So you've been asked to run extemp prep. It's daunting. You have to post panels (rooms and speaking order) and topics (three per speaker, every 7 minutes), move speakers around in panels when their debate rounds run late, and keep anxious novices quiet and sane. If you fail, the entire tournament will run late.
Here are some tips to help you not fail.
1. When extempers enter, have them sign in by circling the number next to their code. This lets you immediately know who's late, and, more important who can be moved around. This is the single smartest thing you can do, which is why I'm placing it first.
2. Necessary materials: dry erase board and markers, masking tape (clear tape is too tough to peel off surfaces), scissors, pens, paper, a timer or digital clock, a booming voice, patience.
3. Announce the rules before you start posting. Re-announce them when the tardy teams show up.
4. Keep the rules simple. I have three: no talking, no electronic devices (such as cell phones or iPods), do not leave without permission.
5. Convince tournament authorities to provide an extra half hour between the first A rounds, if they're running successively.
6. Bring something to read when the first three speakers have already left and the pace slows down.
7. Place topics in at least two locations, so you aren't gored to death in the onslaught when you post Speaker #1.
8. Remind students to double-check the posting before leaving.
9. Circulate around the room to check for chicanery.
10. Have a direct way to communicate with the tab room, either via walkie-talkie or cell phone. It may save your life.
11. Do all these things well, and you will be cursed by your success and asked to run extemp prep forever and ever amen.