In matters of money you either give interest to get dollars, or give dollars to get interest. In either case, it is give and take. The same principle applies to those who speak in public. It is mutual. To get interest from an audience, it is necessary to give the audience something for their interest.
Nearly everyone is called upon on occasions to speak a few words in public, and to give his views, thoughts and ideas concerning different subjects. We find it necessary to make a speech.
I have been speaking in public ever since I shouted: "The boy stood on the burning deck." That was over forty years ago. In that time I have made many speeches covering a variety of subjects. I have read many speeches made by others. I have listened to many speeches made from the platform and over the radio. I have concentrated on these speeches, taking particular note of their technique, quality and style. Through my own experience and observation and by analyzing the speeches of others, I have acquired some practical knowledge on the subject. I am passing this information along to you. The principles selected have been used most effectively and persuasively by others. I believe you will find them helpful.
Making a speech is one of man's oldest arts, and one of the quickest and most potent ways to get ideas over to his listeners. The higher types of speech demand not only mere readiness in speech, in grace, in gesture, and a fluent command of language; but back of these accomplishments must rest superior powers of thought, logical sequence in reasoning, quickness and brilliancy of conception, control of rhetoric; and also what is known as personal magnetism, which is the ability to sway the feeling of the hearers by expressing warmly what they are thinking. Ideas must be couched in words that convey the real meaning of thought.
The most scientific way to develop your ability to speak before an audience is to follow certain definite principles which other successful speakers have found to be effective. Try to get a book containing famous lectures or speeches. Memorize and recite the opening paragraphs, the climaxes and endings of the great orations until they become thoroughly familiar. Many sentences, phrases and words may be used many times when you mix and flavor them with originality. They increase your capacity to speak fluently and give the speech a certain quality that makes an impression. Demosthenes, as well as all other famous Greek, Roman and American speakers have followed this practice. Demosthenes had a book containing fifty or more stock perorations, climaxes, beginnings, endings, anecdotes, illustrations, and form paragraphs which he used repeatedly throughout even his greatest orations. He made suitable variations to fit the occasion.
Elbert Hubbard's Scrap Book contains useful material that can be applied to any speech. Stevenson's The Home Book of Quotations, will furnish a suitable quotation that may be incorporated in any speech. In driving home a point, an apt quotation has no substitute. It makes your listeners sit up and take notice. Read The World's Greatest Orators and Their Best Orations by Morris. Every man has an occasion to show his stuff, and the time to get prepared is when no one is looking. It is an advantage to any one to speak distinctly, to the point, gracefully and with genuine fire. It extends your personality, enriches your character, and will help to turn your ability into cash.
There are three bodies to a speech.
A speech is more effective and more fully appreciated when prepared. Follow a pattern. Arrange your points in logical sequence. The introduction and the close are very simple. The Main Body of a Speech, to persuade and convince, must be planned on the following principles.
1. ORGANIZE YOUR THOUGHTS
A speech, to be effective, must be direct and to the point. In preparing a speech, take a sheet of paper, write down every thought and idea you can possibly think of pertaining to the subject. One thought suggests another. Read all the correlative material you can lay your hands on, and make a note of every thought that will add illumination to the subject. Analyze and review this material, get all the facts, and find out everything possible on the subject. Get the history, background, economic relation and the part that the subject plays in the life of the audience. Meditate and reflect, and by the process of elimination select the thoughts that you feel are the most appropriate. Analyze these thoughts, organize them, take the best parts of them, arrange them in sequence, and translate them into the interest of your audience.
The Body of a speech is organized knowledge to portray ideas and to convey thoughts. Every word, every thought and every sentence must have its place. To follow a pattern in the scientific arrangement of your data qualifies you to know exactly what you want to say. You do not mumble, you do not ramble, and you do not stumble. You speak, with a command and your audience pays strict attention to every word.
To know your subject matter, and to enumerate it in logical sequence, inspires self-confidence and an air of assurance. Instead of halting and hesitating you become dynamic, bold and courageous. Your message clicks and becomes a living force for good.
2. INCORPORATE PLENTY OF MEAT IN THE SPEECH
Most speeches are like a wagon wheel, "the longer the spoke, the greater the tire." Many "Oh--hums" and many bored audiences may be eliminated by thorough preparation. Regardless of the kind of speech, or the occasion, the audience is made up of people. People have the same likes and dislikes. You like a speech full of human interest, so do others. Human interest is fundamental. What appeals to one group appeals to another. People are primarily interested in the same things. Therefore, a speech, to be effective, must incorporate what people like. Human interest always makes an appeal. Personal experiences, short anecdotes and little stories of success engender color and flavor. Properly timed and placed, they persuade and convince more quickly than the most eloquent utterances, or the most elaborate argument.
Speaking of interest, this will interest you.
