The 14 Speech Events: What Are They?


Katie Schultz

Speech is a relatively little-known activity in CCHS.  Its complicated rules, events, and tournaments are second nature to those on the team, but from the outside it can look a bit strange and cultish. If you’re curious about some of the inner workings of the speech team, learning about the events is a good place to start.

Speech events are divided into three categories: Acting, Limited Preparation (limited prep), and Public Address. There are seven acting events, three limited prep events, and four public address events. Typically, the events are listed in alphabetical order and referred to in acronyms, but grouping them together is simpler.


Acting Events:

Speech acting events are the most numerous, even if they might not technically be “speeches.” They are often the most popular. 

1. Dramatic Duet Acting (DDA)

This event involves two competitors acting out a dramatic scene. They usually choose a script with a lot of dialogue and two characters. Often, the scripts are all fairly similar and usually involve something “classically” dramatic: cancer, death, abuse, mental illness, neglect, assault, murder, etc. Sometimes they have more than one and can be almost humorous with the attempted drama stuffed in. Actors in this event need to not mind looking a little bit ridiculous at times if they lack a good script. If done right, DDA can be meaningful, highly entertaining, and thought-provoking. If done poorly, it’s usually still entertaining, but for the wrong reasons.

2. Humorous Duet Acting (HDA)

HDA is the only other event that involves partners. It’s very similar to DDA as far as the rules go, but the purpose is, of course, to be funny. If the HDA is good, it often blends humor with a subtle but timely message. A bad HDA probably relies on cheap humor in the form of mockery. Actors in HDA need to be able to work with their partner to help make both people funny, instead of hogging the spotlight. HDA can be fun, but it can also easily offend the audience or make everyone uncomfortable.

3. Dramatic Interpretation (DI)

The goal of an actor in DI is to make the audience cry (preferably from sadness and not secondhand embarrassment). The person chooses a monologue, book passage, or script in the first-person narrative and acts it out, pretending to be the character as they experience a dramatic situation. Once again, these situations usually have similar themes (see DDA topics) and risk overemphasizing certain exhausted stereotypes, or being boring. A well-done DI is unique and heart-wrenching, tragic and brave; in short: it’s super dramatic. DI can either be eye-opening or blindingly cringe-y. It’s up to the actor and script to make the difference.

4. Humorous Interpretation (HI)

HI is an event with a premise unique to speech. An actor selects a written work with a lot of dialogue and characters, and brings it to life by playing every single character. They do this by “popping” in between characters, adopting different postures, voices, and actions, to portray many different people. Sometimes an HI isn’t funny, and it’s awkwardly silent. The performer has to be able to keep performing, even if the audience is unimpressed.

5. Original Comedy (OC)

Very similar to HI, OC has the same performance rules, but the person has to write the script. It is often considered to be the most challenging acting event, because they have to be both clever and good at performing it. Most of the time, OC can be almost painful to watch. However, a final round, especially towards the end of the year, can be very entertaining and humorous.

6. Poetry Reading (POE)

Poetry is fairly self-explanatory. The actor reads from a selection or program of one or more poems. They are allowed to be funny or dramatic, but usually do best when they’re a mix of both. Sometimes, poetry pieces have a political or philosophical message, and sometimes they’re just for entertainment. The only true requirement is that the selection be in verse. Poetry performers use a small black binder as a “book” to pretend to read from, but they should have it memorized.

7. Prose Reading (PR)

Prose is sort of similar to DI in that the actor is telling a story (and usually being way too dramatic). It can also be compared to Poetry because it uses a book. The difference, however, is that the script must be in “prose,” meaning it can’t be in verse or written as a play or monologue. Usually, a prose is part of a book or short story. While there’s no requirement for drama, actors often fill their selections with tragedies and catastrophes. It can be kind of depressing to listen to.


Limited Preparation

The concept of limited prep is sort of intimidating to outsiders. Speakers are given a topic or question, and have limited periods of time to form a speech that they then perform. It takes a certain kind of person to do, but it can be grueling for anyone.

1. Radio Speaking (RS)

This event requires the speaker to pretend to be a radio host, reading out the news and advertisements and weather. Speakers have 45 minutes to pull together a 5-minute broadcast with local, regional, national, and global current events. Instead of standing up to perform, the person sits with their back to the audience and reads. The broadcast is timed (but not by the reader) and if it is far from 5 minutes, they are penalized or disqualified. This event requires a good sense of timing.

2. Impromptu Speaking (IMP)

In Impromptu, the speaker is given a philosophical quote, and has two minutes to prepare a 6-minute speech about whether or not they agree with it. They give examples of why, and have to think on the spot. Though they can have a note card, speakers need to be quick thinking, smooth speaking, and not put off by blunders. To some, it’s high intensity and stressful. To others, it’s easier.

3. Extemporaneous Speaking (EXTEMP)

Often considered the most intimidating of events, extemp requires a ton of outside work. Speakers are asked a political question, and have 30 minutes to formulate a clear answer with at least six current sources. However, they can’t use the internet. They must file all of these source articles in the days before the tournament, and then pick from that vault to answer the question. If they don’t have info on the chosen question, then it’s tough luck. Extemp can be very difficult, but it is a good way to learn how to make an argument or essay very quickly.



Public Speaking

These events are what most people think of when they hear the word “speech.” Speakers stand in front of the audience and persuade, inform, or simply talk to them.

1. Informative Speaking (INFO)

This event is fairly easy to figure out. The speaker chooses a topic, and writes a speech about it with the purpose of informing the audience. Unlike limited prep events, info speeches are written long before the tournament, and kept all year. Topics usually include new scientific discoveries, exciting technology, or little-known ideas. But sometimes, the best info is one about an incredibly mundane topic, just re-imagined.

2. Original Oratory (OO)

OO is a non-specific persuasive speech. The topic can be just about anything, as long as the speaker’s intent is to convince the audience to adopt their view. Usually, they are about social issues and serious matters, but sometimes speakers choose lighter topics and do well, too. Speeches are written by the speaker, and changed and improved over time. Often a mix of emotional appeal and logic is used to make the point.

3. Special Occasion Speaking (SOS)

Similar to Oratory, SOS is also a persuasive speech. However, it must be addressed to a specific audience that the speaker is trying to persuade. School classes, clubs, and extracurricular activities are often used. Unlike OO’s more emotional appeal, an SOS utilizes humor to make the point. SOS is almost a mix between speaking and a humorous event. If well done, they can be entertaining and fun to watch. If done poorly, they’re rather boring.


Speech can be confusing and mysterious. But after learning the events and their acronyms, it’s easier to understand and enjoy.