ACUI Poetry Slam

The Basics of Organizing a Slam

Get certified

To conduct a campus tournament using this format, your college or university must be a certified Poetry Slam venue by purchasing a certification through ACUI. Starting in 2011, this certification is included in the cost of registration. Certification resources may be found online in the coming weeks.

The resources include the official Poetry Slam rules and regulations, score sheets, volunteer descriptions, emcee script, judges briefing, bout rotations, tips for running a slam, tips for running a large-scale tournament, history of Poetry Slam, and more.

Planning the Slam

  1. Develop a committee or a student organization that will enhance your program on campus. Be sure to have a supportive faculty or staff advisor to assist you.
  2. Advertise the program on campus in the surrounding community
  3. Develop the budget and registration process
  4. Plan for a two- to three-hour program
    • Identify an ideal location in your college union or another place on or near campus, such as a coffee house, campus pub, amphitheater, or fireplace lounge
    • Slams work best when there is a stage with a standing mic, while music interludes and a lighting system always help
    • Find a host of Slam Master/Mistress of Ceremony to run the show
    • Identify a featured guest poet to headline the show
    • Incorporate some open mic time into the show
    • Offer prizes to the top poets
    • Prepare materials for the scoring process
    • Learn the rules!

The Basic Rules of Poetry Slam

... as incompletely extracted from the 1998 National Poetry Slam Emcee Spiel, Aug. 19-22, 1998 in Austin, Texas.

“This is a Poetry Slam, and this is the official emcee spiel...

“Poets will have three minutes to perform one poem of their own construction. No props, costumes, or musical accompaniment are allowed. Our panel of five judges, which have been chosen from the audience, will score each poem. We’ll drop the high and low scores. We’ll keep a running total and let you know how it turns out.

“Judges: You will score each poem on a scale of 0.0 to 10.0, considering both content and performance, so 10.0 would be an earth-shattering text performed perfectly, and 0.0 would be the worst poem you could imagine performed by someone who shouldn’t quit school, or his or her day job. We encourage you to use decimals as this helps avoid ties (use no more than two decimal places only, please.) And, we implore you to remain consistent with yourself.

“Some final notes:

  1. Poets must check their ego at the door. Poets engage your audience!
  2. Audience: Please give your attention to the poets while they are performing.
  3. Audience: After the poem is finished, we encourage you to respond to the poets or the judges in any way you think is appropriate.
  4. Judges: Give the poem the score that you think it deserves—don’t be influenced by the audience or the other judges.
  5. Above all else, EVERYBODY HAVE FUN!”


Updated July 15, 2016