Individual events

From Academic Kids

Individual events 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.


Individual events: the events themselves

There are many types of events included in any Individual Events competition, and these events vary by state and/or conference. They include acting, interpretation and reading, along with the more recognizable public speaking events. A brief overview of these event types is given below.

Public speaking events

Original oratory

Original Oratory, or simply Oratory, is one of the most common speech events - it exists across almost all types of competition. In Original Oratory, a competitor prepares a speech, usually around eight minutes in length, addressing a problem of some sort, and then suggesting a solution to this problem. Original Oratory could also be referred to as Persuasive Speaking, as Original Oratories are generally not speeches meant to inform. A new speech is not generally prepared for each tournament - oftentimes, a competitor may use only one speech for the entire season. The purpose of an Oratory is first to define a problem and then to build a solution, in such a manner that an audience acknowledges the severity of the problem, and is convinced that the speaker is providing a logical solution to it. This speech is generally memorized.

On the college level, this speech is called "Persuasion."


Declamation, or Oratorical Declamation is the interpretation and presentation of a speech that has been written by someone else. These speeches may be great speeches in history (Martin Luther King Jr.'s I Have a Dream speech, etc.), speeches made from magazine articles, or any number of other adaptations of non-original material. Declamations tend to be persuasive, and competition is similar to Original Oratory - the main difference being that one is original, and one is not. As in Oratory, the length of a speech is generally about eight minutes. Memorization is usually a requirement in Declamation.

Special occasion speaking

Special Occasion Speaking is essentially Oratory, but usually focusing on lighter subjects. Comedy is seen much more frequently in Special Occasion Speaking than in Oratory, but it should not detract from the message the speaker is trying to relate. Also, the speech is not as strictly persuasive as in Oratory, but can be more to simply inform. Speeches usually run about eight minutes long.

Extemporaneous speaking

Extemporaneous Speaking, or Extempore Speaking, or simply Extemp, is a speech prepared at a tournament immediately before the delivery of the speech. Extemp is another mainstay at most speech competitions. At the beginning of any round of extemp, competitors are given a subject, generally a world issue of some kind, to prepare a speech on. The competitors then have a preparation period, usually referred to as "prep time", during which they use periodicals they carried to the tournament in order 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 six to eight minutes in length, but seven minute speeches are the most common.

Impromptu speaking

Impromptu Speaking is a less common event somewhat similar to Extemp in the fact that it is prepared on the spot, but different in that the prep period is factored into the speaking time. Competitors are given a topic to speak on, usually a single word or phrase, that may be a person, thing, or well-known saying. They then composes a speech on, or at least loosely based on, the prompt. Impromptu speeches generally run about four to six minutes in length, with about two or three minutes of "prep time". Note cards may be used in the preparation of the speech, but the best speakers usually don't use them in delivery.

Radio speaking

Radio Speaking is the preparation and delivery of a five-minute newscast. Scripts may be prepared the day before 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.

Acting and interpretation events

Interpretation (dramatic or humorous)

A very common individual event, Interpretation is quite literally an interpretation of another author's work. In Interpretation, a competitor selects a work, usually a scene from a play, short story, or novel, and adapts it into an eight-minute performance. A single competitor usually 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 identifiable from any other. Competition in Interpretation is separated into Dramatic and Humorous Interpretation in order to make judging as objective as possible. While the arms and hands are used in Interpretation, the feet remain rooted in one place during the entire performance.

Duet acting

Duet Acting is exactly what the name says it is - two people perform an eight-minute scene. Just like Interpretation, competition is divided into Dramatic and Humorous Duet Acting. "Pops" are not used here, as each partner plays only one character, and, oftentimes, movement is allowed. Depending on the rules of the competition, two chairs and a table are provided as props during the performance. In some performance environments, no movement is allowed, and the partners may not make eye contact during the entire performance.

Original comedy

In Original Comedy, performers write and perform their own eight-minute comedic piece. Original Comedies usually contain multiple characters, although some monologues are periodically entered. Movement is allowed in Original Comedy - many of the rules from Interpretation and Duet Acting are merged here. No props are used in Original Comedy. As it is not necessarily an acting event, Original Comedy is oftentimes lumped in with Public Speaking.

Prose/verse reading

Prose Reading and Verse Reading, also called Poetry Reading, consist of an interpretation of another author's work. Competitors read the material from a book they use in performance - but memorization is generally a requirement. The reason for this is that although the event is called "Reading", most of the time, competitors will be making facial expressions and eye contact with the audience as they interpret the material they are presenting. Time limits for these events range from six to eight minutes.

Individual events tournaments

Individual events tournaments usually take from six to twelve hours to complete, with the longest tournaments lasting multiple days. A normal tournament usually starts around 8:00 or 9:00 AM, at which time competitors are given schematics for the day, which tell them which rooms they are competing in for each round. There are two or three preliminary rounds in a tournament, which then cut to a final round, and sometimes a semi- or quarter- final round 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).

Speech rounds

A speech round consists of the performances of between five and eight competitors, who are then ranked by a judge who watches the entire round. Competitors from single schools do not compete against each other in preliminary rounds, and competitors do not know what schools their opponents are from, as codes are assigned to each school at the beginning of the day. 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 also helps to prevent bias on the part of the judge. After the preliminary rounds, the top speakers are tabulated and a list of speakers who have "broken" 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.


The criteria for judging varies by event, but some things remain constant. A judge ranks the competitors from "1" to "6", or however many competitors are in the round, with "1" being the highest. Sometimes, speaker points are also given, which are simply an arbitrary evaluation of the performer, usually on a scale from 1 to 10, or 1 to 100, with higher numbers being more desirable. Speaker Points are primarily used to break ties when selecting which speakers will "break" finals. Some criteria for judging include:

  • Understandability
  • Depth of research in prepared events
  • Inflection in speaking events like Oratory or Radio Speaking
  • Story selection in Radio Speaking
  • Speaking pace
  • Poise
  • Acting ability in the acting events
  • Whether the performance fits the judges' standards of excellence for a given event

Judges must also fill out a critique sheet, in which they state the reasons that the competitors were ranked as they were. Competitors have coaching sessions during the week, in which they go over these critiques, and practice their speeches for their coaches.


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 towards team point totals - this to increase the importance of team participation, and because logistically, the tournaments are long enough already, and additional tabulation time is an impossibility. Sometimes, though, finals rounds are included, or preliminary rounds are 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 individuals scoring the most points for themselves in preliminary rounds are given medals - usually the top three competitors in each events (with lots of ties for each place - many competitors usually go "1-1-1", or "1-1-2" in tournaments with no finals - these being the ranks from each round.) In tournaments with final rounds, the finalists in each event are called on stage, where they are given their medals. As each medal is awarded starting with sixth place, or however many were in the round, the person awarded the medal leaves the stage, until only one competitor, the tournament champion, is left standing. Team awards are also given for the five teams with the most points.

External links

High school links

National Forensic League (

National Catholic Forensic League (

National Christian Forensics and Communications Association (

Some state forensic organizations

Illinois High School Association (

Massachusetts Forensic League (

Florida Forensic League (

New York State Forensic League (

California High School Speech Association (

Notable high school individual events teams

Wheaton North High School Speech Team (

Eagle Point High School Speech Team (

Lynbrook High School Speech Team (

College links

National Forensic Association (

American Forensic Association (

Some college individual events teams

Bradley University Speech Team (

El Camino College Forensic Team (

Bethel College Forensics Team (


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