Understanding How an Impromptu Speech is Judged: Analysis (Part 1)
When playing a tennis match, there is a clear and precise set of rules that governs the match. There are lines marking where the ball can and cannot go. There are timers to measure how long the player can hold the ball without serving. Hawk-eye cameras and umpires make sure nothing gets missed. So it’s pretty clear how to determine the winner of a tennis match, right? But what about an impromptu speaking round? Well, that’s the question we’ll answer in this article. You’ll learn the three criteria for evaluating an impromptu speech so that you can have a better idea of what you’ll need to prepare for. First off, let’s take a closer look at how judges assess each speech and write up their ballots. Impromptu speeches are judged on three criteria: analysis, organization, and delivery. Let’s have a look at each one.
First, analysis. This refers to the actual content of a speech. Now, there is no “right” or “wrong” answer that the judge expects from you, but rather, your interpretation of the prompt should be clear and plausible. You are encouraged to think outside the box and give a unique perspective on your quote or word. Not only does this show you’re able to analyze quickly and creatively, it’s also more likely to capture the audience’s attention and make your speech stand out from the others.
So how will the judges evaluate your speech content? Judges will consider the depth of your analysis and whether the stories you’ve provided are relevant and varied. They would ask themselves: does the speaker give a creative interpretation of the prompt? Does the thesis say something meaningful and perhaps surprising about the world? Has the thesis been supported with logically-connected ideas and relevant examples? When analyzing a prompt, aim for creativity over precision. Impromptu prompts are typically open-ended and metaphorical, so make sure to take advantage of that – that's what the judges expect.
Now, I hear you asking “How can I improve my analysis?” Glad you asked.
First, by keeping your content relevant. Both your hook and the examples you use in the body of your speech should be directly relevant to your thesis. For instance, if your prompt is “When in Rome, do as Romans do,” and your thesis is, “When abroad, adapting the local culture is the most rewarding way to travel,” you could use this personal example to make the link:
If there’s one thing I am afraid to eat, it is spicy foods. It’s not that I haven’t tried, because trust me I’ve given every pepper-filled taco and curry a chance. But peppers and I just don’t get along. So, when my family and I visited the Balkan peninsula a few years ago, I found myself stuck with the same dilemma. To try or not to try the local chili peppers? Well, when in Greece, do as the Greeks do.
Notice how this example took the prompt’s phasing and replaced the word “Rome” and “Romans” with the actual country that was traveled to. Adapting the prompt to the situation shows creativity. This story, however, could be even more connected to the thesis if it revealed what happened after eating the peppers. Let’s say we added this conclusion to the story:
And by showing my willingness to adapt to local food and customs, I was rewarded beyond my expectations. The local restaurant owner invited me to his home for a cozy home-cooked meal that became the highlight of my trip.
By explaining this, you’ve shown the relevance to your thesis, which was “adapting the local culture is the most rewarding way to travel.” This gives your story a more meaningful impact.
Beyond having a clear connection between your prompt and your stories, the next best way to make sure the judge gives you high marks for content is by using varied examples! For instance, it wouldn’t be wise to give three examples of Harry Potter, even if you did pick different books from the series. In fact, having three stories based on literature, even if they’re different types of books, is still not varied enough to show the scope of your knowledge. Instead, pick different categories. For example, one story from recent news, another from folklore, and the third one from pop culture.
Now that you’ve learned the first criteria for evaluating an impromptu speech, in the second part of this lesson, we’ll examine the other two: organization and delivery. See you for the next video!