Impromptu Speech


Students have a total of five minutes to select a topic and brainstorm thoughts, organize/outline points, and deliver a speech. The speech is given without notes and should include an attention-getting introduction, body, and conclusion. The speech can be comedic or serious. Prompts are provided to festivals by the State Office, and include proverbs, objects, abstract words, events, quotations, and famous people.

How Impromptu Works at Contests

Impromptu involves an envelope of prompts for each section (room) with two more prompts than there are students. All students will remain in the room the entire round; each will draw three questions, select one, and return the other two to the envelope. The State Office will provide prompts for subdistricts and districts; and interested invitationals. Invitational festivals and tournaments also may offer Impromptu, and may request topics from the State Office. 

Advice to Students & Coaches

The five minutes available to prepare and speak are each student’s to divide how they see fit. This could involve brainstorming and outlining ideas for two minutes, then speaking for three; or brainstorming and outlining for one minute and speaking for four minutes. There is no minimum time required for brainstorming and no minimum time for speaking. Therefore, the student should work to develop the best possible structure and reasoning in as short amount of time as possible. Sometimes contestants think it’s more impressive to speak longer, but if the ideas aren’t clear or well developed, it can diminish overall performance. On the other hand, an over-prepared yet short speech denies a student adequate time to present all of her/his ideas.

An Impromptu speech follows a basic structure in which a student presents an introduction, body, and conclusion. Similar to other public speaking events, the introduction should provide adequate context for what is to come in the speech. If a student has illustrated an example, recited the chosen prompt, and provided a thesis statement, s/he has given a solid introduction. The most common approach to the body of a speech is to explore two or three topic areas in greater depth. For example, if a student’s thesis focuses on overcoming obstacles, s/he would likely introduce two effective ways to do so and use examples to illustrate these. The student will conclude by reiterating the prompt, thesis, and summarizing the points.

The most effective Impromptu speeches are well organized, and draw on a number of types of examples (from literature, history, current events, entertainment, pop culture, etc.) to engage the adjudicator and/or audience in a meaningful way.

Guide to Coaching Impromptu

Sample Prompts

  • “Men are like steel. When they lose their temper, they lose their worth.” -Chuck Norris (Actor)
  • Balcony (object)
  • Positivity (abstract word)
  • “You give a poor man a fish and you feed him for a day. You teach him to fish and you give him an occupation that will feed him for a lifetime.” (Chinese proverb)
  • Birthday (event)
  • Abraham Lincoln (famous person)