In debating, the only tool you have to make your case is time. Generally speaking, this is portioned out in seven, five and two minute increments. One of the purposes of the impromptu speech is to become comfortable with one minute of time. The Impromptu speeches segment of the evening is an icebreaker which allows members and guests to speak freestyle for one minute at the podium.
How to participate
Participation is completely optional, but all present are invited to speak if they choose. You will generally select your topic at random (from slips of paper) and there is no preparation time. The speech is neither recorded nor graded – it is for exercise and fun only. It is not compulsory to use the whole minute – if you’ve said all you need/want to say after 30 seconds, great! The Toronto Debating Society offers an atmosphere of encouragement and support – the audience is on your side. Have fun!
How to organize
The Impromptu Speech Organizer will select a theme and create approximately twenty five different topics (or other variants on the theme) which will be selected by the participants. These different topics can be written or typed on small slips of paper. It can be difficult to come up with fun and engaging topics which will be a) simple for new guests to tackle as their first chance to speak at the club as well as b) exciting for seasoned veterans who have been speaking at the club for years.
The impromptu speech organizer could announce: “Today’s topic is what you might say if you were running for the leadership of a certain group.”
Paper slips could include specific groups such as: “The United Nations,” “The Lollipop Guild,” “The Soviet Union,” “Citizens Raging Against Phones,” “The Liberal Party,” “People for a united Bogoslovania” et cetera.
When you are selecting a topic and theme, have fun with your concept: imagine what you would find entertaining to watch be presented.
It is also acceptable to leave the subject open. E.g.: “Speak for a minute on your perception on the Toronto mayoral election this year.” The participants would then simply rise and speak on whatever they would like.
Here are some previous impromptus:
- Quotations about motherhood (near Mothers’ Day) and reflection
- Opinions on why something (one slip) is better than something else (another slip)
- Career choices
- What is your most prized possession?
- How would you pitch a bank loan application for the following business?
- What does the colour listed on the paper strip mean to you?
- What do we need more of? / What do we need less of?
- What was your best trip?
- How would you fix the following world problem?
You can also look at our proposed debate topics to give you some ideas about themes.