Transcribers note: Chapter XIV contains phonetic representation
of the vowel 'o' using [)o]; [=o]; [=oo] and [)oo].
The Art of Public Speaking
J. BERG ESENWEIN
"HOW TO ATTRACT AND HOLD AN AUDIENCE,"
"WRITING THE SHORT-STORY,"
"WRITING THE PHOTOPLAY," ETC., ETC.,
PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC SPEAKING, BALTIMORE SCHOOL OF COMMERCE AND
FINANCE; INSTRUCTOR IN PUBLIC SPEAKING, Y.M.C.A. SCHOOLS, NEW
YORK, BROOKLYN, BALTIMORE, AND PHILADELPHIA, AND THE NEW YORK
CITY CHAPTER, AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF BANKING
THE WRITER'S LIBRARY
EDITED BY J. BERG ESENWEIN
THE HOME CORRESPONDENCE SCHOOL
THE HOME CORRESPONDENCE SCHOOL
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
TO F. ARTHUR METCALF
FELLOW-WORKER AND FRIEND
Table of Contents
THINGS TO THINK OF FIRST - A FOREWORD IX
CHAPTER I - ACQUIRING CONFIDENCE BEFORE AN AUDIENCE 1
CHAPTER II - THE SIN OF MONOTONY 10
CHAPTER III - EFFICIENCY THROUGH EMPHASIS AND SUBORDINATION 16
CHAPTER IV - EFFICIENCY THROUGH CHANGE OF PITCH 27
CHAPTER V - EFFICIENCY THROUGH CHANGE OF PACE 39
CHAPTER VI - PAUSE AND POWER 55
CHAPTER VII - EFFICIENCY THROUGH INFLECTION 69
CHAPTER VIII - CONCENTRATION IN DELIVERY 80
CHAPTER IX - FORCE 87
CHAPTER X - FEELING AND ENTHUSIASM 101
CHAPTER XI - FLUENCY THROUGH PREPARATION 115
CHAPTER XII - THE VOICE 125
CHAPTER XIII - VOICE CHARM 134
CHAPTER XIV - DISTINCTNESS AND PRECISION OF UTTERANCE 146
CHAPTER XV - THE TRUTH ABOUT GESTURE 156
CHAPTER XVI - METHODS OF DELIVERY 171
CHAPTER XVII - THOUGHT AND RESERVE POWER 184
CHAPTER XVIII - SUBJECT AND PREPARATION 199
CHAPTER XIX - INFLUENCING BY EXPOSITION 218
CHAPTER XX - INFLUENCING BY DESCRIPTION 231
CHAPTER XXI - INFLUENCING BY NARRATION 249
CHAPTER XXII - INFLUENCING BY SUGGESTION 262
CHAPTER XXIII - INFLUENCING BY ARGUMENT 280
CHAPTER XXIV - INFLUENCING BY PERSUASION 295
CHAPTER XXV - INFLUENCING THE CROWD 308
CHAPTER XXVI - RIDING THE WINGED HORSE 321
CHAPTER XXVII - GROWING A VOCABULARY 334
CHAPTER XXVIII - MEMORY TRAINING 343
CHAPTER XXIX - RIGHT THINKING AND PERSONALITY 355
CHAPTER XXX - AFTER-DINNER AND OTHER OCCASIONAL SPEAKING 362
CHAPTER XXXI - MAKING CONVERSATION EFFECTIVE 372
APPENDIX A - FIFTY QUESTIONS FOR DEBATE 379
APPENDIX B - THIRTY THEMES FOR SPEECHES, WITH SOURCE-REFERENCES 383
APPENDIX C - SUGGESTIVE SUBJECTS FOR SPEECHES; HINTS FOR TREATMENT 386
APPENDIX D - SPEECHES FOR STUDY AND PRACTISE 394
GENERAL INDEX 506
=Things to Think of First=
The efficiency of a book is like that of a man, in one important
respect: its attitude toward its subject is the first source of its
power. A book may be full of good ideas well expressed, but if its
writer views his subject from the wrong angle even his excellent advice
may prove to be ineffective.
This book stands or falls by its authors' attitude toward its subject.
