Oh, Declamation! I Can Hardly Contain Myself!

Much of a Declamation's success rides on the showmanship quality you add.  Appearing confident is one factor of performance (see this article for more information: http://www.forensicscommunity.com/declamation/declamation-confidence-5-k...).  The other factor is related to energy.  You could have flawless diction and make excellent eye contact, but if you look half asleep your audience will begin to yawn.  Declamation can be a hard event to keep the energy high because it is non-acting and often politically driven.  Speeches are mostly written to be understood by the masses, rarely to entertain.  However, Declamation can be a thrilling event if you pour in some energy!

  • Rest-up the night before. How can you expect not to yawn and look tired if you did not sleep?  Practice your piece and get to bed early the night before a tournament!  A few extra hours of sleep can be the difference between turning into a zombie or remaining perky all day. 
  • Eat breakfast. Food is broken down and stored in our bodies for energy.  Adrenaline can only carry you so far before you need sustenance. 
  • Warm-up. Prior to entering a round you should have warmed-up.  Do a fast paced run of your piece.  Stretch your face.  Say some lines that work your tongue to ensure articulation.  Not only will warm-ups help focus your mind, but they also tell your body competition is starting and gets your blood pumping. 
  • Vocal variation. A monotone Declamation is about as exciting as being forced to watch a horribly boring movie for three hours.  Keep your audience interested by keeping your vocals interesting.  Use dynamics, change tempo, pay detail to tone, ANYTHING to add life to your words.  Look to punctuation and diction to determine the best course for variation.  
  • Gestures and movement. Do not just move but put purpose behind it.  A halfhearted motion is dull.  It says to the audience "I am moving across the room because decorum dictates I do." Adding some bounce and strength behind any movement instantly increase energy levels.
  • Facials.  It is amazing, but when you smile as you talk via telephone the person on the receiving end can pick-up on your enthusiasm.  If smiling has that much power over the phone, imagine when you can witness it first hand?!  Not that every Declamation lends itself to smiling.  However, when you can add a smile do so.  Happiness is infectious!  Also, as you speak be sure to use your face.  Offering no facial expressions is much like being monotone--it's boring!  Actively using your face also keeps you involved in the performance, which in turn adds to the energy, which then is seen by your listeners, which finally pays off as a captivated audience.   
  • Believe what you say. You may have performed this Declamation ten times the night before but you must approach each performance as if it were your first.  After all, for some in the round this is the first time they have seen your piece.  You need to capture that zeal you found when you first began working your piece with every performance.  You need to believe every syllable and not be a recording.  Engage your speech!  Why? Being excited to present your piece to an audience translates as energy!  If you no longer care for the work, then perhaps it is time to take a break from the speech. 

Energy not only draws your audience into your performance but also keeps you involved.  Declamation can be a hard event to keep passionate about when you hear mostly serious, political speeches all day.  Yet, it can be done and it must.  Think back on what you love about Declamation and your piece and watch the energy flow from every word you speak.