Some years ago Henry Ward Beecher, one of the greatest preachers and platform lecturers of his day, was invited to a town in West Virginia to deliver a lecture.
In those days that part of the country was widely known in lecture circles as "Death Valley." Most speakers wilted when they faced an audience of people who were rather indifferent.
It was a very sultry day in July when Beecher arrived in this town to deliver a lecture. Beecher had been warned. He knew what to expect. Beecher was a genius in arousing the interest of an audience. In the afternoon, when he was introduced, half the audience was yawning and the other half was dozing. Beecher briskly rose from his chair and, mopping his brow with his large red handkerchief, hastily strode to the front of the platform. "It is a God-damned hot day," said the preacher. Everyone in the audience was electrified, and for a moment it seemed as though a bolt of lightning had struck the building. Beecher paused. Raising a finger of solemn reproof, went on: "That's what I heard a man say here this afternoon." From that moment a thousand eyes were fixed on Beecher. Everyone in that audience was eager to hear him. He aroused their interest and his message went over with a bang.
Some years ago, I was invited to make a speech. I chose for my subject "The Three-Legged Stool," a dissertation on the relation of Capital, Labor and the Public. Toasts to doubtful characters and the denunciation of the Constitution of the United States opened the meeting. I was unaware that it was a communistic meeting.
Finally my sponsor introduced me. I spoke briefly as follows: "Some people here are denouncing the Constitution of the United States. This is the law of the land and guarantees civil rights to everyone. This law makes it possible for you to meet here in peaceful assembly, and to denounce it is to denounce your own security." At that moment someone shouted, "Go to hell." I paid no attention. In explaining "The Three-Legged Stool," I pointed out that Capital rep-resented one leg, Labor represented one leg and the Public represented one leg. These three legs make the stool and each leg was dependent upon the other to stand, and all three legs must stand together, or else fall together. Again the voice in the audience shouted, "Go to hell." I paid no attention. In about one minute the same voice shouted, "Go to hell." I paused, smiled and said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, in the past five minutes I have been invited three times to join the Communist Party." The audience rose to its feet and cheered me for at least two minutes. Every person in that audience was my friend.
My friend, Ralph W. Page, that brilliant news-paper columnist, tells a very interesting story that graphically illustrates how to get the interest of an audience. A distinguished group met in New York to discuss the "Form of the Future." In the four sessions, the thought and plans of the free world were explored, expounded and clarified. Every group had its say. A plan to free the enslaved nations was openly discussed. Prominent representatives from everywhere aired their views, and explored their own brand of philosophy. Most speakers dealt in platitudes. The apparent effect was noise against the walls. Doctor B. A. Liu spoke for China. He said:
"The design of a just and durable peace and a valid world order calls for nothing new. All we need to do is to put the good old wine in new bottles. The who said over two thousand years ago:
" 'When the Golden Age prevails, the world will become as one; rulers and officials will be elected according to their wisdom and ability; mutual confidence and peace will prevail; the old folks will be able to enjoy their old age and every youth be employed according to his talents. The widows, the orphans and the crippled will be well cared for. Every man will have his occupation and every woman her home.
" 'No man's goods will be wasted, for he will use any surplus for the benefit of others--and those who have more energy than they need will not have to confine their labor to their own benefit.
" 'There will be no cunning and no intrigue, and there will be no bandits, and the outer gate will not be closed at night.'
"This," said Doctor Liu, "is the old wine. All that is needed is to pour it into the new bottles of present conditions. The principles are all there."
Every material consideration bearing upon a new world organization had been presented by experts. "It is significant," says Page, "that this homily of an ancient prophet upon justice, altruism, kindliness and unity received the maximum ovation and struck the one universal chord in this erudite American audience."
It only proves that when you strike the heart chord of man, you strike his interest.
For real meat and interest, read Demosthenes' famous oration, "On the Crown," Cicero's, "The Treason of Cataline," Pericles', "The Dead Who Fell for Athens."
In Act III, Scene Two, in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar is the artful and eloquent funeral oration over the body of the slain Caesar. In this oration, Mark Antony was so persuasive that he roused the fury of the populace against Brutus the slayer, and all the other conspirators who caused the death of Caesar, and forced them to flee Rome.
In Matthew, Chapter V, is the "Sermon on the Mount." In these Beatitudes, Jesus gave to the world enough interest and meat to last forever.
The speech of Paul defending Christianity before King Agrippa, in the Twenty-sixth Chapter of Acts, is one of the most gripping speeches ever delivered. Paul's plea was so convincing that King Agrippa said: "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian."
An "Appeal to Arms," by Patrick Henry, was the keynote appeal for American freedom. "Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death." These two sentences fired the consciousness of every liberty-loving patriot, and roused the colonists to action.