If the best way to teach oneself or others to speak effectively in
public is to fill the mind with rules, and to set up fixed standards for
the interpretation of thought, the utterance of language, the making of
gestures, and all the rest, then this book will be limited in value to
such stray ideas throughout its pages as may prove helpful to the
reader - as an effort to enforce a group of principles it must be
reckoned a failure, because it is then untrue.
It is of some importance, therefore, to those who take up this volume
with open mind that they should see clearly at the out-start what is the
thought that at once underlies and is builded through this structure. In
plain words it is this:
Training in public speaking is not a matter of externals - primarily; it
is not a matter of imitation - fundamentally; it is not a matter of
conformity to standards - at all. Public speaking is public utterance,
public issuance, of the man himself; therefore the first thing both in
time and in importance is that the man should be and think and feel
things that are worthy of being given forth. Unless there be something
of value within, no tricks of training can ever make of the talker
anything more than a machine - albeit a highly perfected machine - for the
delivery of other men's goods. So self-development is fundamental in our
The second principle lies close to the first: The man must enthrone his
will to rule over his thought, his feelings, and all his physical
powers, so that the outer self may give perfect, unhampered expression
to the inner. It is futile, we assert, to lay down systems of rules for
voice culture, intonation, gesture, and what not, unless these two
principles of having something to say and making the will sovereign have
at least begun to make themselves felt in the life.
The third principle will, we surmise, arouse no dispute: No one can
learn _how_ to speak who does not first speak as best he can. That may
seem like a vicious circle in statement, but it will bear examination.
Many teachers have begun with the _how_. Vain effort! It is an ancient
truism that we learn to do by doing. The first thing for the beginner in
public speaking is to speak - not to study voice and gesture and the
rest. Once he has spoken he can improve himself by self-observation or
according to the criticisms of those who hear.
But how shall he be able to criticise himself? Simply by finding out
three things: What are the qualities which by common consent go to make
up an effective speaker; by what means at least some of these qualities
may be acquired; and what wrong habits of speech in himself work against
his acquiring and using the qualities which he finds to be good.
Experience, then, is not only the best teacher, but the first and the
last. But experience must be a dual thing - the experience of others must
be used to supplement, correct and justify our own experience; in this
way we shall become our own best critics only after we have trained
ourselves in self-knowledge, the knowledge of what other minds think,
and in the ability to judge ourselves by the standards we have come to
believe are right. "If I ought," said Kant, "I can."
An examination of the contents of this volume will show how consistently
these articles of faith have been declared, expounded, and illustrated.
The student is urged to begin to speak at once of what he knows. Then he
is given simple suggestions for self-control, with gradually increasing
emphasis upon the power of the inner man over the outer. Next, the way
to the rich storehouses of material is pointed out. And finally, all the
while he is urged to speak, _speak_, _SPEAK_ as he is applying to his own
methods, in his own _personal_ way, the principles he has gathered from
his own experience and observation and the recorded experiences of
So now at the very first let it be as clear as light that methods are
secondary matters; that the full mind, the warm heart, the dominant will
are primary - and not only primary but paramount; for unless it be a full
being that uses the methods it will be like dressing a wooden image in
the clothes of a man.
J. BERG ESENWEIN.
JANUARY 1, 1915.
THE ART OF PUBLIC SPEAKING
Sense never fails to give them that have it, Words enough to
make them understood. It too often happens in some
conversations, as in Apothecary Shops, that those Pots that are
Empty, or have Things of small Value in them, are as gaudily
Dress'd as those that are full of precious Drugs.
They that soar too high, often fall hard, making a low and level
Dwelling preferable. The tallest Trees are most in the Power of
the Winds, and Ambitious Men of the Blasts of Fortune. Buildings
have need of a good Foundation, that lie so much exposed to the
- WILLIAM PENN.
ACQUIRING CONFIDENCE BEFORE AN AUDIENCE
There is a strange sensation often experienced in the presence
of an audience. It may proceed from the gaze of the many eyes
that turn upon the speaker, especially if he permits himself to
steadily return that gaze. Most speakers have been conscious of
this in a nameless thrill, a real something, pervading the
atmosphere, tangible, evanescent, indescribable. All writers
have borne testimony to the power of a speaker's eye in
impressing an audience. This influence which we are now
considering is the reverse of that picture - the power _their_
eyes may exert upon him, especially before he begins to speak:
after the inward fires of oratory are fanned into flame the eyes
of the audience lose all terror.
