The Art of Public Speaking HTML version
displeasing, jarring effect monotony has on the ear. The dictionary defines "monotonous" as being
synonymous with "wearisome." That is putting it mildly. It is maddening. The department-store prince does
not disgust the public by playing only the one tune, "Come Buy My Wares!" He gives recitals on a $125,000
organ, and the pleased people naturally slip into a buying mood.
How to Conquer Monotony
We obviate monotony in dress by replenishing our wardrobes. We avoid monotony in speech by multiplying
our powers of speech. We multiply our powers of speech by increasing our tools.
The carpenter has special implements with which to construct the several parts of a building. The organist has
certain keys and stops which he manipulates to produce his harmonies and effects. In like manner the speaker
has certain instruments and tools at his command by which he builds his argument, plays on the feelings, and
guides the beliefs of his audience. To give you a conception of these instruments, and practical help in
learning to use them, are the purposes of the immediately following chapters.
Why did not the Children of Israel whirl through the desert in limousines, and why did not Noah have
moving-picture entertainments and talking machines on the Ark? The laws that enable us to operate an
automobile, produce moving-pictures, or music on the Victrola, would have worked just as well then as they
do today. It was ignorance of law that for ages deprived humanity of our modern conveniences. Many
speakers still use ox-cart methods in their speech instead of employing automobile or overland-express
methods. They are ignorant of laws that make for efficiency in speaking. Just to the extent that you regard and
use the laws that we are about to examine and learn how to use will you have efficiency and force in your
speaking; and just to the extent that you disregard them will your speaking be feeble and ineffective. We
cannot impress too thoroughly upon you the necessity for a real working mastery of these principles. They are
the very foundations of successful speaking. "Get your principles right," said Napoleon, "and the rest is a
matter of detail."
It is useless to shoe a dead horse, and all the sound principles in Christendom will never make a live speech
out of a dead one. So let it be understood that public speaking is not a matter of mastering a few dead rules;
the most important law of public speech is the necessity for truth, force, feeling, and life. Forget all else, but
When you have mastered the mechanics of speech outlined in the next few chapters you will no longer be
troubled with monotony. The complete knowledge of these principles and the ability to apply them will give
you great variety in your powers of expression. But they cannot be mastered and applied by thinking or
reading about them--you must practise, practise, PRACTISE. If no one else will listen to you, listen to
yourself--you must always be your own best critic, and the severest one of all.
The technical principles that we lay down in the following chapters are not arbitrary creations of our own.
They are all founded on the practices that good speakers and actors adopt--either naturally and unconsciously
or under instruction--in getting their effects.
It is useless to warn the student that he must be natural. To be natural may be to be monotonous. The little
strawberry up in the arctics with a few tiny seeds and an acid tang is a natural berry, but it is not to be
compared with the improved variety that we enjoy here. The dwarfed oak on the rocky hillside is natural, but
a poor thing compared with the beautiful tree found in the rich, moist bottom lands. Be natural--but improve
your natural gifts until you have approached the ideal, for we must strive after idealized nature, in fruit, tree,
QUESTIONS AND EXERCISES.