At the conclusion of one of the greatest speeches ever delivered in the United States Senate, the members of that body crowded around Daniel Webster, their colleague, to congratulate him on the world-famed "Reply to Hayne" and his masterful ability to make an extemporaneous speech. "Ah, no," said he, "this is not an extemporaneous speech. I have worked months preparing this speech and every cubbyhole in my desk is filled to the brim with notes and clippings."
"You can do it extempore, for it is nothing but roaring." Extemporaneous means without previous study or preparation. It is endeavoring to compose and utter a speech on the spur of the moment. Extemporaneous speeches and impromptu utterances are usually nothing but roaring, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. They make people "ho hum," stretch, yawn and doze, and sneeringly remark, "Why bring this up?"
Everyone knows Lincoln's famous "Gettysburg Address," and this, too, is a good one to put in your "speech-making kit." "That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth." These lines welded together the Union and preserved the American form of government.
"Acres of Diamonds," by Dr. Russell H. Conwell, was the most popular lecture ever delivered in the United States. Why? Because it was overflowing with human interest, inspiring people to practice the principle of self-reliance.
Another great speech of the last sixty years was "The Cross of Gold," by William Jennings Bryan. It was a passionate plea for "Free Silver."
In 1915 at the age of 19, I was awarded the Andrew Carnegie Medal for writing and delivering a speech on International Peace. My subject was: "Is War Rational?" The opening sentence was: "War is as old as the human race, and as young as the last breath you breathe." This sentence was quoted in news-papers throughout the world. This introduction caught the ears of the judges and stimulated their interest in my speech. The Main Body of this Speech endeavored to prove that war is not rational, by the following propositions:
First: War is an intolerable burden.
Second: War is an irreparable human loss.
Third: War is an incurable folly.
In concluding this speech, I quoted ten lines from Tennyson's "Locksley Hall," in which he prophesied that nations would wage war in the air.
For I dipped into the future, far as human eye could see. Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be, saw the heavens filled with commerce, argosies of magic sails, pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales,
Heard the heavens filled with shouting, and there rain'd a ghastly dew from the nations' air navies grappling in the central blue; far along the world-wide whisper of the south wind rushing warm, with the standards of the peoples plunging thro' the thunder-storm; till the war-drum throbb'd no longer, and the battle flags were furled in the Parliament of man, the Federation of the World.
It has been my pleasure to speak before many organizations during the past few years, especially during the war. To excite interest, I began to study "The Great Seal" of the United States as portrayed on the green back of a dollar bill. In the obverse side of the seal, which is on the right side of the dollar bill, and in the reverse side of the seal, which is on the left side of the dollar bill, are seventeen different symbols. Each symbol portrays a tradition directly associated with Democracy--our American form of government. These symbols are the introduction to a speech. The Main Body of this Speech is: "The Seven Great Events of Democracy." Those events cover thirty-one centuries of history and tend to show that Democracy, our American form of government, has been in the making during that time.
It takes one hour to deliver this speech. I use no notes. You can hear a pin drop. Everyone is vitally interested, because that speech expresses thoughts and ideas close to their fireside.
3. CHOOSE KEY WORDS
The chief ingredient in a speech is words, and they determine the quality of the speech. Words define your ideas on a subject and convey them to your listeners. Key Words are very important in the preparation of a speech. They are the steel girders that hold together the contents of the subject matter. They are the spider in the web. They are the hub in the wheel around which revolves the entire discourse.
To win the Andrew Carnegie Medal, in competition with many men representing many universities and colleges, I realized it was necessary to create a speech of comprehensive, but simple understanding. After a process of culling and sifting, I selected three Key Words. (1) Intolerablel. Intolerable what? An intolerable burden, a burden almost beyond human capacity to bear. (2) Irreparable! Irreparable what? Irreparable human loss, a loss which cannot be re-placed. (3) Incurable! Incurable what? Incurable folly, a folly as old as the human race, and one that may continue. These three Key Words were the hub of my argument to prove that war is not rational, and thus answers the query of my subject, "Is War Rational?"
People like a speaker who takes them into his confidence. They like an explanation of terms. I explain everything as if I were telling a little child for the first time. It works. In the lecture on "The Seven Great Events of Democracy," I define Democracy by giving its etymological derivation. I spell out the two
Greek words from which it is derived. "Demos," which means "people." "Kratos," which means "rule." Democracy therefore means "people rule." I define "event." I define "republic," another Key Word in the speech. Republic comes from two Latin words, "res," which means "thing" and "publicus," which means "public" or "open." Republic therefore means things done in the open, or for the public. Every law enacted in a Republic is instantly accessible to the public. No law can be a secret. It is public knowledge. Therefore, a Democracy is the will of the people, expressed in the open by a System called a Republican Form of Government which is a plan to enforce that will. In speaking to an audience in this fashion, they are all ears. Try it.
