Making the Cut: Declamations and Keeping Time

Being within time is an important aspect to any performance.  Falter thirty seconds over time, or drastically under, and your rank will suffer.  Thus, it may come to pass that a trimming of the piece be done.  Whilst looking at your Declamation script there should be several thoughts bouncing about before you begin the slicing.

  • Have you done a trial reading? Before you even think of cutting be sure to read your piece aloud to get an estimation of time.  Looking at how long your piece is in print does give you some idea of how long the speech can be, but an eyeball guestimation is not enough.  Read the speech out loud a few times, being sure to clock yourself, to get an average.  If you do need to cut, this procedure will also supply you with an idea of how much dialogue needs to be axed.
  • Do you need to cut words or pauses? If your Declamation is barely over time the issue might not be with the cutting but with you.  Do you know the piece cold?  Not being fully memorized slows down a performance because you are searching for words.  Another issue might be that you are taking liberal pauses.  Have an observer take notice if this is the culprit.  If so, add some pep to your Dec.!
  • Are movements hindering you? Never let movement slow down your piece.  If you are sauntering across the room without talking there is a problem.  Speak while you walk.  It looks professional, saves time, and is super-easy; definitely simpler than trying to rub your tummy while patting your head.   
  • Is your introduction too long? A Declamation's background information about the person, event, or product you are speaking about is essential.  If people do not understand who, what, or why you are using this speech, people will not listen to you.  But do you have too much information jammed into your introduction?  An introduction should be around thirty seconds in length.  Keep it short, to the point, and press forward.  
  • Be careful what you cut! After considering the above options, if cutting your speech is necessary you need to think about what you will be omitting.  Do not skimp on any background information the speech gives.  Leave out too much of the educational portions and your listeners will have no idea what you are talking about.  Do not cut anything or anyone that explains a reference you have kept in the piece (unless you do not need the cut information to comprehend).  For example, if I leave a reference to JFK in my speech, but have cut a paragraph explaining why the speech even mentions JFK, then my audience will ask "why is JFK in this?"  Do not slash any vital support; if support does need to be removed keep the most important segments.  Do retain the structure of the speech.  The writer worked hard to create a flow--do not cut something that jeopardizes the speech's structure.  Above all, remember to maintain the beauty of the speech that drew you towards it. 

Having to trim a Declamation is a common occurrence.  Not all speeches were devised to fill an eight to ten minute time frame.  If cutting need happen, think about how you drag that pencil through the ink.  And save a copy of the original speech because as time progresses, and you master your Declamation, you may find you can add sections you snipped back into your cutting!