Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bizarre Behavior in Impromptu Prep Time

My favoritest part of watching impromptu speeches has always been observing the prep time, particularly because I used to be scared to death of limited-preps and thought anyone who did impromptu was the bravest person ever. I so enjoyed watching people stare at a smallish piece of paper for 2 minutes before standing up to deliver a work of absolute brilliance which demonstrated admirable courage that to them was a mere "impromptu speech." To me, it was magic. The cogs and wheels of each competitor's brain were turning and churning out a beautiful form of art as I stared with no notion of what was going on inside. Now that I've watched a ton more impromptus and even mustered up the bravery to compete in it myself, I've noticed some interesting patterns, behaviors, and strategies that occur during this preparation time (known to us in the business as "prep time"):

1. Note-taking
Those that have been reading this here blog for a while may have begun to suspect that I spend an abnormal and borderline-ridiculous amount of time studying the Stoa rules. (usually it's to make sure that all of my crazy ideas are actually legal) One thing that I did not realize at first (this was before I knew Stoa had a website) was that in impromptu, "[t]he speaker may write notes on a blank sheet of paper during preparation time, but he may not use or refer to the notes during his speech." I have never done this. I'm certain it would take me too long. However, I know lots of great speakers that depend on the note-taking-in-prep-time strategy. Besides being irrationally afraid that writing notes would waste valuable seconds, I am also often worried that I would forget my outline once I got up to speak, so writing it down would probably make sense, particularly given the amount of close-calls I've had in the past. Hmm, maybe it would be a good idea after all...

2. Zoning Out of the World and Staring at Something
I definitely do this. This tactic not only works well for me, it's one of the most fun to watch. Imagine a speaker has just received three prompts, which he flips through promptly (get it?) before placing two down on a nearby desk. Then, sitting at the desk, he begins to study the remaining prompt before letting his eyes shift to the floor which he focuses on so intently that one becomes convinced he's unsuccessfully attempting to blast it with his laser vision. Like this:

3. Pacing
The other day, I watched a friend of mine who prepared for his impromptu speech by pacing over virtually every square-inch of the room we were in. It was ridiculous. Hopefully he doesn't use that much of the space to pace in competition, because that would be incredibly distracting for judges who are trying to fill out ballots/keep a straight face. But pacing in limited quantities seems to be a decent tactic. Remember these words: it's ok to pace, but don't violate personal space.

What about you? What's your strategy? What's your favorite to watch?

You're homeschooled. That pretty much explains the bizarre behavior.


  1. I only took notes at one tournament, and didn't do remember my points as well as I have at the other tournaments.
    So, I "put my points in my finger". I'll hold my thumb as I think of my intro, my pointer finger when I think of my points and so on and so forth. It's worked for me pretty well, although I'm not qualified for Nats. :P

  2. I do the same thing! How funny. :)