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CHAPTER XII.

GENERAL SUGGESTIONS.

Style of Delivery. In the opening chapter it was shown that the basis of the best speaking lies in the best conversation; that the act of speaking is only the enlarged conversation that comes from speaking to a collection of individuals; that the most effective public speaking comes from talking to the audience. Now, if the student can from the outset be persuaded to take this attitude toward any audience he may address, he has gained more than he could. from a year's study and practice of the technique of delivery. This conversational basis in speech is of the very essence of the problem. If the audience is to be impressed by your thoughts, convinced of your convictions, and persuaded of your beliefs, its attention should not be distracted by a method of communication outside the ordinary experience. And if here and there a speaker who has special qualities of force or attractiveness attains a certain measure of success by another method, it does not affect the truth of this underlying principle.

Then, too, the conversational style of delivery accords with modern taste; for oratory, like other arts, may have a certain type or style, varying with changing conditions. The style of popular oratory has undergone a marked change in this country-from the heavy and bombastic to the simple and direct within the past twenty-five years. It was Wendell Phillips who more than any other one

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man first set the fashion which has largely done away with barn-storming and haranguing. Curtis, in the excerpt quoted on p. 100, describes his manner as that of a "gentleman conversing." Says Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson:

The keynote to the oratory of Wendell Phillips lay in this: that it was essentially conversational - the conversational raised to the highest power. Perhaps no orator ever spoke with so little apparent effort, or began so entirely on the plane of his average hearers. It was as if he simply repeated, in a little louder tone, what he had just been saying to some familiar friend at his elbow. The colloquialism was never relaxed, but it was familiarity without loss of dignity. Then, as the argument went on, the voice grew deeper, the action more animated, and the sentences came in a long, sonorous swell, still easy and graceful, but powerful as the soft stretch of a tiger's paw.

The conversational style is first of all spontaneous. The speaker's individuality speaks along with his words; he is what we call "natural." It is so easy and tempting for the young speaker to imitate some one whose delivery he particularly admires, forgetting that had the model sunk his individuality by copying another he would not have seemed so admirable. Secondly, the conversational style is simple and direct. There are no superfluous frills and flourishes in getting the message from the speaker directly to the audience. The speaker's art is not that of the dancer, as is so, often thought. It is rather that of the wrestler. There must be a personal grapple with the audience. The speaker's aim must be not to have the audience admire him, but to have it follow him. Lastly, the conversational style is characterized by variety. This comes from the speaker's spontaneity and from a flexibility of voice and body that produce frequent and natural changes.

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As was shown in Chapter III, this conversational style, or what has been referred to as the conversational basis, does not mean that one is to speak in a large room to a number of persons in the same manner as he would speak to a single person standing by his side. If he did he would not be heard; or, if heard, his words might fall flat and lifeless. Colonel Higginson, in the quotation given above, shows that Mr. Phillips did not so speak. Public speaking is a magnified, heightened conversation. It is, as Colonel Higginson says, "the conversational raised to its highest power!" Oratory in its higher reaches, where the emotional element predominates over the mental, is characterized by an idealized language which lifts speakers and hearers above the humdrum of common speech. It must be admitted, too, that something depends upon the character of the audience. By an audience of average culture nowadays and beware of talking down to any audience the simplicity of conversation is relished, as of one man talking earnestly with another, resting down upon his subject and making that speak. Mere emotionalism tends to disappear with the advance of civilization, but certain classes of men, such as judges in courts of law and college professors, used to hearing much speaking and trained to value the intellectual, are perhaps inclined to undervalue, as young speakers are inclined to overvalue, the emotional element, for the purposes of popular oratory. It was noticed, for example, that Mr. Bryan's style of delivery when speaking to a university audience was more quiet than when giving practically the same speech the next afternoon at a political barbecue. Mr. Sheppard, in his Before an Audience, remarks that even Phillips "required listeners that were accustomed to listening." And yet, after making all allowances for varying conditions, the best public speaking is fundamentally strong, direct talk.

Stage-fright. — It is quite impossible to diagnose that common malady known as stage-fright. Usually it afflicts the speaker during the first few seconds, or first few minutes, of his speech. Most speakers have it, in varying degrees. Preachers tell us, for example, that even after long experience, they never begin their weekly sermons without the most intense nervousness. True, experiences vary. Gladstone, when asked if he never became nervous before speaking, said that he often did in opening a debate, but never in replying.

An amusing feature of this matter is, that young speakers are apt to think that they are the only ones that become seriously embarrassed. And right here is the lesson: trained speakers learn to control their embarrassment. It should be remembered that a nervous tension, if brought under control, may prove a help rather than a hindrance to the speaker, for it puts a nerve-force into his delivery that might otherwise be wanting. How attain that control? There is no way but through practice in speaking to audiences. Continued practice, if it does not eliminate all embarrassment, gradually does reduce the earlier terrors. The practice should, of course, be directed along right lines. Nervousness may be aided much by a feeling of mental and physical preparedness. Have the speech thoroughly in hand long enough beforehand to give both mind and body a rest. Students often make the mistake of worrying over a speech up to the very moment of its delivery. This method is suicidal. Even speakers of experience sometimes fail to realize how much the success or failure of a speech depends upon physical conditions. To undergo the severe nervous strain of public speaking, mind and body should be fresh. The day preceding an athletic event the trained contestant either rests or exercises very moderately. So, if a speech is to be given at night, say, the speaker should

wholly lay it aside during the afternoon and go for a walk or go to sleep-do anything but exhaust faculties that will be needed in the evening.

Control is also effected through the communicative, conversational attitude, as one rises to speak, and by an exercise of the will. Again, self-confidence should be cultivated. Self-fear is quite as often a cause of stage-fright as is a fear of the audience. Encourage a feeling that you and your audience are getting on well together. Self-confidence is not undue conceit, or "brag, brass, and bluster"; it is having the courage of one's convictions. It is that self-reliance

which enables one to rise to the occasion. It is that confidence which leads the speaker to say to himself, "I know what I want to say and I am able to say it."

Study and Practice. Like every other art, public speaking demands long-continued study and practice. The most proficient always feel there is room for improvement; and like other things in life, if one is earnestly striving to reach an ideal, there is hope for him; if he thinks he has reached it, he is lost. The complex art of public address cannot be learned quickly, and should never be taken up as a plaything. If you expect to be a speaker, make a business of the study, as you would of anything else worth learning. Do not dabble in it. A little dabbling with the technique given in this book is useless. It is because we have so many dabblers that we have so many bunglers. And by way of repetition,-do not expect to correct in a month a fault that is the habit of years.

Along with practice in vocal technique, the student should daily practise reading aloud,— preferably to a listener or listeners. And even after vocal technique may have been fairly well mastered, daily practice in oral reading should be continued, for in intelligent and sympathic reading aloud

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