The Art of Public Speaking HTML version
who sway the masses to acceptance of their message. What they gain in precision and elegance of language
they lose in force.
There are just four motives that can move a man to read his address or sermon:
1. Laziness is the commonest. Enough said. Even Heaven cannot make a lazy man efficient.
2. A memory so defective that he really cannot speak without reading. Alas, he is not speaking when he is
reading, so his dilemma is painful--and not to himself alone. But no man has a right to assume that his
memory is utterly bad until he has buckled down to memory culture--and failed. A weak memory is oftener an
excuse than a reason.
3. A genuine lack of time to do more than write the speech. There are such instances--but they do not occur
every week! The disposition of your time allows more flexibility than you realize. Motive 3 too often
harnesses up with Motive 1.
4. A conviction that the speech is too important to risk forsaking the manuscript. But, if it is vital that every
word should be so precise, the style so polished, and the thoughts so logical, that the preacher must write the
sermon entire, is not the message important enough to warrant extra effort in perfecting its delivery? It is an
insult to a congregation and disrespectful to Almighty God to put the phrasing of a message above the
message itself. To reach the hearts of the hearers the sermon must be delivered--it is only half delivered when
the speaker cannot utter it with original fire and force, when he merely repeats words that were conceived
hours or weeks before and hence are like champagne that has lost its fizz. The reading preacher's eyes are tied
down to his manuscript; he cannot give the audience the benefit of his expression. How long would a play fill
a theater if the actors held their cue-books in hand and read their parts? Imagine Patrick Henry reading his
famous speech; Peter-the-Hermit, manuscript in hand, exhorting the crusaders; Napoleon, constantly looking
at his papers, addressing the army at the Pyramids; or Jesus reading the Sermon on the Mount! These speakers
were so full of their subjects, their general preparation had been so richly adequate, that there was no necessity
for a manuscript, either to refer to or to serve as "an outward and visible sign" of their preparedness. No event
was ever so dignified that it required an artificial attempt at speech making. Call an essay by its right name,
but never call it a speech. Perhaps the most dignified of events is a supplication to the Creator. If you ever
listened to the reading of an original prayer you must have felt its superficiality.
Regardless of what the theories may be about manuscript delivery, the fact remains that it does not work out
with efficiency. Avoid it whenever at all possible.
Committing the Written Speech and Speaking from Memory
This method has certain points in its favor. If you have time and leisure, it is possible to polish and rewrite
your ideas until they are expressed in clear, concise terms. Pope sometimes spent a whole day in perfecting
one couplet. Gibbon consumed twenty years gathering material for and rewriting the "Decline and Fall of the
Roman Empire." Although you cannot devote such painstaking preparation to a speech, you should take time
to eliminate useless words, crowd whole paragraphs into a sentence and choose proper illustrations. Good
speeches, like plays, are not written; they are rewritten. The National Cash Register Company follows this
plan with their most efficient selling organization: they require their salesmen to memorize verbatim a selling
talk. They maintain that there is one best way of putting their selling arguments, and they insist that each
salesman use this ideal way rather than employ any haphazard phrases that may come into his mind at the
The method of writing and committing has been adopted by many noted speakers; Julius Cæsar, Robert
Ingersoll, and, on some occasions, Wendell Phillips, were distinguished examples. The wonderful effects
achieved by famous actors were, of course, accomplished through the delivery of memorized lines.