- WILLIAM PITTENGER, _Extempore Speech_.
Students of public speaking continually ask, "How can I overcome
self-consciousness and the fear that paralyzes me before an audience?"
Did you ever notice in looking from a train window that some horses feed
near the track and never even pause to look up at the thundering cars,
while just ahead at the next railroad crossing a farmer's wife will be
nervously trying to quiet her scared horse as the train goes by?
How would you cure a horse that is afraid of cars - graze him in a
back-woods lot where he would never see steam-engines or automobiles, or
drive or pasture him where he would frequently see the machines?
Apply horse-sense to ridding yourself of self-consciousness and fear:
face an audience as frequently as you can, and you will soon stop
shying. You can never attain freedom from stage-fright by reading a
treatise. A book may give you excellent suggestions on how best to
conduct yourself in the water, but sooner or later you must get wet,
perhaps even strangle and be "half scared to death." There are a great
many "wetless" bathing suits worn at the seashore, but no one ever
learns to swim in them. To plunge is the only way.
Practise, _practise_, _PRACTISE_ in speaking before an audience will tend
to remove all fear of audiences, just as practise in swimming will lead
to confidence and facility in the water. You must learn to speak by
The Apostle Paul tells us that every man must work out his own
salvation. All we can do here is to offer you suggestions as to how best
to prepare for your plunge. The real plunge no one can take for you. A
doctor may prescribe, but _you_ must take the medicine.
Do not be disheartened if at first you suffer from stage-fright. Dan
Patch was more susceptible to suffering than a superannuated dray horse
would be. It never hurts a fool to appear before an audience, for his
capacity is not a capacity for feeling. A blow that would kill a
civilized man soon heals on a savage. The higher we go in the scale of
life, the greater is the capacity for suffering.
For one reason or another, some master-speakers never entirely overcome
stage-fright, but it will pay you to spare no pains to conquer it.
Daniel Webster failed in his first appearance and had to take his seat
without finishing his speech because he was nervous. Gladstone was often
troubled with self-consciousness in the beginning of an address.
Beecher was always perturbed before talking in public.
Blacksmiths sometimes twist a rope tight around the nose of a horse, and
by thus inflicting a little pain they distract his attention from the
shoeing process. One way to get air out of a glass is to pour in water.
_Be Absorbed by Your Subject_
Apply the blacksmith's homely principle when you are speaking. If you
feel deeply about your subject you will be able to think of little else.
Concentration is a process of distraction from less important matters.
It is too late to think about the cut of your coat when once you are
upon the platform, so centre your interest on what you are about to
say - fill your mind with your speech-material and, like the infilling
water in the glass, it will drive out your unsubstantial fears.
Self-consciousness is undue consciousness of self, and, for the purpose
of delivery, self is secondary to your subject, not only in the opinion
of the audience, but, if you are wise, in your own. To hold any other
view is to regard yourself as an exhibit instead of as a messenger with
a message worth delivering. Do you remember Elbert Hubbard's tremendous
little tract, "A Message to Garcia"? The youth subordinated himself to
the message he bore. So must you, by all the determination you can
muster. It is sheer egotism to fill your mind with thoughts of self when
a greater thing is there - _TRUTH_. Say this to yourself sternly, and
shame your self-consciousness into quiescence. If the theater caught
fire you could rush to the stage and shout directions to the audience
without any self-consciousness, for the importance of what you were
saying would drive all fear-thoughts out of your mind.
Far worse than self-consciousness through fear of doing poorly is
self-consciousness through assumption of doing well. The first sign of
greatness is when a man does not attempt to look and act great. Before
you can call yourself a man at all, Kipling assures us, you must "not
look too good nor talk too wise."
Nothing advertises itself so thoroughly as conceit. One may be so full
of self as to be empty. Voltaire said, "We must conceal self-love." But
that can not be done. You know this to be true, for you have recognized
overweening self-love in others. If you have it, others are seeing it in
you. There are things in this world bigger than self, and in working for
them self will be forgotten, or - what is better - remembered only so as
to help us win toward higher things.
