to stay on track in your speech.

However, I can’t say I’ve never been wishy-washy in a speech. A few times, I have used a “maybe” strategy in an effective way, but usually I don’t think it’s wise. An example of when I didn’t directly answer the question was in this speech: Should CEOs insert their companies into polarizing political debates? My three points were “Case for” “Case against” “Personal Choice.” I showed both sides of the issue and never said which one I personally agree with. Instead, I left it up to the CEOs. Technically, that’s an opinion that they should make a personal decision based on the situation, but I usually recommend taking a clearer stance.

Level 3: Backing
Because of Extemp Genie, this step is pretty easy. Once you know about the issue and know your answer to the question, all you have to do is research the issue more to find some evidence for your points. For me, this usually meant at least two sources per point, and in between six to ten each speech. It is important to cite sources in your speeches. It not only gives you more credibility, but it is on the ballot (in NCFCA) and you can be marked down if you don’t prove your points.

All three of these levels together creates the perfectly prepared Extemp speech. The first two can be done before tournaments, so that you can save level three for your 20 minutes of prep time. If you would like to explore Extemp on an even deeper level join our Lasting Impact! 6 week Extemp Excel Class.

There are many different theories on how prepared you should be for Apologetics. Some speakers choose to barely even read the questions ahead of time and walk in intentionally unprepared every speech. Others decide to take the time and write well-crafted cards for all 105 topics. My sister and I were the latter. We spent a big portion of the summer before we started Apologetics reading Systematic Theology, researching sermon analogies, and talking with my dad about the Bible. For a few months, my dad, my sister, and I would get up early every morning and practice Apologetic speeches. We spent hundreds of hours talking about the topics, researching them, and practicing giving them. By the time my first tournament rolled around, I had a thoroughly researched card ready on every single topic. I never went into an Apologetics room scared I wouldn’t have a card. In my opinion, that is the best way to prepare for Apologetics. Not only did it pay off competitively, but the time I spent digging deeper into these issues strengthened my faith and knowledge of theology.

Of course, I understand that not everyone has the time to do this. But if you have time and are going to compete in Apologetics, why not? Preparation will make your speeches better. So if you choose to prep every card, here are some practical steps you can take…

  • Group together similar topics and research them at the same time.
  • Create ‘intro cards’ based on themes that you can use for multiple speeches. I had about thirty different intros I would rotate through, and having them on a separate card helped me find them quickly and pair them with a speech. For some cards I would have a specific intro for it, but sometimes I would change it up.
  • Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology is an incredible resource that addresses a lot of the topics.
  • If you’re struggling with finding intros, try googling “sermon illustrations about ____” (suffering, love, sanctification, forgiveness, etc;) There are websites for pastors which have awesome stories, analogies, etc; that cross apply to Apol speeches well.
  • Include quotes in your speeches! Along with googling sermon illustrations, I would often find quotes about the issues I was writing about. This is a great way to support your points without just using scripture.

The bottom line about preparing for Apologetics is this: you can do as much preparation ahead of time as you want, so why not do as much as you possibly can?

Impromptu is probably the hardest and easiest speech to prepare for.

On the one hand, you can walk into the room and just make up the speech as you go along, but on the other hand, you can’t bring any paper or cards up to speak with you, and you only have two minutes to think of what you’re going to say.

The best impromptu speeches include stories, historical examples, and maybe even exact quotes. In order to prepare for this, you need to remember things and be able to recall them quickly. This can come with practice.

What I’m about to say here for Impromptu, also applies to Apologetics and Extemp, and it involves being that fully present person I mentioned earlier.

I watched a movie called Time, and used in extemp and impromptu multiple times to talk about greed and how people will always eventually act in their own self interests above the interests of others.

My family has hosted international students from around the world for over five years, and I have dozens of stories from them and our experiences living with them to use in Impromptu. Some of them even because Christians while coming to church with us, which are incredible stories that I sometimes told in Apologetics.

My point here is: everything you do is a story. Hear something funny? Tell it as a joke? Watch an inspiring video? Explain it in an Apologetics speech. Always make sure it relates to your topic, but be aware that your everyday experiences overlap into the speech and debate world.

Still looking for more?? You might want to check out more limited prep online workshops…

Limited Prep Online Workshop

Storytelling Online Workshop

Mars Hill Online Workshop