The Art of Public Speaking HTML version
Why wait for a more convenient season for this broad, general preparation? The fifteen minutes that we spend
on the car could be profitably turned into speech-capital.
Procure a cheap edition of modern speeches, and by cutting out a few pages each day, and reading them
during the idle minute here and there, note how soon you can make yourself familiar with the world's best
speeches. If you do not wish to mutilate your book, take it with you--most of the epoch-making books are now
printed in small volumes. The daily waste of natural gas in the Oklahoma fields is equal to ten thousand tons
of coal. Only about three per cent of the power of the coal that enters the furnace ever diffuses itself from your
electric bulb as light--the other ninety-seven per cent is wasted. Yet these wastes are no larger, nor more to be
lamented than the tremendous waste of time which, if conserved would increase the speaker's powers to their
nth degree. Scientists are making three ears of corn grow where one grew before; efficiency engineers are
eliminating useless motions and products from our factories: catch the spirit of the age and apply efficiency to
the use of the most valuable asset you possess--time. What do you do mentally with the time you spend in
dressing or in shaving? Take some subject and concentrate your energies on it for a week by utilizing just the
spare moments that would otherwise be wasted. You will be amazed at the result. One passage a day from the
Book of Books, one golden ingot from some master mind, one fully-possessed thought of your own might
thus be added to the treasury of your life. Do not waste your time in ways that profit you nothing. Fill "the
unforgiving minute" with "sixty seconds' worth of distance run" and on the platform you will be
immeasurably the gainer.
Let no word of this, however, seem to decry the value of recreation. Nothing is more vital to a worker than
rest--yet nothing is so vitiating to the shirker. Be sure that your recreation re-creates. A pause in the midst of
labors gathers strength for new effort. The mistake is to pause too long, or to fill your pauses with ideas that
make life flabby.
Choosing a Subject
Subject and materials tremendously influence each other.
"This arises from the fact that there are two distinct ways in which a subject may be chosen: by arbitrary
choice, or by development from thought and reading.
"Arbitrary choice ... of one subject from among a number involves so many important considerations that no
speaker ever fails to appreciate the tone of satisfaction in him who triumphantly announces: 'I have a subject!'
"'Do give me a subject!' How often the weary school teacher hears that cry. Then a list of themes is suggested,
gone over, considered, and, in most instances, rejected, because the teacher can know but imperfectly what is
in the pupil's mind. To suggest a subject in this way is like trying to discover the street on which a lost child
lives, by naming over a number of streets until one strikes the little one's ear as sounding familiar.
"Choice by development is a very different process. It does not ask, What shall I say? It turns the mind in
upon itself and asks, What do I think? Thus, the subject may be said to choose itself, for in the process of
thought or of reading one theme rises into prominence and becomes a living germ, soon to grow into the
discourse. He who has not learned to reflect is not really acquainted with his own thoughts; hence, his
thoughts are not productive. Habits of reading and reflection will supply the speaker's mind with an
abundance of subjects of which he already knows something from the very reading and reflection which gave
birth to his theme. This is not a paradox, but sober truth.
"It must be already apparent that the choice of a subject by development savors more of collection than of
conscious selection. The subject 'pops into the mind.' ... In the intellect of the trained thinker it
concentrates--by a process which we have seen to be induction--the facts and truths of which he has been
reading and thinking. This is most often a gradual process. The scattered ideas may be but vaguely connected