Berman Speech Invitational

2021 — NSDA Campus, CA/US



Greetings to All,

El Cerrito High School Speech and Debate and public speaking non-profit The Practice Space welcome you to attend our Berman Speech Invitational, a one-day tournament to encourage participation in individual events. The tournament will feature traditional 7-10 minute long California speech events, in addition to shorter 3-5 minute unconventional events in poetry, storytelling, and issue speeches. This tournament is open to middle and high school students. Novices are particularly encouraged to attend.

The tournament will be held on Saturday, February 27, 2021, online using NSDA Campus. All speech events will be performed live (no videos required).

Cathy and Sandy Berman were beloved long-time coaches here at El Cerrito, who were both devoted to promoting diversity and inclusion in the speech and debate community. We dedicate this tournament to them to continue their legacy of helping every student use their voice. This tournament will also feature a lunch-time guest speaker, Patrick Seals, a former speech and debate competitor and expert storyteller, who will be delivering inspirational remarks on life after forensics.

Speech Events

Conventional Events (5-10 minutes long)

  • Dramatic Interpretation (DI): a 10-min dramatic performance of a published piece.

  • Humorous Interpretation (HI): a 10-min humorous performance of a published piece.

  • Oratorical Interpretation (OI): a 10-min performance of a speech by a famous speaker.

  • Expository Speaking (EXPOS): a 10-min original speech to inform about a topic.
  • Original Oratory (OO): a 10-min original persuasive speech by the student, drawing attention to a societal issue or problem.

  • Original Prose/Poetry (OPP): a 10-min original creative speech by the student, usually in the form of an original play, monologue, short story, collection of poems.

  • Programmed Oral Interpretation (POI): a 10-min collection of 2 to 4 different sources, tied together with a theme.

  • Impromptu Speaking (IMP): a 5-minute original speech by the student, prepared in only 2 minutes out of a choice of 3 prompts.

  • Extemporaneous Speaking (EXTEMP): a 7-minute original speech commenting about domestic and international events, prepared in 30 minutes out of a choice of 3 prompts.

Unconventional Events

  • Storytelling with Props (SWP): a 2 to 3-min true or fictional story inspired by an object that the judge finds in their home, prepared with only 2 minutes of preparation time.

  • Poetry Slam (PS): up to 3-min performance of an original, prepared poem.

  • Issue Speeches (IS): a 3 to 5-min original persuasive speech by the student, based on the prompt “I want to teach the world…”

SPAR Debate (SPAR): One-on-one mini-debates. Students will be in rooms of 4 students and the first pair will debate a topic and the second pair will debate a different topic. There are no winners, but all four students will be ranked in order by the judge based on their speaking ability. Topics are general knowledge and sometimes silly or philosophical in nature.

SPAR Timing is as follows: 5 minutes of Preparation; 2 minute Affirmative (Pro) Opening Speech; 2 minute Cross-Examination Questioning (by opponent or anyone in audience); 2 minute Negative (Con) Opening Speech; 2 minute Cross-Examination Questioning (by opponent or anyone in audience); 1 minute Negative (Con) Closing Speech; 1 minute Affirmative (Pro) Closing Speech.


We plan to offer novice and varsity divisions in all events, but reserve the right to collapse divisions based on entries. Novice is defined as the first year of competition. This tournament is especially geared towards novices and first-time competitors.

Double and Triple Entry, and Beyond

Competitors may enter as many events as they like, as long as they are responsible for being in the right place at the right time.


One speech judge covers 7 entries.

Finals and Awards Ceremony

Each event will have 3 preliminary rounds of competition, with no final rounds. Awards will also be presented via livestream. Instead of finals, the top speaker in each event will be featured in a public livestream performance at a later date (with permission).


$20 school fee. Speech entries are $10 each. Please make all adds and drops by Sunday, February 21st at 5 pm. You will still be able to make changes and drops on-line after that, but you will be charged $25 for late adds, and drops will be non-refundable. Talk to us if the above fees are an obstacle to attending for you. Fee waivers are available based on need.

Checks made out to Friends of El Cerrito Forensics or FOECF should be mailed to JJ Thorp, 521 Washington Avenue, Richmond, CA 94801. Paypal accepted. Make payment to


A “pattern” is a shorthand way to list the different events in the schedule. Make sure to take note of which pattern students are competing in.

Pattern A: SPAR

Pattern B: SWP, IS, and PS

Pattern C: DI, HI, OI, OO, OPP, POI, Imp, Extemp

Tentative Schedule (see updated detailed schedule on right-side panel, yellow boxes)

8:00am: Registration and Check-In

9:00am - 11:00am: Pattern A (Rounds 1, 2, and 3) and Pattern C (Round 1)

11:00am - 12:00pm: Lunchtime Guest Speaker

12:00pm - 3:00pm: Pattern B (Rounds 1, 2, and 3) and Pattern C (Rounds 2 and 3)

4:00pm: Awards


We look forward to seeing you on February 27th!

AnnMarie Baines, Speech Tournament Director

El Cerrito Speech and Debate Team

The Practice Space Team