Much More than Author and Title – Proper INTRODUCTIONS


When we introduce people to one another, we announce their names, their particulars and then offer pleasantries with the purpose of making a connection for the first time.

In the same way, competitive speakers are permitted to write introductions when presenting interpretive selections from literature. This should be done as we would with any other kind of introduction. It is slightly nuanced in the sense that your judging panel is not permitted to respond, but the speaker must remember that this introduction should include enough information to show the merits of the selection and at the same time intrigue the audience about what is to come.

Here’s what we know…

Most forensics leagues require that the title and author be stated for all interpretive work. It may help to disclose the date of original publication or a copyright too, if that provides additional context for the judges. No more than 150 words may be added to the script in single-source interpretations like Dramatic and Humorous Interp. Use those words well! The introduction may open the presentation from the onset or be nestled after an opening scene (what is sometimes referred to as a “teaser”) Either way, the speaker is attempting to make a connection between the piece and the audience. They are being “introduced” to one another.

Here are additional helpful recommendations from Forensics The Winner’s Guide to Speech Contests by Brent C.Oberg, Meriwether Publishing, Ltd., Colorado Springs, © 1995. Oberg says,

“First, you must introduce your audience to the characters, setting, and mood of the literature.  If you are performing a short section of a larger work, you must give the audience a feel for the literature as a whole and tell them what happened before the scene you plan to perform.  Pretend your friends have entered a movie ten minutes late and you must tell them the basic conflict, who the story is about, and what important events and plot twists they have missed.  Finally, give a short preview of the scene you will perform so that your listeners will be able to follow your performance easily, focusing on your performance and interpretation rather than the plot of your selection.  Be careful not to reveal the resolution of your story or piece, though—you want there to be some element of suspense for the audience.” (101)

Finally, give your audience a reason to listen to your selection. What value does it hold for them? Why should they care about the storyline and the characters who take part? How will they be able to identify with them? Again, the introduction provides an opportunity for the universal appeal of the story to be highlighted so that a good connection can be made from the start. Oberg goes on to say,

“For your performance to have impact, there must be a larger reason you have selected your literature than simply thinking it will help you win.  What do you feel the audience can learn from your piece of literature?  What new insights to the literature will your interpretation provide?  Why does this piece have literary merit?  If you answer these questions in the introduction of your interpretation, you will be surprised to find that your piece will be regarded by judges as more substantive and how few judges will believe it to be lacking in literary merit.” (101)

Now you have it. Give careful thought to the way in which you will introduce your selection. Offer enough information for the audience to understand the backdrop of your story as well as its overall significance.

With a good introduction, we are all much more likely to say,

“Pleased to have met you, and we’ll not soon forget you!”