is a type of speech competition characterized by individuals competing in a variety of different events. These events span the areas of public speaking
, acting, reading and interpretation. Sometimes confused with competitive Debate
, Individual Events is actually a unique form of competition, often referred to simply as Speech Team
. Organized competition takes place both on the high school and collegiate level. Speech and Debate competitions are subsets of Forensics competition.
There are many types of events included in any Individual Events competition, and these events vary by state and/or conference. A brief overview of these event types is given below.
Public Address events
, or simply Oratory
, is one of the most common speech events, and is the only public speaking event offered as a main event at the National Forensics League
(NFL) National Tournament. In Original Oratory
, a competitor prepares a speech on a topic of his or her choosing, and can be informative or persuasive in nature. Often, a competitor may use only one speech for the entire season. The purpose of Oratory
is to inspire belief or reinforce conviction.
On the high school level, the speech must delivered without the use of visual aids or notes. In many leagues (including the two national tournaments listed below), the number of directly quoted words from other sources in the speech is limited (at NFL nationals, for example, the limit is 150 words). At the high school level, speeches are generally ten minutes in length, but may go longer.
is often considered the college corollary to Oratory. The focus of the event is to change, reinforce, or instill the attitudes, beliefs, and values of the audience. Although there are rarely rules that dictate what topics or formats are permissible in Persuasion, most persuasions are policy based: speakers advocate a specific policy proposal to address some need and offer their recommendation in a problem/cause/solution or cause/effect/solution format. In 2006, for example, the winning Persuasion topics at the American Forensics Association
(AFA) and National Forensics Association
(NFA) concerned ways to improve teacher retention and to encourage citizens to correspond with their Congresspersons, respectively.
Informative Speaking is a speech
meant to inform the audience
. This speech can take on topics ranging from the newest, high-tech inventions
from around the world that hope to cure cancer
, to more light-hearted topics such as Wikipedia
itself. The topic should be one that is timely and interesting, making it something that the general audience doesn't readily understand. It is the job of the speaker to make the complex topic easier to understand. In intercollegiate competition, the speech time limit is ten minutes and typically memorized. In high school competition, the time limits vary among different states. Informative Speaking is also referred to as Expository Speaking. Some forms of Expository Speaking utilize Visual Aids, though they are optional. Expository Speaking in California emphazies greatly on the usage of visual aids and puns/wordplay, though neither are required.
Major Competitions featuring Info:
High School - NFL (Expository is offered as a supplemental event)
College - AFA (American Forensics Association), NFA (National Forensics Association), NCFCA (National Christian Forensics and Communications Association), California Invitational at the University of California, Berkeley, PSCFA, CCFA, Griffin Invitational, and Phi Rho Pi (the national community college tournament).
is an original speech that is only meant to entertain the audience, and may or may not have any educational value. Almost anything can be a topic, and speeches are usually humorous in nature. The substance of speech content can vary widely, but the speech itself should stay on topic and be presented in easily understandable points. Entertainment is limited to a few states on the high school circuit and is not an event on the collegiate level. The time limit is eight minutes and the speech is typically memorized.
Declamation / Memorize Speech / Oratorical Interpretation / Great Speeches
, or Oratorical Declamation, or Memorize Speech is the interpretation and presentation of a non-original speech. These speeches may be historical (Martin Luther King Jr.
's I Have a Dream
speech, etc.), adapted from magazine articles, commencement addresses, or any number of other adaptations of non-original material, including forensics speeches from previous years. Declamations
tend to be persuasive, and competition is similar to Original Oratory
. As in Oratory
, the length of a speech is generally about eight minutes. Memorization is usually a requirement in Declamation
. It is also termed 'Oratorical Interpretation'. This is not a college event.
Communication Analysis/Rhetorical Criticism
), or Rhetorical Criticism
) is an individual event in which the speaker (or rhetor
) has ten minutes to present the speech. The speech structure usually consists of: an introduction, presenting a rhetorical artifact, a discussion of a communication theory or model, application of the communication theory to the artifact, implications of that analysis, and a conclusion.
The artifact may be anything that has rhetorical significance: a book, a speech, an advertising campaign, a protest movement, etc. The rhetor identifies the goals the artifact seeks to accomplish. He or she then selects a model form of analysis - typically borrowed from communication scholars - to determine the effectiveness of the artifact in reaching its goals. For instance, in analyzing an anti-smoking campaign, the rhetor might opt for a model discussing the most effective methods of employing fear in persuading a mass audience.
