The Art of Public Speaking HTML version

The crown, the consummation, of the discourse is its delivery. Toward it all preparation looks, for it the
audience waits, by it the speaker is judged.... All the forces of the orator's life converge in his oratory. The
logical acuteness with which he marshals the facts around his theme, the rhetorical facility with which he
orders his language, the control to which he has attained in the use of his body as a single organ of expression,
whatever richness of acquisition and experience are his--these all are now incidents; the fact is the sending of
his message home to his hearers.... The hour of delivery is the "supreme, inevitable hour" for the orator. It is
this fact that makes lack of adequate preparation such an impertinence. And it is this that sends such thrills of
indescribable joy through the orator's whole being when he has achieved a success--it is like the mother
forgetting her pangs for the joy of bringing a son into the world.
--J.B.E., How to Attract and Hold an Audience.
There are four fundamental methods of delivering an address; all others are modifications of one or more of
these: reading from manuscript, committing the written speech and speaking from memory, speaking from
notes, and extemporaneous speech. It is impossible to say which form of delivery is best for all speakers in all
circumstances--in deciding for yourself you should consider the occasion, the nature of the audience, the
character of your subject, and your own limitations of time and ability. However, it is worth while warning
you not to be lenient in self-exaction. Say to yourself courageously: What others can do, I can attempt. A bold
spirit conquers where others flinch, and a trying task challenges pluck.
Reading from Manuscript
This method really deserves short shrift in a book on public speaking, for, delude yourself as you may, public
reading is not public speaking. Yet there are so many who grasp this broken reed for support that we must
here discuss the "read speech"--apologetic misnomer as it is.
Certainly there are occasions--among them, the opening of Congress, the presentation of a sore question
before a deliberative body, or a historical commemoration--when it may seem not alone to the "orator" but to
all those interested that the chief thing is to express certain thoughts in precise language--in language that
must not be either misunderstood or misquoted. At such times oratory is unhappily elbowed to a back bench,
the manuscript is solemnly withdrawn from the capacious inner pocket of the new frock coat, and everyone
settles himself resignedly, with only a feeble flicker of hope that the so-called speech may not be as long as it
is thick. The words may be golden, but the hearers' (?) eyes are prone to be leaden, and in about one instance
out of a hundred does the perpetrator really deliver an impressive address. His excuse is his apology--he is not
to be blamed, as a rule, for some one decreed that it would be dangerous to cut loose from manuscript
moorings and take his audience with him on a really delightful sail.
One great trouble on such "great occasions" is that the essayist--for such he is--has been chosen not because of
his speaking ability but because his grandfather fought in a certain battle, or his constituents sent him to
Congress, or his gifts in some line of endeavor other than speaking have distinguished him.
As well choose a surgeon from his ability to play golf. To be sure, it always interests an audience to see a
great man; because of his eminence they are likely to listen to his words with respect, perhaps with interest,
even when droned from a manuscript. But how much more effective such a deliverance would be if the papers
were cast aside!
Nowhere is the read-address so common as in the pulpit--the pulpit, that in these days least of all can afford to
invite a handicap. Doubtless many clergymen prefer finish to fervor--let them choose: they are rarely men