Chapter 1: Developing Courage and Self-Confidence
More than five hundred thousand men and women, since 1912, have been members of public speaking courses using my methods.
the basic want in the vast majority, remained surprisingly the same: "When 1 am called upon to stand up and speak," person after person wrote, "1 become so self-conscious, so frightened, that I can't think clearly, can't concentrate, can't remember what 1 had intended to say. I want to gain self- confidence, poise, and the ability to think on my feet. I want to get my thoughts together in logical order and I want to be able to say my say clearly and convincingly before a business or club group or audience." Thousands of their confessions sounded about like that.
get so fussed, my mind becomes an uttcr blank: so I have side- stepped it all my life. But I am chairman now of a board of college trustees. 1must preside at their meetings. I simply have to do some talking…. 00 you think it will be possible for me to learn to speak at this late date in my life?"
"Do 1 think, Mr. Ghent?" 1 replied. "It is not a question of my thinking. I know you can, and J know you will if you will only practice and follow the directions and instructions."
Months later, He took a little red-backed notebook out of his pocket and showed me a list of talks and dates for which he was booked. "And the ability to make these," he confessed, "the pleasure I get in doing it, the additional service I can render to the community-these are among the most gratifying things in my life."
And Mr. Ghent informed me that he himself had been chosen, from among all the Baptists of that city, to introduce England's premier to the audience.
And this was the man who had sat at that same table less than three years before and solemnly asked me if I thought he would ever be able to talk in public!
He had never made a public speech in his life, and every thought that he had had now took wings.
What was he to do? The audience was applauding. Everyone was looking at him. He shook his head. But that served only to heighten the applause, to increase the demaad. The cries of "Dr. Curtisl Speechl Speechl" grew louder and more insistent.
He was in positive misery. He knew that if he got up he would fail, that he would be unable to utter half a dozen sentences. So he arose, and, without saying a word, turned his back on his friends and walked silently out of the room, a deeply embarrassed and humiliated man.
He wanted to be able to talk, and there was no halfheartedness about his desire. He prepared his talks thorougWy, he practiced them with a will, and he never missed a single session of the course.
He did precisely what such a student always does: he progressed at a rate that surprised him, that surpassed his fondest hopes. After the first few sessions his nervousness subsided, his confidence mounted higher and higher. In two months he had become the star speaker of the group. He was soon accepting invitations to speak elsewhere; he now loved the feel and exhilaration of it, the distinction and the additional friends it brought him.
The gaining of self-confidence and courage, and the ability to think calmly and clearly while talking to a group is not one-tenth as difficult as most people imagine. It is not a gift bestowed by Providence on only a few rarely endowed individuals. It is like the ability to play golf. Anyone can develop his own latent capacity if he has sufficient desire to do so.
In fact, you ought to think better when facing a group. Their presence ought to stir you and lift you. A great many speakers will tell you that the presence of an audience is a stimulus, an inspiration, that drives their brains to function more clearly, more keenly.
That ought to be your experience. It probably will be if you practice and persevere.
Of this much, however, you may be absolutely sure: training and practice will wear away your audience-fright and give you self-confidence and an abiding courage.
Do not imagine that your case is unusually difficult. Even those who afterward became the most eloquent representatives of their generation were, at the outset of their careers, afBicted by this blinding fear and self-consciousness.
Mark Twain, the first time he stood up to lecture, felt as if his mouth were filled with cotton and his pulse were speeding for some prize cup.
Grant took Vicksburg and led to victory one of the greatest armies the world had ever seen up to that time; yet, when he attempted to speak in pUblic, he admitted he had somehing very like locomotor ataxia.
The late Jean Jaures, the most powerful political speaker that France produced during his generation, sat, for a year, tongue-tied in the Chamber of Deputies before he could summon up the courage to make his initial speech.
"The first time I attempted to make a public talk," confessed Lloyd George, "1 tell you 1 was in a state of misery. It is no figure of speech, but literally true, that my tongue clove to the roof of my mouth; and, at first, 1 could hardly get out a word."
Disracli admitted that he would rather have led a cavalry charge than to have faced the House of Commons for the first time. His opening speech there was a ghastly failure. So was Sheridan's.
In fact, so many of the famous speakers of England have made poor showings at first that there is now a feeling in Parliament that it is rather an inauspicious omen for a young man's initial talk to be a decided success. So take heart.
The immortal Cicero said, two thousand years ago, that all public speaking of real merit was characterized by nervousness.
