Understanding How an Impromptu Speech is Judged: Organization and Delivery (Part 2)
In the first part of this article, you learned how the criteria of “analysis” is used to evaluate an impromptu speech. In this part of the article, we’ll examine the other two criteria: organization and delivery.
Not only is it important for you to think about what ideas to present, but you also need to be mindful of how to structure them. Organization includes three main things:
First, include all the clear sections of a speech. Does the speech include a proper introduction, body, and conclusion? Don’t put arguments in your introduction, for example.
Second, signpost the sections of your speech. Does your audience know exactly which point you’re speaking about at all times? Is it easy to follow?
And third, switches between ideas should always have transitions. Do your points link together smoothly? Or is there a jarring disconnect between sections?
Performing an impromptu speech is a bit like solving a puzzle. Each story is its own puzzle piece and it’s up to you to find a way to fit the pieces together in a way that makes sense and brings the overall picture into view. Start off with a hook to reel in the audience’s attention and then find a way to link your hook to your thesis statement and preview. Instead of saying “Hey folks, today my speech will cover the importance of space travel,” you could start with a question such as, “Have you ever wondered what human life on Mars might look like? Do you think you could bring your pet turtle?” Then follow through with a story about the 2015 film, “The Martian,” where astronaut Mark Watney documents his survival after being stranded on Mars.
Being organized also means signposting your main points in your preview and incorporating clear transition phrases to signal when you are shifting from one idea to the next. Finally, reference back to your initial hook as a way of connecting to your conclusion, and provide a summary of the points you have covered and how they all fit together. Using the earlier example, you could say:
While living cabins on Mars seem big enough to fit your turtle, the technology we will need to be successful on the Red Planet is still a few more decades away. It’s probably better to wait, unless we plan to get stuck on an isolated planet like Mark, the Martian.
Now, what can often happen is that you’re able to come up with one or two good examples or stories, but struggle to come up with a strong third example. This is where good organization comes in. Be strategic in the order in which you present your examples. “Sandwich” your weakest example in the middle, between your best two stories first and last. This way, you’ll start strong and end strong, with your weakest example supported by the two stronger ones.
And now we move on to the third criteria of an impromptu speech: delivery. Judges will evaluate your performance by how well you’re able to connect with your audience. To do this, you want to speak at an appropriate volume and speed. Vary your intonation so that you can add emphasis to key ideas. Remember, use your voice like an artist, and create contrast in the way you speak. Use purposeful hand gestures and stage movements, and don’t forget to make eye contact with your judge. And remember, win or lose - the secret is in their feedback!
Keep in mind that for impromptu, judges do not expect a flawless delivery. You have a very limited amount of time to prepare so it’s quite understandable for you to stumble over a few words here and there. The judges will forgive this because it doesn’t hurt your speech, but if you are monotonous and don’t try to engage with your audience, then you might lose speaker points. It’s okay to not feel 100% ready at the end of prep time. Confidence goes a long way to establishing credibility as a speaker and increases your pathos with the audience. Remember that how you say something is often just as important as what you say!
So, after you’ve presented your speech, what comes next? The judge will rank you in comparison to others in your round. They will allocate speaker points, which can be used as a tie breaker if necessary. Remember that a judge will evaluate from an impartial standpoint – not on the basis of whether they agree with your thesis or not.
In general, feedback will consist of both “glows” and “grows” – things you did well and things you can still improve on. When receiving feedback from a judge, remember to take detailed notes and keep an open mind! Speakers are often unaware of what their speech sounds like from the audience’s perspective so actively listening to judges’ feedback and then acting on their recommendations is a sure-fire way to improve.
Now that you’ve learned the three criteria for evaluating impromptu – analysis, organization, and delivery – use these as means to prepare your speeches. And eventually one day, it may be you sitting in the judge’s chair!