How to Prep Quickly and Effectively in Impromptu Speaking Competitions (Part 1)
Have you ever heard someone say, “Give me two minutes and I’ll be there”? Frankly speaking, these two minutes can sometimes be five, ten, or even “I just woke up but will be there soon” minutes. However, in impromptu competitions, two minutes of prep time always means two, which means, it’s important to organize your speech in the right way.
In this article, you’ll learn from LearningLearders how you can come up with ideas and organize them quickly into your speech within the two minutes of prep time. Please note that this timing is standard for high-level competitions. You may be allowed more prep time, but it’s best to practice for the most difficult limits so that you’re prepared! So, where do you start?
Obviously, the first thing you must always do is to read the three prompts you’ve been given and try to understand them. In some competitions, you will be allowed 20 seconds to read and select your topic. In others, the selection of the prompt is included in your two minutes of prep. When time is that limited, how do you make the right choice?
Let’s say you need to select the prompt during prep time. The first thing to remember is that you don’t have much time to analyze their meanings in depth, so you have to be quick. Ideally, you want to make this decision within ten seconds. Choose the prompt that jumps out at you as interesting and thought-provoking. For instance, we’re about to give you three words. Without thinking too much about them, which one pops out to you. Ready? The words are: Car. Plane. Bike. Ideally, you should already have an opinion on one of these words, and potential ideas for relevant stories and examples.
Work through this process in the same way you would if you saw your school bus up the road and knew that you had just ten seconds to figure out what should go into your backpack. If the first object you see is what you need, then take it! In the same way, if the first prompt already feels familiar to you, chances are it’s a good choice. Why? Because when something stands out, that’s our brain trying to recall associated memories, which means that it’s likely you’ll have something to say
about it. Sometimes, however, the meaning of a prompt isn’t immediately clear. It would be wise to cross it out and move on. Wasting time – more than three seconds – trying to figure out a prompt’s message when there are easier options means you will miss that bus.
Once you’ve chosen your prompt, your real prep time begins. Most competitions will allow you to brainstorm your ideas on a single notecard. It’s important to use it for jotting down keywords or sentences. Not for trying to squeeze in a full speech. Think of your notecard as a roadmap. Every time you’ve finished an idea and are at a crossroad, you can look down at the map to the next key point to help trigger your memory. So, let’s get to it. There are four steps to cover. We suggest following these steps in the order we present them for maximum efficiency.
Step #1: Take about ten seconds to figure out the meaning of the prompt.
How do you do that? Start by analyzing it based on its type. If the prompt is a quote, restate it in your own words. If the prompt is a picture, identify the author’s core message. If the prompt is a word, make associations or connections with related people, places, or ideas to try and either broaden or narrow your interpretation of the prompt. Let’s say your quote is, “Bullies are victims too.” Did you immediately think of physical bullies at school or cyberbullies? Both are correct! You can go with either as your definition of “bullies.” Then, question why someone might think that bullies are victims if they hurt people. This means something must have happened to them as well. You can decide what this something is. Once you’ve figured out the meaning of the prompt, do not write it down – this will cost you time, and you’re unlikely to forget it anyway!
Instead, move directly on to step two.
Step #2: Generate a thesis.
Remember, a thesis should be clear, concise, and debatable. At this point, you likely know if you agree or disagree with the statement. Going back to the prompt, “Bullies are victims too,” let’s say you disagree. Think – why? Perhaps you don’t find it fair that the attention is going to the bully instead of the people they actually hurt. You feel that we shouldn’t easily forgive what they’ve done just because they’ve had their own problems. Great, this idea could be reworded for your thesis, like this: “Having a difficult life is not an excuse to hurt others.”
Spend about 20 seconds to complete your thesis brainstorm. Then, make sure you have your full thesis sentence written out in your notecard.
One of the most difficult parts of your brainstorming is done. You’ve chosen your prompt, figured out its meaning, and determined the main idea behind your speech. In the second part of this article, you’ll learn how to prep for your three examples and hook.