Declamation Confidence: 5 Keys to Appearing In Control

You have found the speech, you have practiced it diligently, and now comes the moment where you show everyone what it is you have been working on late into the night.  The Declamation rounds are where your dedication to detail will be seen.  That is, if you can calm your heartbeat and capture those butterflies wispily lofting about in your stomach.  Too often panic bests us and tampers with all the precision we have planed for our version of a perfect performance.  Fear not!  In Declamation there are ways to appear confident and in control when our insides are indeed queasy.

  1. Eye Contact. Liars and those of shifty dispositions are typically ensnared by their tell of avoiding eye contact.  Humans are social beings, and it is with our eyes we make connections to others.  Therefore, by making it a point to look into the faces of your audience, and not at the wall behind them, you are helping to draw your listeners into your words.  You are displaying to those watching that you believe in what you say and that you truly wish to share the message--simply by holding their gaze.  You also avoid becoming an untrustworthy, nervous looking speaker.
  2. Posture/Stance. Ask any actor how a character's appearance adds dimension to a performance and the topic of posture and stance certainly will be cited.  Despite all of man's intellect, we are still animals that look towards physicality to judge the strength of the competition, and actors know this.  To create a weak character, an easy choice an actor can make is to slouch.  Size is very important to our animal brains.  Think big!  Standing tall with your feet shoulder width apart instantly lets you take up more space, giving you the appearance of being larger.  Normally, this puffing-up is associated with importance.  Why make yourself more noticeable if you have nothing to say?  Declamation is all about delivering a viewpoint, so looking like you should own the attention of the room is vital. 
  3. No Rocking. Once you have taken your stand as the Alpha performer you do not want to give your nerves away by absentmindedly rocking from foot to foot.  Shifting of weight equates to being unsure of yourself.  It appears as if you are uncomfortable and need to displace your energies from your words to your feet.  It also is extremely annoying to watch.  People will want to walk over to you, grab you around the shoulders, and forcibly stop your swaying. 
  4. Hands. Another exit point of nervous energies can be in the hands.  Do not let yourself subconsciously perform the same hand gesture on loop, or twitch, as a means to calm yourself.  Any movement of the hands is highly noticeable so be sure your motions are thoroughly planned; or at least smooth. 
  5. Voice. While performing your Declamation you need to be as aware of your voice as you are of your body.  You may appear tranquil on the surface, but inside your fears may lead to your voice betraying you.  Particularly at the start of the piece be sure to take a deep breath to help ensure your voice rings clear and with support.  If you ever falter with a word and let that stumble grip you, again, breathe and try to not break your strong voice.  Keep diction impeccable, avoid placeholders ("um"), and project.  Sounding good is linked to feeling good.

Confidence is the backbone to a solid Declamation performance.  The best aspect of it is that you do not need nearly as much as one would think to look confident.  Many times boldness is an act.  If you can learn to be observant of yourself and control your actions whilst in a round, you can give the illusion you are fearless.