The rhetor would then apply the model to the artifact and draw various conclusions about the artifact's strengths and weaknesses, the success or failure of the model as an analytical tool and other insight gained from the analysis.
Most high school competitions do not include these events.
Major Competitions featuring CA/Rhet Crit: College - AFA (American Forensics Association) where it is referred to Communication Analysis, NFA (National Forensics Association) where it is referred to as Rhetorical Criticism, Phi Rho Pi, where it is referred to as CA.
Special Occasion Speaking
Special Occasion Speaking
is similar to Oratory
, but focuses on lighter subjects, and addresses a specific audience. Comedy is seen frequently in Special Occasion Speaking
, but should not detract from the message the speaker is trying to relate. The speech is not as strictly persuasive as in Oratory
, but can be designed to inform. Speeches typically run about eight to ten minutes long. This event is limited to some high schools and is not a collegiate event.
After Dinner Speaking
After Dinner Speaking (ADS) is a public address event similar to Speech to Entertain meant to take an important topic and make greater sense of it through the use of humor. It can take the form of any of the accepted public speaking structures but often takes the form of an Informative or Persuasive speech. This event covers a variety of topics, but the use of humor is central to the execution of the event. The After-Dinner speech should not resort to the base forms of humor. The humor should be topical and relevant to the idea presented. This type of speech is found at the collegiate level and is typically eight to ten minutes long. Generally, it is a humorous speech with a serious undertone and/or an actual point.
Major Competitions featuring ADS: College - AFA (American Forensics Association), NFA (National Forensics Association)
Limited Preparation Events
A limited preparation event, as opposed to prepared events, is an event in which the speakers have no prior knowledge of the speech they will give, with a set amount of preparation
time to write a short speech. Preparation times vary per event, ranging from two minutes to an hour, after which time the competitors perform their speeches.
, Extempore Speaking
, or simply Extemp
, is a speech given at a tournament with little preparation. Extemp
is a mainstay at most speech competitions. At the beginning of any round of extemp
, competitors are given usually a set of questions relating to current events, and asked to choose one to prepare a speech on. The competitors have a preparation period, usually referred to as "prep time", during which they use periodicals they brought to the tournament to prepare the speech. This "prep time" usually lasts between thirty and forty-five minutes, and at the end of this time, competitors must present their speech. Note cards may or may not be used to aid in the presentation of this speech. Extemp
speeches range from four to seven minutes in length.
Certain high school competitions subdivide Extemp into Domestic and International categories. Few collegiate-level competitions practice this subdivision.
In Extemp Duo, pairs are given three prompts that must be worked into a scene. The items must be a key element in the scene and not just mentioned in passing without any effect on the story. Competitors have 20 minutes of prep and 3-5 minutes to perform. Duo interp rules apply, and partners may not acknowledge each other in any way. Extemp Duo is not a common event.
Competitors are given a topic, usually a single word or phrase, that may be a person, thing, well-known saying, a less well-known quotation
, current event, or an object. They then compose a speech based on the prompt. Impromptu
speeches generally run about four (the minimum required speaking time at most tournaments) to six minutes in length, with anywhere from 15 seconds to three minutes of "prep time". However, at many other tournaments, there is neither a set limit to how much time you may use to prep nor a minimum to how long one speaks. Judging typically focuses on overall speaking ability (enunciation, pace, vocal variety, etc.), creativeness (pre-made or "canned" speeches are generally frowned upon), and overall balance of the speech (points of roughly equal length, appropriate length of intro, conclusion, etc.). In many states, impromptu speaking is often a contest combining wit and humor with actual insight; speeches should be funny but also must deliver a point. Acting out characters, as in drama events is generally frowned upon.
Extemporaneous Commentary is the preparation and delivery of a five-minute newscast. Scripts may be prepared the day preceding a tournament, or in a thirty to forty-five minute "prep period" before performance. Usually, competitors are given a packet containing international, national, and local news
, one or more advertisements
, sports news
, and a weather forecast
. Competitors then have the "prep period" to compose a newscast, using the most relevant news possible, and organizing it in the best fashion they can. At the end of the "prep period", the performer delivers the newscast to a judge, usually over a microphone
. The time limit is very stringent in Radio
, and going beyond a five or ten second grace period
above or below the five minute limit results in disqualification. Competitors may use a stopwatch
to keep track of their own time, and the judge and/or timer keeps track of time as well. Extemporaneous Commentary is not a college event.