_Have Something to Say_
The trouble with many speakers is that they go before an audience with
their minds a blank. It is no wonder that nature, abhorring a vacuum,
fills them with the nearest thing handy, which generally happens to be,
"I wonder if I am doing this right! How does my hair look? I know I
shall fail." Their prophetic souls are sure to be right.
It is not enough to be absorbed by your subject - to acquire
self-confidence you must have something in which to be confident. If you
go before an audience without any preparation, or previous knowledge of
your subject, you ought to be self-conscious - you ought to be ashamed to
steal the time of your audience. Prepare yourself. Know what you are
going to talk about, and, in general, how you are going to say it. Have
the first few sentences worked out completely so that you may not be
troubled in the beginning to find words. Know your subject better than
your hearers know it, and you have nothing to fear.
_After Preparing for Success, Expect It_
Let your bearing be modestly confident, but most of all be modestly
confident within. Over-confidence is bad, but to tolerate premonitions
of failure is worse, for a bold man may win attention by his very
bearing, while a rabbit-hearted coward invites disaster.
Humility is not the personal discount that we must offer in the presence
of others - against this old interpretation there has been a most healthy
modern reaction. True humility any man who thoroughly knows himself must
feel; but it is not a humility that assumes a worm-like meekness; it is
rather a strong, vibrant prayer for greater power for service - a prayer
that Uriah Heep could never have uttered.
Washington Irving once introduced Charles Dickens at a dinner given in
the latter's honor. In the middle of his speech Irving hesitated, became
embarrassed, and sat down awkwardly. Turning to a friend beside him he
remarked, "There, I told you I would fail, and I did."
If you believe you will fail, there is no hope for you. You will.
Rid yourself of this I-am-a-poor-worm-in-the-dust idea. You are a god,
with infinite capabilities. "All things are ready if the mind be so."
The eagle looks the cloudless sun in the face.
_Assume Mastery Over Your Audience_
In public speech, as in electricity, there is a positive and a negative
force. Either you or your audience are going to possess the positive
factor. If you assume it you can almost invariably make it yours. If you
assume the negative you are sure to be negative. Assuming a virtue or a
vice vitalizes it. Summon all your power of self-direction, and remember
that though your audience is infinitely more important than you, the
truth is more important than both of you, because it is eternal. If your
mind falters in its leadership the sword will drop from your hands. Your
assumption of being able to instruct or lead or inspire a multitude or
even a small group of people may appall you as being colossal
impudence - as indeed it may be; but having once essayed to speak, be
courageous. _BE_ courageous - it lies within you to be what you will.
_MAKE_ yourself be calm and confident.
Reflect that your audience will not hurt you. If Beecher in Liverpool
had spoken behind a wire screen he would have invited the audience to
throw the over-ripe missiles with which they were loaded; but he was a
man, confronted his hostile hearers fearlessly - and won them.
In facing your audience, pause a moment and look them over - a hundred
chances to one they want you to succeed, for what man is so foolish as
to spend his time, perhaps his money, in the hope that you will waste
his investment by talking dully?
Do not make haste to begin - haste shows lack of control.
Do not apologize. It ought not to be necessary; and if it is, it will
not help. Go straight ahead.
Take a deep breath, relax, and begin in a quiet conversational tone as
though you were speaking to one large friend. You will not find it half
so bad as you imagined; really, it is like taking a cold plunge: after
you are in, the water is fine. In fact, having spoken a few times you
will even anticipate the plunge with exhilaration. To stand before an
audience and make them think your thoughts after you is one of the
greatest pleasures you can ever know. Instead of fearing it, you ought
to be as anxious as the fox hounds straining at their leashes, or the
race horses tugging at their reins.
So cast out fear, for fear is cowardly - when it is not mastered. The
bravest know fear, but they do not yield to it. Face your audience
pluckily - if your knees quake, _MAKE_ them stop. In your audience lies
some victory for you and the cause you represent. Go win it. Suppose
Charles Martell had been afraid to hammer the Saracen at Tours; suppose
Columbus had feared to venture out into the unknown West; suppose our
forefathers had been too timid to oppose the tyranny of George the
Third; suppose that any man who ever did anything worth while had been a
coward! The world owes its progress to the men who have dared, and you
must dare to speak the effective word that is in your heart to
speak - for often it requires courage to utter a single sentence. But
remember that men erect no monuments and weave no laurels for those who
fear to do what they can.
