Pros & Cons of Extemporaneous Speeches
Extemporaneous speeches, also known as “extemps,” are impromptu speeches not memorized or read from prepared materials. In the United States, high schools and colleges host extemp competitions where students have limited time to get ready to answer a question on a current topic.
Planning for an Extemporaneous Speech
Even though by its very nature an extemporaneous speech is improvised, it still is possible to prepare for one. For example, a university lecture would be considered a type of extemporaneous speech. Professors plan their lessons ahead of time by having visuals ready and a clear outline of the subject matter they will teach their students. Good lecturers do not have their speaking points memorized word-for-word or written down in full length. They understand the topic of the presentation well, and by being prepared and practicing ahead of time, they can improvise on the day of their speech.
The use of extemporaneous speeches provides many advantages compared to other highly planned speeches. Extemp speeches are more spontaneous and sound natural, which keeps the audience engaged and interested in the topic. A well-prepared extemporaneous speaker will also know his topic very clearly and in detail, which will make him sound like an expert in his field, therefore gaining the trust of his audience.
The flexibility of extemporaneous speeches also allows for crowd interaction. The speaker can choose to involve audience members during the presentation. He can also answer questions in the middle of his speech to ensure the crowd understands the presentation’s topic as it is being presented. This allows the speaker to make sure everyone comprehends the topic clearly and doesn't disengage halfway through because of lack of clarity.
One more pro of extemporaneous speeches is that they allow for the addition of anecdotes and short stories that are current, relevant to the topic and might have happened only moments before the speech is given. For example, if a speaker is the last one to present at a conference, he can use quotes, examples and stories that were mentioned by previous speakers.
People who fear public speaking or beginners should not consider extemporaneous speech as the right type of speech. Crowd members may interpret nervousness and stress as poor preparation, even if the speaker is an expert on the topic. Also, an extemporaneous speech can also be too long or too short if it is not planned properly. A defined speech outline and practice will help speakers avoid this faux pas. Last, because the words of an extemporaneous speech are not all written down, a person with smaller vocabulary may stumble on certain sentences or use the wrong terminology at times.
Avoiding the Pitfalls
Even though there are cons to extemporaneous speeches, by preparing your speech ahead of time and practicing, you can avoid most of them. Inexperienced and nervous speakers should practice using visualization and relaxation techniques to reduce their fears and stress. Fast and slow speakers should rehearse prior to the event to make sure their timing is right. Finally, speakers of all levels should keep abreast of current events and work on expanding their vocabulary on a daily basis to make sure they will be well-prepared to answer any question that comes their way.
Marie-Pier Rochon has been writing since 2005. She has served as a writer at PlaceForPoeple and a newsletter writer for the Creative Sydney festival. Previously, Rochon also worked as a communications adviser for various Canadian federal agencies. She earned a Bachelor of Arts with honors in organizational communications from the University of Ottawa.