Please see the Speech Contests page for recent rules changes and for the Handbook with complete rules.

2021-22 High School Speech Topics

Moments in History

Choose one or both time periods:

  • 1980s (1980-1989)
  • 500 BCE - 1 CE  (AD)

Examples of areas students might consider:  politics, military action, historic sites, monuments, natural disasters, ethnology, legends, folklore, science, inventions, medicine, arts,  entertainment, geography, transportation, sports, religion, heroes, villains, personalities, significant speeches, fashion, and fads.

Public Address

Choose one topic question:

  • To what extent, if any, should government commitment to infrastructure include human
  • To what extent, if any, should government support renewable energies?
  • To what extent, if any, should schools implement new approaches to school day
    scheduling, grading practices, or virtual learning (choose one)?
  • To what degree, if any, should social media censor individuals/groups from participating
    on their platforms?
  • To what extent, if any, should self-care and/or mindfulness be a part of someone’s daily

Special Occasion

Choose one occasion:

  • A press conference about a public health issue
  • A roast of a celebrity or fictional character
  • A speech to present a posthumous award or honor
  • An anniversary speech to commemorate an event at a school


Prepare a story for each topic area:

  • A story about science and/or exploration
  • A story about resilience
  • A story about nature and/or weather

High School Speech Contest Categories

Brief descriptions are not a substitute for full rules. Please download the WHSFA Speech Handbook on the Speech Contests page.

Public Speaking

Students write original speeches, and may use one 4″ x 6″ note card, where students are encouraged to outline or include speaking points, rather than word-for-word manuscripts (so they can engage better with audiences).

Category Max. Time Visuals Description
Demonstration Speech
10 min.
1-2 speakers demonstrate how to do something or how something works.
Extemporaneous Speech
7 min.
30 minutes prior to speaking, the contestant will select a question from which to phrase a direct and clear answer and support it with evidence and reasoning.
Impromptu Speech
5 min.
Provide a direct response to the prompt drawn with an original, well-organized and imaginative interpretation, supported by personal examples.
Informative Speech
6 min.
Present a speech with a narrow enough topic to be developed adequately in the time provided to share knowledge, educate and/or raise awareness.
Moments in History
6 min.
Explore an historical topic within prescribed topics, using such sources as archival records, diaries, personal interviews, letters, newspapers, etc.
Oratory Speech
10 min.
Persuade with compelling language by offering a solution to a problem; to take action in response to a situation; or potentially reinforce and strengthen attitudes.
Public Address
8 min.
Selecting from prescribed topics, contribute to public dialog on a contemporary issue by presenting a well-informed speech directly responding to a question about that issue.
Special Occasion
6 min.
Responding to a prescribed topic area, deliver a speech appropriate to a specific occasion and its probable audience by entertaining, persuading, or informing.

Performance of Literature

Contestants interpret literature to convey the human existence, exploring psychology of characters, to mine the artistry of language, and/or cultivate arguments surrounding themes/issues. Key: = performed from manuscript; = memorized.

Category Max. Time Mode Original Quality Genres Description
10 min.
Variety (poetry, short stories, speeches, essays, drama, songs, novels)
Material from a variety of literary genres address a central theme.
Group Interpretive Reading
12 min.
Any except drama
2-5 readers compile and present a script with symbolic interpretation such that the audience imagines action being described rather than witnessing it being performed.
Play Acting
12 min.
Single play (dramatic literature)
2-5 performers act a scene or cutting from a single play with emphasis on character development, ensemble, and appropriate physical movement.
Poetry Reading
8 min.
Poetry, verse, song lyrics
One or more poems center on a theme or emotion; delivery mines the artistry of language.
Prose Reading
8 min.
Short stories, cuttings from novels, drama, essays, nonfiction
One or more works of prose -- including short stories, cutting from novels, drama, essays, or other non-fiction work -- center on a specific theme or emotion.
Radio News Reporting
5 min.
Provided script of news, sports, weather, and a commercial.
30 minutes prior to reading, the contestant organizes from a variety of types of news as well as a commercial, a precise newscast cut and edited to 5 minutes.
Solo Acting Humorous/Serious
10 min.
Any genre
The contestant convincingly acts characterization(s) to transport the audience to the world of the material peformed.
8 min.
Any genre; most often, narrative prose
Chronicle and perform events in a coherent, unified, clear, and interesting manner, while seated and conveying a sense of audience for one of the prescribed topic areas.