Is all this unsympathetic, do you say?
Man, what you need is not sympathy, but a push. No one doubts that
temperament and nerves and illness and even praiseworthy modesty may,
singly or combined, cause the speaker's cheek to blanch before an
audience, but neither can any one doubt that coddling will magnify this
weakness. The victory lies in a fearless frame of mind. Prof. Walter
Dill Scott says: "Success or failure in business is caused more by
mental attitude even than by mental capacity." Banish the fear-attitude;
acquire the confident attitude. And remember that the only way to
acquire it is - _to acquire it_.
In this foundation chapter we have tried to strike the tone of much that
is to follow. Many of these ideas will be amplified and enforced in a
more specific way; but through all these chapters on an art which Mr.
Gladstone believed to be more powerful than the public press, the note
of _justifiable self-confidence_ must sound again and again.
QUESTIONS AND EXERCISES.
1. What is the cause of self-consciousness?
2. Why are animals free from it?
3. What is your observation regarding self-consciousness in children?
4. Why are you free from it under the stress of unusual excitement?
5. How does moderate excitement affect you?
6. What are the two fundamental requisites for the acquiring of
self-confidence? Which is the more important?
7. What effect does confidence on the part of the speaker have on the
8. Write out a two-minute speech on "Confidence and Cowardice."
9. What effect do habits of thought have on confidence? In this
connection read the chapter on "Right Thinking and Personality."
10. Write out very briefly any experience you may have had involving the
teachings of this chapter.
11. Give a three-minute talk on "Stage-Fright," including a (kindly)
imitation of two or more victims.
THE SIN OF MONOTONY
One day Ennui was born from Uniformity.
Our English has changed with the years so that many words now connote
more than they did originally. This is true of the word _monotonous_.
From "having but one tone," it has come to mean more broadly, "lack of
The monotonous speaker not only drones along in the same volume and
pitch of tone but uses always the same emphasis, the same speed, the
same thoughts - or dispenses with thought altogether.
Monotony, the cardinal and most common sin of the public speaker, is not
a transgression - it is rather a sin of omission, for it consists in
living up to the confession of the Prayer Book: "We have left undone
those things we ought to have done."
Emerson says, "The virtue of art lies in detachment, in sequestering one
object from the embarrassing variety." That is just what the monotonous
speaker fails to do - he does _not_ detach one thought or phrase from
another, they are all expressed in the same manner.
To tell you that your speech is monotonous may mean very little to you,
so let us look at the nature - and the curse - of monotony in other
spheres of life, then we shall appreciate more fully how it will blight
an otherwise good speech.
If the Victrola in the adjoining apartment grinds out just three
selections over and over again, it is pretty safe to assume that your
neighbor has no other records. If a speaker uses only a few of his
powers, it points very plainly to the fact that the rest of his powers
are not developed. Monotony reveals our limitations.
In its effect on its victim, monotony is actually deadly - it will drive
the bloom from the cheek and the lustre from the eye as quickly as sin,
and often leads to viciousness. The worst punishment that human
ingenuity has ever been able to invent is extreme monotony - solitary
confinement. Lay a marble on the table and do nothing eighteen hours of
the day but change that marble from one point to another and back again,
and you will go insane if you continue long enough.
So this thing that shortens life, and is used as the most cruel of
punishments in our prisons, is the thing that will destroy all the life
and force of a speech. Avoid it as you would shun a deadly dull bore.
The "idle rich" can have half-a-dozen homes, command all the varieties
of foods gathered from the four corners of the earth, and sail for
Africa or Alaska at their pleasure; but the poverty-stricken man must
walk or take a street car - he does not have the choice of yacht, auto,
or special train. He must spend the most of his life in labor and be
content with the staples of the food-market. Monotony is poverty,
whether in speech or in life. Strive to increase the variety of your
speech as the business man labors to augment his wealth.
Bird-songs, forest glens, and mountains are not monotonous - it is the
long rows of brown-stone fronts and the miles of paved streets that are
so terribly same. Nature in her wealth gives us endless variety; man
with his limitations is often monotonous. Get back to nature in your
methods of speech-making.