This section is from the book "Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: A Guide To Correct Writing", by Thos. E. Hill. Also available from Amazon: Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: The How-To-Do-Everything Book Of Victorian America.
THE man or woman in any community who can express ideas correctly, plainly, and readily, with good voice and self-possession, in the presence of others, always wields a commanding influence - provided this accomplishment is guided by good judgment, which teaches when to speak, where to speak, what to speak, and how to speak.
The art which enables an individual, when standing on the feet, to express a thought methodically and clearly to an intelligent and critical audience, in a manner such as will influence and instruct the auditors, is one very much to be desired. Can it be acquired by the average individual? The consideration of that question is the purpose of the following chapters.
MANY people who have an ambition for public speaking do not awake to the necessity and importance of this subject until the period of their school-days has long passed, when the conviction is likely to force itself upon their minds that they are too late to acquire the art. Such, however, should not be discouraged. To begin practice in extempore speaking, establish a debating club, which should include a membership of half a dozen or more persons, to meet regularly during the week, at stated times, for the discussion of current topics of the day, either at a private residence, some hall chosen for the purpose, or at a schoolroom; the exercises of the occasion being interspersed with essays by members of the club, the whole to be criticised by critics appointed. A few weeks thus spent will oftentimes develop in the club several fluent essayists and speakers.
If desirous of distinction, it is not enough that the speakers simply utter their own thoughts. There should be especial effort made to present the idea in an original, attractive and efficient form. To be effective, the speaker must exhibit variety in gesture, tone of voice, and method of illustration. Gestures and sentences should be gracefully rounded; the illustrations, in strong and telling words, should be so proportioned, and the arguments so arranged, as to grow stronger from the beginning to the end; while the thoughts should be so presented as to be appropriate, and in harmony with the occasion.
The speakers and essayists whom we know as wielding the greatest influence in the world's history, added to these graces of oratory depth of investigation, independence of thought, and freedom of expression. They scorned to traverse the beaten paths, simply because of custom and popularity. They chose to be in-dependent. Rather than follow, they preferred to lead the opinion of others.
The following suggestions give an outline of what is necessary for the production of a ready, easy speaker.
First. The foundation of the discourse should be thoroughly fixed in the mind, and the order of succession in which the arguments are to follow.
Second. These should be so arranged that one thought should be the natural outgrowth of the other, and each idea should be so distinctly marked out as to be in readiness the moment it is wanted.
Third. The speaker should vividly feel all that
The Cambridge Literary Club in Session.
THIS Society, organized for the purpose of
Social, Literary and Oratorical Culture, meets weekly at the residence of its members. Order of Exercises : - Calling meeting to order by President; Roll Call and Reading Minutes of previous meeting by Secretary; Music; Recitation; Essay, by a member selected at previous meeting, which takes fifteen minutes to read. Four critics, appointed by the President, make each a five minutes' talk upon the subject of the essay; Music. Recess of Ten Minutes.
Twenty minutes devoted to reading, by the editress, of the "Vanguard," the paper of the club, composed largely of contributions from different members of the society; Announcement, by the President, of subject for debate; Four debaters consume each five minutes in discussing the subject; Music; Announcement of time, place and Essayist for next meeting; adjournment.
The foregoing programme of exercises is subject to variation according to vote of a majority of the club, or as the President may think best.
he may design to speak, in order that clear ideas may be expressed. The mind should not, however, be so absorbed with the subject in hand as to prevent its acting readily in the development of the topic under consideration. It is possible for the feelings to become so vehement in their expression as to paralyze utterance from their very fullness.
Fourth. The feelings, in speaking, must be resolved into ideas, thought into images, to express which there must be suitable language. While the main idea should be firmly grasped, in its elucidation it should be separated into its principal members, and these again divided into subordinate parts, each under perfect command of the speaker, to be called upon and used at will, until the subject is exhausted.
Fifth. The full, complete and ready use of the imagination is of the greatest importance to the extemporaneous speaker, which power may be greatly cultivated by reading the works of Walter Scott, Dickens, and other standard writers who excel in imaginative description. To hold up before the audience a clear, distinct outline of the subject in hand, and paint the picture in fitting language so vividly that the auditors will delightedly follow its progress, step by step, is the distinguishing excellence of the off-hand speaker. With many persons of real talent, the powers of imagination work too slowly to hold the attention of the audience. This hindrance, however, can be largely overcome by practice.
Sixth. The difficulty of embarrassment, which afflicts some people upon public appearance, is overcome by practice, and by having a perfectly distinct understanding of what is to be said, which consciousness tends to give confidence and self-possession. To obtain the ability to present this clear conception of the subject, the speaker should study logic, geometry, and kindred subjects, that arrive at conclusions through a process of analytical reasoning. The speaker should be able to think methodically, being able to decompose his thoughts into parts, to analyze these into their elements, to recompose, re-gather, and concentrate these again in a manner such as will clearly illustrate the idea sought to be conveyed.
Seventh. One of the most efficient aids to public speaking is the ability to write. The public speaker will do well to commence by writing in full what he is desirous of saying. He should, at the same time, make a study of the various masters of oratory. Writing gives great clearness to the expression of thought, and, having plenty of time in its composition, the mind is able to look at the subject in every phase. With the main idea clearly defined and kept constantly in view, let the speaker examine the subject in every light, the different faculties of the mind concentrating upon a single point. Thus, step by step, the subject is considered in all its bearings, the various details of the idea being completely studied, and the whole matter thoroughly developed, until the subject has reached its perfect form. Eighth. The daily study of synonymous words and their meanings will give greater facility of expression. The mind should also be stored with a variety of information on subjects pertaining to the arts and sciences, from which one can constantly draw in cases of emergency. It is impossible for the speaker to extemporize what is not in the mind. And, further, all reading and study should be done with such care that every idea thus acquired will be so thoroughly impressed on the mind as to be available when we wish to communicate our ideas to others.
Ninth. In public speaking, one of the great secrets of success is a knowledge of human nature. To acquire this, the speaker should carefully study men - the passions and impulses that influence mankind - their phrenological characteristics, and know them as they are. To do this, he should freely mingle in society, interchanging ideas, and seeking every opportunity for the practice of extempore speaking.
Tenth. An important element necessary to success in the off-hand speaker is courage. While it is essential that he use choice and fitting language in the expression of ideas, let him not hesitate, when he has commenced a sentence, because he cannot readily call to mind the exact language necessary to beautifully clothe the thought. Push vigorously through to the end, even though at a sacrifice, for a time, of the most perfect forms of speech. This courage that dare stand up and speak a sentence ungrammatically, even, is necessary to make the good speaker of the future.
Fig. 1 - The Dandy Who fails on the Platform because the diamond and fancy clothing detract attention of the hearers, and convey the impression that he gives more thought to dress than he does to ideas.
Fig. 2 - Solid Man.
Whose unostentatious yet substantial appearance is so much in his favor, when before an audience, as to make him a person of very considerable power, however little he may say.
Finally, while all cannot become equally proficient in oratory, the industrious student of average talent, who earnestly resolves to win success as an extempore speaker, will find himself, in the majority of cases, in time, self-possessed in the presence of others. With ideas clear and distinct, vivified and quickened by imagination, clothed in fitting words and beautiful language, he will be enabled to instruct and entertain an audience in a manner vastly better than most people would suppose who may have listened to his maiden efforts in the commencement of his public speaking.