Wisconsin Forensic Speech Category Differences

DemonstrationOne 4x 6 note card allowed; Second person may have shared role in speaking or may assist.Notes allowed. Second person may assist but may not speak.Not offered. A demonstration speech could be adapted to Informative.Not offered.
Duo InterpretationNot offered; may adapt from Group Interp. or Play Acting.May come from any published source including online.Restrictive guidelines for source material.Restrictive guidelines for source material.
ExtemporaneousOne 4x 6 note card/speaker stand allowed.Internet access allowed during prep. One 4x 6 note card allowed.Internet access allowed when piloted. Split into International and United States divisions. No notes allowed.No notes allowed.
Farrago (Wis.) Program of Oral Interp. (NSDA)Reading stand optional. Speaker may walk only for introduction/transitions. Contestants presenting a transitionless program must announce as such.Adaptations should be for continuity for gender changes or to avoid potentially offensive language; lines attributed to one character may not be attributed to another. Platform movement should be minimal and non-intrusive to performance. Manuscript may be memorized and/or used as a prop.Restrictive guidelines for source material.Not offered.
InformativeTime limit: 6 minutes; one 4x 6 note card and/or speaker stand allowed.Time limit: 6 minutes; one 4x 6 note card allowed.Time limit: 10 minutes. Must be memorized.Not offered.
Group Interpretive ReadingTime limit: 12 minutes; chairs/stools/ reading stands allowed.Time limit: 10 minutes; see manuscript in Farrago.Not offered. Two-person performance may adapt to Duo if memorized.Not offered.
ImpromptuTime limit: 5 minutes. One 4x 6 note card allowed.Time limit: 5 minutes. One 4x 6 note card allowed.Offered as 7-min. consolation at National Tournament. No notes.Not offered.
Moments in HistorySpeaker stand allowed.Not offered.Not offered.
Oral Interp. of LiteratureNot offered.Manuscript may be used as a prop.Not offered.Specific rules govern movement.
Oratorical DeclamationNon-Original Oratory for middle level contests only.Not offered; some invitationals sometimes offer NCFL version.Not offered.For 9th and 10th grade students only.
OratoryOne 4x 6 note card/speaker stand allowed.Must be memorized.Must be memorized.Must be memorized.
Play ActingTime limit: 12 minutes; must be from a single work of drama.Time limit: 10 minutes; see adaptations in Farrago.Not offered. Two-person play may adapt to Duo.Not offered. Two-person play may be adapted to Duo.
Poetry Interp/Reading Prose Interp/ReadingReading stand optional. Speaker may walk only for introduction/transitions.See adaptations/platform movement/manuscript in Farrago.Each offered as 5-min. supplemental event at National Tournament.Not offered; see Oral Interp. of Literature.
Public AddressNot offered. May adapt to Oratory.Not offered.Not offered.
RadioMultiple character voices may be used.One professional newsreader voice must be used except for commercial.Not offered.Not offered.
Solo Acting Hum./Ser. (Wis.) Dram./Hum. Interp (NSDA) Dramatic Perf. (NCFL)Single stationary chair allowed.Different evaluation criteria for humorous/serious. See adaptations in Farrago.Restrictive guidelines for source material.Single category - mixed humorous/serious contestants.
Special OccasionSpeaker stand allowed.Not offered.Not offered.
StorytellingAdjudicator each round selects story for each contestant.Stories assigned each round.Offered as 5-min. consolation at National Tournament.Not offered.

* In WHSFA all manuscripts in interpretive categories and note cards in speech categories must be paper (and not digital devices).

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