Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

66

will naturally and necessarily follow. This position doubtless represents the reaction from the mechanical, artificial, elocutionary" methods, but like most reactions, the truth probably lies midway. It is better, of course, to have mindaction and a rough mechanism, than a finished method and no motive power; but it does not follow that some attention should not be paid to the voice and body as agents of expression.

In short, public speaking is an art, and it does not come by chance. To acquire this art requires work—conscientious, systematic, continuous preparation and practice. Like every other study, we get out of it what we put in. Any young person who expects to speak in public should, at the outset, disabuse his mind of the idea that a term's or a year's lessons in oratory will turn him out a finished product. Years of study and practice are required, and then no one can be said to have acquired perfection in the art. We listen to an effective speaker, and remark how easily his periods roll out. But we forget that behind them lies a long course of study and self-discipline, study not necessarily of any particular system of expression, nor under any teacher, but certainly not without training in the school of experience. Fortunate that young speaker whose first efforts are directed along right lines, and whose first experiences are had under helpful conditions.

CHAPTER I.

THE NATURE AND BASIS OF PUBLIC SPEAKING.

Public Speaking Defined. What is public speaking? It is speaking to a collection of individuals. Its purposes are to convey thought, to mould opinion, and to awaken feeling. Any one or all of these purposes may be present in a given address, but in any case there is thought to be conveyed, whether in the form of exposition, argument, or appeal. Public speaking, then, as the term is used in this book, is speaking in public with the purpose of convincing and persuading, and not for entertainment simply, which is usually the purpose in reciting, dramatic reading, or acting.

Tests of the Best Public Speaking. You are to speak to ten, one hundred, or one thousand people collectively-your audience. How best speak to them for the purposes of instructing, convincing, or persuading? This question is best answered by asking, How best speak when you are talking to any one of them? That is, the criteria of the best public speaking are those of the best conversation,not the most showy or noisy, but the best, from the standpoint of effectiveness. In the conveyance and lodgement of thought, what constitutes effectiveness in conversation? Among other things, a good conversationalist must possess the qualities of clearness, directness, simplicity, vivacity, spontaneity, and sincerity. Hence these same qualities must be effective in public speech.

[ocr errors]

What Public Speaking is Not. Eliminate, at the outset, the extraneous or fanciful ideas often connected with the art of speaking in public. A pleasing, musical voice is an added charm, but not indispensable. Grace is desirable, but a fine carriage or pretty gestures do not carry a cause or win a verdict. Nor is there any ready-made prescription. Many students seek instruction in oratory who seem to imagine that the teacher can furnish them with some patent device whereby they will become proficient in the art. Banish from your mind any thought that this or that "system," this or that "method," will make you an orator, or even -what is far more to our purpose an effective public speaker. No method but your own - -the expression of your individuality—will ever make you any sort of a speaker other than a parrot or a machine. Be yourself, not a mere imitator. Certain principles are fundamental, but expression will be as varied as individualities. Avoid any "system" that would cast all speakers in the same mould. Aim not to become a Demosthenes or Cicero, a Webster or Clay, but aim for the best and most effective expression of Yourself. Above all, eschew any ambition to become "eloquent,” as the term is commonly used,—“to soar among the constellations and strew the floor with star-dust." Furthermore, true eloquence never comes from a conscious effort toward that in itself. "It comes, if it come at all, like the outbreak of a fountain from the earth, or the bursting forth of volcanic fires, with spontaneous, original, native force.” The speaker "should pray to be delivered from the ambition to be eloquent," says Dr. Lyman Abbott, "by an ambition to win a result; be careless of admiration and covetous of practical fruits in his auditors' lives. Without this moral preparation he will be a mere declaimer; with it he may be an effective speaker. And whether he is what men call an orator or not is a matter of no consequence."

The Basis of Public Speaking: Clear, Orderly, Intense Thinking. Public speaking, then, being the communication of thought, it follows that you must have something to say; and a clear and vivid concept of this something to say must be present to the mind at the moment of its utterance. Public speaking is the science and art of thinking aloud. If there is any one thing that the modern audience wish to be delivered from, it is mere volubility, with thought in inverse proportion. The most inveterate bore in modern assemblies is the chronic talker — the man who has nothing to say and is forever saying it. So we can well understand Lowell's suggested addition to the Beatitudes, "Blessed is he who hath nothing to say—and cannot be persuaded to say it."

Processes in the Preparation of an Address for Delivery. 1. The Selection of an Address. - Oratorical composition. is not within the province of this book; it is therefore assumed that you have something to say. With young speakers, who have as yet neither the material nor the ability for original composition, it is often quite as well to borrow another's thoughts and words, for the purposes of training in expression. Only selections worth memorizing should be chosen. Literature is full of such selections adaptable to speaking. The memorizing of choice selections from the best literature has been sadly neglected in our modern educational system. Its value successful public speakers have long recognized. It furnishes a storehouse of illustration and expression; it aids the memory, furnishes a means of culture, and is a never-failing source of pleasure. Further, in class-room work, it affords a common basis of study and reference for teacher and class.

2. Perspective. You have an address to prepare for delivery. Let us note some of the steps in such preparation. If

the address be not original, the first step is to get a proper perspective of the thought as a whole; for just as in the preparation of an original address the audience and occasion must be carefully considered, so, in preparation for the delivery of another's thought, must the student go outside of the printed words and study the writer or speaker, and the circumstances surrounding the first writing or delivery. Truly to interpret and sympathetically to express another's words one must know the author, and live again in his experiences at the time he gave his thought to the world. Moreover, such external study is desirable, in order that the speaker may breathe the atmosphere of a particular address, — be put in the proper mood1 for its delivery.

3. The Theme of the Address. · Turning now to the content of the address itself, the student must first note the gist of the discourse as a whole. What is the thought, in a nutshell? Grip it. The introductory, explanatory, and modifying ideas must be noted, and subordinated to the essential and controlling ideas. The controlling ideas will be found in those key-words or sentences that together express the theme of the discourse. This theme must be grasped, and must dominate the expression.

4. Paragraphs. — Every paragraph of the address, if well constructed, represents a unit in the development of the thought; and each paragraph, in turn, denotes a progressive transition in the thought movement. A paragraph will usually contain a key-sentence, around which the thought of that paragraph clusters. It is for the speaker to discover this key-sentence, make it stand out in the utterance, and subordinate the matter of less relative importance.

1" Less intensive degrees of emotion are called moods. It is a general rule that the duration of emotion varies inversely with its intensity; so that moods are more permanent states of mind than emotions proper." -SCRIPTURE: Thinking, Feeling, Doing, p. 227.

« AnteriorContinuar »