In the preparation of a speech, select a few Key Words. Build your speech around these words. Define the Key Words, and explain their meaning fully. Use plain everyday words. Speak in the language of the audience. Get down to earth. Talk to others as you like others to talk to you. Study each word, analyze it. Ask yourself--are these words conveying the real meaning of my thoughts? Are they expressing my ideas? When you speak before an audience, you are talking out loud to yourself. Others are listening. Therefore, if you convince yourself, you convince others.
Therefore, to create a speech, it will help you to follow these three Principles:
First: Organize your thoughts.
Second: Incorporate plenty of meat in the speech.
Third: Choose Key Words.
The meal is prepared. It is seasoned well and baked to a crisp brown. It is steaming hot. It is ready to serve. Please do not spill the beans.
The artful presentation of a speech depends upon the speaker. How to be natural and effective when speaking in public can easily be accomplished by adhering to a few rules.
(1) Breathe deeply and fully many times. Stretch and press down on the diaphragm. Repeat the Lord's Prayer and feel its presence. Thank God for the opportunity, the occasion, the people and ask Him to help you do your best. These acts, covering a minute or so, establish poise and placidity.
(2) As you rise to speak, cast your eyes easily over the audience for a few seconds, smile and look pleased. Begin to speak in a pleasant and conversational tone. Try to be perfectly natural.
(3) Spot a person at back of the audience and regulate the pitch and tone of the voice to accommodate him. If in doubt, ask him if he can hear you. A little personal consideration makes the people in the audience feel kindly toward you.
(4) Pronounce each word clearly, enunciate each syllable deliberately and speak in a decided manner. Clear diction adds dignity to the speech, and makes it easy for people to hear.
(5) Do not let your voice fade out at the end of a sentence. The end of a sentence is as important as the beginning. The whole sentence must be heard or its meaning is lost.
(6) A change in the program may necessitate a change in your speech. Vary your speech with the occasion, but always go prepared. Demonstrate earnestness and remain deliberate.
(7) Say your speech, do not read it. To read a speech is like throwing a wet blanket on the flame. You may still have the flame, but not the glow. The flash of the eye, the freedom of the body and the smile add charm to the speaker and make the speech more convincing.
(8) Don't hurry in speaking. Talk from the diaphragm. Pause at proper intervals and do not try to make a speech with one breath. Speaking hurriedly destroys the resonant sound of the voice and your words do not have the proper pitch, inflection, volume, and tone. The sound of words plays an important part in your message.
(9) Try to keep your hands at your side in a care-free way, and only use them when you are illustrating a point, or laying emphasis on a particular proposition.
(10) The best style and manner in speaking is to be natural. Try to be yourself, at your best. Talk to people in your inimitable way. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.
(11) Read the chapter "How to Improve Your Speech, Voice and Manner," many times. It gives a myriad of suggestions that are absolutely invaluable in the delivery of a speech and will qualify you to speak distinctly and clearly in public.
(12) Be brief, concise and talk with the people. Don't yell at them.
In my own experience, I spend many hours in organizing and arranging my thoughts before I attempt to make a speech. I feel in debt to any group of people who invite me to speak before them. To discharge this debt, I endeavor to prepare something that will be of interest. I never attempt to insult the intelligence of people with an impromptu speech, or to inflict an extemporaneous one.
Therefore, when I find people in my audience yawning, ho-humming, and dozing, then I am through speaking in public.
Lord Chesterfield said: "Be wiser than other people, if you can, but don't tell them so." I always give people credit for knowing as much as I do. I never try to display how smart I am. I approach my audience with a spirit of humility, as one who comes to serve. I find as long as I speak in a spirit of humbleness, my message has power and punch.
In making a speech, you want the people in the audience to listen. To convince and persuade them, you must get their undivided attention. To do this follow a pattern. Remember first: The Introduction; second: The Body; third: The Close.
In preparing the Main Body, organize your thoughts, include any suggestions for the improvement of business, the increase of income, the extension of public welfare, the prolongation of life, the promotion of health, the accretion of happiness, and the achievement of success. Feed your audience plenty of meat. Make your speech sparkle with human interest, and relate stories about successful people and unusual accomplishments.
Choose Key Words that sound well. Know their meaning. Be explicit and illuminating in your definitions.
Speaking in public is only conversation elevated to its full capacity.
All doubt, worry, dread and anxiety in the making of a speech are instantly removed by thorough preparation and by a feeling that you are talking to a dear friend, and do not care who is listening. An audience is a group of individuals; when you talk to one, you talk to all.
In conclusion, make your speech as you would talk. Be explicit, brief, and try to inject a sense of humor. Talk with your audience, and not at them. Take it easy, and enthusiasm will permeate the audience. You will speak with charm, with effect, with persuasion, and with conviction. You can do it. Get at it.
The floor is yours.