The Art of Public Speaking HTML version

Animis opibusque parati--Ready in mind and resources.
--Motto of South Carolina.
In omnibus negotiis prius quam aggrediare, adhibenda est præparatio diligens--In all matters before beginning
a diligent preparation should be made.
--CICERO, De Officiis.
Take your dictionary and look up the words that contain the Latin stem flu--the results will be suggestive.
At first blush it would seem that fluency consists in a ready, easy use of words. Not so--the flowing quality of
speech is much more, for it is a composite effect, with each of its prior conditions deserving of careful notice.
The Sources of Fluency
Speaking broadly, fluency is almost entirely a matter of preparation. Certainly, native gifts figure largely here,
as in every art, but even natural facility is dependent on the very same laws of preparation that hold good for
the man of supposedly small native endowment. Let this encourage you if, like Moses, you are prone to
complain that you are not a ready speaker.
Have you ever stopped to analyze that expression, "a ready speaker?" Readiness, in its prime sense, is
preparedness, and they are most ready who are best prepared. Quick firing depends more on the alert finger
than on the hair trigger. Your fluency will be in direct ratio to two important conditions: your knowledge of
what you are going to say, and your being accustomed to telling what you know to an audience. This gives us
the second great element of fluency--to preparation must be added the ease that arises from practise; of which
more presently.
Knowledge is Essential
Mr. Bryan is a most fluent speaker when he speaks on political problems, tendencies of the time, and
questions of morals. It is to be supposed, however, that he would not be so fluent in speaking on the bird life
of the Florida Everglades. Mr. John Burroughs might be at his best on this last subject, yet entirely lost in
talking about international law. Do not expect to speak fluently on a subject that you know little or nothing
about. Ctesiphon boasted that he could speak all day (a sin in itself) on any subject that an audience would
suggest. He was banished by the Spartans.
But preparation goes beyond the getting of the facts in the case you are to present: it includes also the ability
to think and arrange your thoughts, a full and precise vocabulary, an easy manner of speech and breathing,
absence of self-consciousness, and the several other characteristics of efficient delivery that have deserved
special attention in other parts of this book rather than in this chapter.
Preparation may be either general or specific; usually it should be both. A life-time of reading, of
companionship with stirring thoughts, of wrestling with the problems of life--this constitutes a general
preparation of inestimable worth. Out of a well-stored mind, and--richer still--a broad experience, and--best of
all--a warmly sympathetic heart, the speaker will have to draw much material that no immediate study could
provide. General preparation consists of all that a man has put into himself, all that heredity and environment
have instilled into him, and--that other rich source of preparedness for speech--the friendship of wise