Extemporaneous Programmed Reading
In high school tournaments, this category is also represented strongly. It is more likened to interpretation than limited preparation events, in that every round is an interpretation. However, the difference lies in that each competitor receives the piece for each round in an hour draw, in which time they read and cut the piece for interpretation. Three kinds of interpretation are represented in the different rounds, one of which is for finals. These three types are Humorous, Serious, and Poetry interpretation. Each competitor has eight minutes to deliver the cut interp before the judge. All other rules are generally the same as an interpretation event.
In this high school event, competitors are given a children's book, fairy tale, fable, myth, legend, or ghost story to read. The competitors have a half hour to read the given piece and put it into their own words. At that time, the speakers give their version of the tale to the judge, in under eight minutes. Its only limits are no stage make-up, costumes, or props. Different voices and characters are used. Each character should be easily distinguished.
Discussion, sometimes simply referred to as "Disco" features groups normally consisting of 5 to 8 people. Over the course of the speech season they research issues from a predetermined topic. In a round, the group is presented with a task usually assigning them as a special citizens group, congress, the senate, or another concerned group. They will be given an issue to work together and compromise on a solution. Each discussant should act as a leader, proposing an agenda, ideas, or encouragement that are helpful in forming a solution. They are given a one-hour time limit.
Acting and Interpretation Events
(DI) is an event in which the competitor interprets a selection from a dramatic
. A single competitor plays several parts, which are differentiated using "pops" between various positions and voices, each representing a different character. "Pops" are supposed to be as clean as possible, and each character should be clearly distinguishable from any other character.
Major Competitions featuring DI:
High School - NFL (National Forensics League), NCFL (National Catholic Forensics League)
College - AFA (American Forensics Association), NCFCA (National Christian Forensics and Communications Association).
(often shortened to HI or humorous) is the humorous alternative to DI. In this event the competitor will perform an eight to ten minute selection of a literary work of a humorous nature. It is sometimes combined with DI (taking the name of DI). As in DI, characters are distinguished through the use of "pops" and voice work. HI is not event at the collegiate level, as collegiate DI is not intended as a distinction between comedy and drama, but instead as a literary form distinction from prose and poetry.
Major Competitions featuring HI:
High School - NFL (National Forensics League), NCFL (National Catholic Forensics League), and NCFCA (National Christian Forensics and Communications Association).
Original Comedy, or OC
as it is called by its competitors, is a public speaking event similar to Humorous Interpretation, involving pops and voices for individual Characters. The main time frame is about 8-10 minutes. Competitors write their own piece of comedy with an introduction, three points and a conclusion. However, the introduction, points, and conclusion are not directly stated, as in events such as Special Occasion Speaking. Usually, the main storyline is about the competitor himself/herself but it is more often about made up characters with a made up problem dealing with it in a humorous way. There is usually a moral to be learned by the end of the performance. The main difference between Original Comedy and Humorous Interpretation is that in OC you can walk around the performing area and in HI you cannot. Also, in HI you can get a script, and in OC you must write your own speech.
Serious interpretation (SI) is another alternative to the above events. However, it is not limited to a theatrical script, but any literary work
. It follows the same rules as humorous and dramatic, except for material. This is a high school event.
Much like DI and HI, Duo pieces have at least two parts, to be performed by two people. The principles are generally the same, except there are two performers instead of just one. In Duo, the actors are not allowed to make physical or eye contact, or use props. They are also not permitted to touch the ground with anything but their feet. Remember that rules will vary with district regulations. Many High school districts, in many states, have yet to add the event for competitors.Some states such as Texas (TFA) are altering duo for duet as a permanent change.
In some states an event similar to Duo acting is offered, the major distinction being that the performers are allowed eye and physical contact. While virtually all governing organizations stipulate rules that disallow the use of props and costumes, organizations' rules do vary when concerning the use of sets, sometimes including tables and/or chairs. Some states divide this event into Dramatic and Humorous Duet Acting.
