In tournament competition, Declamation is open only to students in grades 7 - 10. Students in grades 7-8 can compete in the preliminary and MetroFinal tournaments, but they cannot compete at NCFL Nationals. Declamation competitors present memorized speeches that were written and delivered by another person. Commencement addresses, historical speeches, political speeches, celebrity speeches, eulogies, and sermons are all possibilities. Stand-up comedy routines are prohibited. The speech must have been presented as a public address and found in print, on video, DVD or on an audio recording.

Students often need to shorten the text of the speech to meet the time limit. The goal of a declamation is to convey a message with clarity, emotion, and persuasiveness. It's not intended for students to mimic the manner of the author of the speech. Instead, speakers are to develop an oration that delivers the message of the author in an original and engaging manner.

The presentation should include an introduction that provides the title of the speech and the author, and should include relevant information about the theme and date of the oration or its historical significance. Dialects of the original speaker need not be mimicked. No scripts, costumes, or props may be used in the presentation. Judges will rank students based on which speaker best demonstrated an understanding of the author's message and delivered that message in a poised and engaging manner.

Time limit: Maximum of 10 minutes. While no minimum is prescribed, speeches of less than 7-8 minutes often receive lower scores.

Summary of Judging Criteria

  • Introduction The introduction should name the work and author, provide necessary background information and establish the mood.
  • Presentation Style: The speaker should convey the message in a sincere, honest, and realistic attempt to recreate the spirit of the original presentation. Although the style of delivery chosen by the speaker should be judged in light of the purpose of the speech, artificiality is to be discredited. The message should be conveyed credibly and convincingly as if the words were the speaker's own. This event is an interpretation, not an impersonation.
  • Vocal Delivery: The speaker should be articulate and fluent. The speaker should make use of contrast, making use of the elements of vocal variety: pitch, volume, rate, pausing, phrasing, stress, and tone. The speaker should be conversational and concerned, passionate and pleasing. The speaker should be in control of the words and the emotions. The speaker should sound confident and self-assured, and seem eager to enlighten the audience. The speaker should convey the message in a sincere, honest, and realistic style in an attempt to recreate the spirit of the original presentation.
  • Physical Delivery: The speaker should be physically open to the audience and use body language that invites the audience into the world of the declaimer. The speaker should vary facial expression to accentuate the natural flow of thoughts and feelings. The speaker should make eye contact with the audience. Movement, if used, should be motivated by transitions in thought or mood. Gestures should be visible, effectively used for emphasis, and varied.
  • Overall Effect: The speaker should project an understanding of the speech's message. The speaker should instill in the audience a concern for the speech's content. The original speaker's message should not be overshadowed by the delivery.