Speech Round Overview
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Review Your Ballot
- You will receive a paper or electronic ballot.
- The ballot lists the speakers in order, has a place for you to enter results, and typically includes space for feedback about each competitor.
- The ballot will also tell you which room you are assigned.
- A typical round will include six different contestants, although this number can fluctuate depending on how many students are signed up.
Prepare to Judge
- You will watch the entirety of the round, which typically lasts for about one hour.
- Silence your notifications so that the speakers can have your full attention!
- Bring a computer or notepad so you can take notes on each speech.
- Have a cell phone or stopwatch with you so you can time each speech.
Understand Tournament Policy
- As the judge, you will ask competitors to perform one at a time in the order that is listed on your ballot.
- In speech, it is common for competitors to enter in more than one event at the tournament; this is called being cross-entered.
- Students who are cross-entered may ask to speak out of order because they have another event to attend.
- You may also notice that you do not have all of your competitors in the room when the round is supposed to start. This is often because a student that is competing in your room is cross-entered and has gone to speak in a different room first.
- Find out whether cross-entry is allowed at the tournament you’re judging, and ask the coach of your school or a tournament official if there is a recommendation on how to handle it! Typically, tournaments will ask you to begin with the first speaker who is present, even if they are not the first one on your ballot. Tournaments with cross-entry typically do not allow judges to penalize students for entering the room late.
Invite the Speakers to Begin
- When you reach the time the round is supposed to begin, ask the first speaker who is listed on your ballot to begin their speech. Competitors will speak in the order listed on your ballot.
- After each speech, simply thank the competitor and invite the next speaker to begin.
Time Each Performance
- Using your phone or an electronic stopwatch, time each student from when they begin speaking to when they stop.
- Make note of the amount of time each speech lasted.
- Each speech event has a time limit and a 30-second grace period. If a student’s speech goes beyond the time limit and 30-second grace period, that student cannot be ranked the best in the round.
- There is no further penalty for going over time, and there is no penalty for being under time.
- Students will occasionally ask for time signals because you are timing their speeches, and it is up to you whether or not you would like to honor that request.
- Time signals let competitors know how much of their time limit they have left in the speech.
- The most common time signals are to alert the student when they have one and two minutes remaining by holding one or two fingers in the air.
- Take notes during each speech. Write down anything that stood out to you about each speech—the best moments, the parts of the speech that could be improved, and ideas for how the student can make their speech better.
- Many judges find it is easiest to record this feedback during the speech instead of waiting until all performers have finished.
- Minimize anything that could be distracting for the performers like cell phone notifications and make it clear that you are giving the competitors your full attention.
- Perception can be reality for performers. For example, if you are judging online, you may be fully attentive while your camera is off, but the competitors cannot tell!
Evaluate the Speakers
- When the last speaker has finished their speech, thank all of the competitors and dismiss them from the room.
- Review your notes and, if needed, review resources related to the event you are judging so you know what factors in the speeches to consider.
Complete Your Ballot
- Rank the students from best to worst in the round.
- The best performance will receive a ranking of 1, the second best will receive a ranking of 2, and so on.
- Depending on the tournament, you may also be asked to assign competitors speaker points. These points help further differentiate the excellence of each speaker.
- Typically, points are awarded on a scale of 80-100, with 100 being outstanding.
- In the comment section on the ballot, record your thoughts about each performance, suggestions for improvement, and general feedback for the performer.
- The students and their coaches receive this feedback at the end of the tournament and use it to improve!
Turn in Your Ballot
- After the rankings are complete, judges should return their ballots to the tournament organizer in person or electronically, depending on the tournament’s procedures.
- Congratulations on completing the round, and thank you for judging!
Speech Judging Resources
There are several different events that fall within the category of “speech.” Some of these events are partner events, some are self-written, some are memorized, and some of them are longer than others.
Select an event from the table to find resources specific to judging that particular event!
Choose an Event
Humorous Interpretation (HI) is a memorized event, and there is a 10-minute time limit with a 30-second grace period.
Dramatic Interpretation (DI) is a memorized event, and there is a 10-minute time limit with a 30-second grace period.
Program Oral Interpretation (POI) performances require that the speaker uses a binder or booklet. There is a 10-minute time limit with a 30-second grace period.
There are often two different categories of Extemporaneous Speaking: International Extemp (IX) and United States Extemp (USX). These two events function the same way, but IX features topics that are international in nature, and USX features topics about the United States. Extemp speakers will report to the “prep room” 30 minutes before their round begins to select a topic, prepare a speech, memorize it, and come to the room to perform it for you! You should expect speakers to join your room one at a time with a few minutes in between each speech. Extemp speeches in both IX and USX are memorized with a time limit of 7-minutes and a grace period of 30-seconds.
- Learn more about International Extemp and United States Extemp
- Review a sample Extemp ballot with written feedback
- Check out a video on how to judge Extemporaneous Speaking
Resource package subscribers can practice using a real round! Review a video of a full Extemp round and corresponding ballots from a panel of real Extemp judges.
Informative Speaking (INF) is a memorized event meant to educate you. Students may or may not choose to use visual aids. There is a 10-minute time limit with a 30-second grace period.
Prose (PRO) performances require that the speaker uses a binder or booklet. The time limits for Prose differ in many states, so check with your tournament director! At the high school level for the NSDA National Tournament, there is a 5-minute time limit with a 30-second grace period. At the middle school level for NSDA tournaments, there is a 7-minute time limit with a 30-second grace period.
Poetry (POE) performances require that the speaker uses a binder or booklet. The time limits for Poetry differ in many states, so check with your tournament director! At the high school level for the NSDA National Tournament, there is a 5-minute time limit with a 30-second grace period. At the middle school level for NSDA tournaments, there is a 7-minute time limit with a 30-second grace period.
Review a sample Poetry ballot with written feedback
Pro Con Challenge (PCC) is typically an online event. It features a pro and a con speech performed within a 10-minute time limit with a 30-second grace period. The performance should not be memorized.
In Impromptu (IMP), students have 7 minutes to select a topic, write a speech, memorize the speech, and deliver it. Students typically draw their Impromptu topic from an envelope that the judge receives before they go to their room. Students may prepare for 2 minutes and speak for 5, prepare for 4 minutes and speak for 3, and so on.
Students in Extemporaneous Commentary (EXC) will report to the “prep room” 20-minutes before their round begins to select a topic, prepare a speech, memorize it, and come to the room to perform it for you! You should expect speakers to join your room one at a time with a few minutes in between each speech. Extemp Commentary speeches are memorized and delivered from a seated position behind a table or desk. There is a time limit of 5-minutes and a grace period of 30-seconds.
Duo Interpretation (DUO) is a two-person event. The performance should be memorized, and there is a 10-minute time limit with a 30-second grace period.