Prose / Poetry Interpretation / Read Speech / Literary Reading/ Oral Interpretation / Verse
, Poetry Interpretation
, Read Speech
, Literary Reading
, Oral Interpretation
are events that consist of an interpretation of another author's work. Competitors read the material from a small binder or book they use in performance. This binder is traditionally black and has a height of about 10". While books are not required to fit this description, competitors who utilize a different style of book are often ranked down for it. Because competitors interpret the literature via facial expressions and eye contact, memorization is generally helpful. In most cases, the literature is memorized and competitors are merely pretending to read the material. However, points may be deducted if a speech is "too memorized" and the competitor does not look at his/her binder enough. Time limits for these events range from six to ten minutes, depending on the organization hosting the event.
A common practice for Poetry Interpretation of late is to find a published piece of slam poetry (online or physical) and perform that. This, unfortunately, leads to many teams recycling the same poetry for their novices and the event is flooded with pieces that all look and feel the same because larger teams, which have a much larger student to teacher ratio, are trained to perform the poetry the exact same way as the previous member of the team did through other members of the team. Notable examples include poetry written by J.J.Jonas, Poetri Williams, and Taylor Mali. Taylor Mali holds a special page on his website that is dedicated to informing those who wish to obtain permission to use his material (if they even intend to) that they are perfectly welcome to. He states that his poems "...are out there, to be used and consumed.
Improvisational acting pairs
Improvisational Acting Pairs is an event where two competitors team up and are given a scene on a small piece of paper. After two minutes of planning, they perform their scene.
Individual events tournaments
Individual events tournaments usually take from six to twelve hours to complete, with the longest tournaments lasting multiple days. One model of a tournament schedule usually starts around 8:00 or 9:00 A.M. (typically on Saturday), at which time competitors are given schematics for the day, which tell them which rooms they are competing in for each round. Another model begins the tournaments on the first day between 3:00 and 5:00 P.M. (typically on Friday) and continues through the next night (Saturday); there is typically no scheduled competition between 11:00 P.M. Friday and 7:00 A.M. Saturday. This model is typically used when an Individual Events tournament is hosted simultaneously with a Debate tournament.
A model usually followed by NCFCA tournaments is to start 7:00 AM on Thursday, Holding pre-liminary rounds on the first day. Breaks to semi-finals are announced in the evening (5:30) on Thursday. Friday and Saturday have the same schecule announcing breaks to finals and awarding contestants respectively.
There are several preliminary rounds in a tournament, which then cut to a final round, and sometimes semi- or quarter- final rounds as well. The tournament ends in an awards assembly, in which medals and/or trophies are presented to the finalists in each event, and team awards are given to teams which get the most points all day. (See Scoring, below).
A speech round consists of the performances of between five and eight competitors, who are then ranked by a judge that watches the entire round. Competitors from the same school usually do not compete against each other in preliminary rounds (although this situation can occur if a school enrolls numerous contestants in an event or paricipation in a tournament is low), and competitors should not know what schools their opponents are from, as codes are randomly assigned to each school at the beginning of the tournament. For example, if a competitor's school code is "L", they may be "L3", "L38", or "L308", depending on how many competitors are at the tournament, and how the schematic is set up. This system is designed to help prevent bias on the part of judges. After the preliminary rounds, the top speakers are tabulated and a list of speakers who have "broken" (advanced) to the next level is posted. A normal speech round has six competitors, and final rounds are "broken" with the goal of having six speakers in the round.
Performers compete individually and for their teams during Individual Events
competitions. In any given round, a competitor earns points for themselves and their team according to their rank from the judge. Usually, a competitor receiving a rank of "1" scores 6 points, a "2" earns 5 points, a "3" earns 4 points and so on, with any rank of "6" or below scoring 1 point. The top two competitors from each team in each event score points for their team. Usually, only preliminary rounds count toward a team's point totals to increase the importance of team participation, and for logistic reasons. Sometimes final rounds may be included, or preliminary rounds may be excluded altogether.
At the awards ceremony, medals or trophies are given to individuals, and team awards are given to the top teams. If there were no final rounds at the tournament, then the individuals scoring the most points for themselves in the preliminary rounds are each given medals - usually the top three competitors in each event. In tournaments with final rounds, the finalists in each event are called on stage, where they are given their medals. Team awards are also given for the five teams with the most points.
High school links
Some state forensic organizations
Some high school individual events teams
Some college individual events teams