Speakers often experience this same feeling even when they are talking over the radio. "Microphone fright," it is called. When Charlie Chaplin went on the air, he had his speech all written out. Surely he was used to audiences. He toured this country back in 1912 with a vaudeville sketch entitled "A Night in a Music Hall." Before that he was on the legitimate stage in England. Yet, when he went into the padded room and faced the microphone, he had a feeling in the stomach not unlike the sensation one gets when
he crosses the Atlantic during a stormy February.
James Kirkwood, a famous motion picture actor and director, had a similar experience. He used to be a star on the speaking stage; but, when he came out of the sending room after addressing the invisible audience, he was mopping perspiration from his brow. " A n opening night on Broadway," he confessed, "is nothing in comparison to
Some people, no matter how often they speak, always experience this sef-consciousness just before they commence but, in a few seconds after they have gotten on their feet, it disappears.
Even Lincoln felt shy for the few opening moments. "At first he was very awkward," relates his law partner, Herndon, "and it seemed a real labor to adjust himself to his surroundings. He struggled for a time under a feeling of apparent diffidence and sensitiveness, and these only added to his awkwardness. I have often seen and sympathized with Mr. Lincoln during these moments. When he began speaking, his voice was shrill, piping, and unpleasant. His manner, his attitude, his dark, yellow face, wrinkled and dry, his oddity of pose, his diffident movements--everything seemed to be against him, but only for a short time." In a few moments he gained composure and warmth and earnestness, and his real speech began.
Your experience may be similar to his.
In order to get the most out of your efforts to become a good speaker in public, and to get it with rapidity and dispatch, four things are essential:
First: Start with a strong and persistent desire
This is of far more importance than you probably realize. If an instructor could look into your mind and heart now and ascertain the depth of your desires, he could foretell, almost with certainty, the swiftness of the progress you will make. If your desire is pale and flabby, your achievements will also take on that hue and consistency. But, if you go after your subject with persistence, and with the energy of a bulldog ,after a cat, nothing underneath the Milky Way will defeat you.
Therefore, arouse your enthusiasm for this self-study. Enumerate its benefits. Think of what additional self-confidence and the ability to talk more convincingly in public will mean to you. Think of what it may mean and what it ought to mean, in dollars and cents. Think of what it may mean to you socially; of the friends it will bring, of the increase of your personal influence, of the leadership it will give you. And it will give you leadership more rapidly than almost any other activity you can think of or imagine.
"There is no other accomplishment," stated Chauncey M. Depew, "which any man can have that will so quickly make for him a career and secure recognition as the ability to speak acceptably,"
Philip D. Armour, after he had amassed millions, said: "I would rather have been a great speaker than a great capitalist."
It is an attainment that almost every person of education longs for. After Andrew Carnegie's death there was found, among his papers, a plan for his life drawn up when he was thirty-three years of age. He then felt that in two more years he could so arrange his business as to have an annual income of fifty thousand; so He proposed to retire at thirty-five, go to Oxford and get a thorough education, and "pay spe-
cial attention to speaking in public:'
Think of the glow of satisfaction and pleasure that will accrue from the exercise of this new power. The author has traveled around over no small part of the world; and has had many and varied experiences; but for downright and lasting inward satisfaction, he knows of few things that will compare to standing before an audience and making men think your thoughts after you. It will give you a sense of strength, a feeling of power. It will appeal to your pride of personal accomplishment. It will set you off from and raise you above your fellow men. There is magic in it and a never- to-be-forgotten thrill. "Two minutes before I begin," a speaker confessed, "I would rather be whipped than start; but two minutes before I finish, I would rather be shot than stop."
In every effort, some men grow faint-hearted and fall by
the wayside; so you should keep thinking of what this skill will mean to you until your desire is white hot. You should start this program with an enthusiasm that will carry you through triumphant to the end. Set aside one certain night of the week for the reading of these chapters. In short, make it as easy as possible to go ahead. Make it as difficult as possible to retreat.
When Julius Cresar sailed over the channel from Gaul and landed with his legions on what is now England, what did he do to insure the success of his arms? A very clever thing: he halted his soldiers on the chalk cliffs of Dover, and, looking down over the waves two hundred feet below, they saw red tongues of fire consume every ship in which they had crossed. In the enemy's country, with the last link with the Continent gone, the last means of retreating burned, there was but one thing left for them to do: to advance, to conquer. That is precisely what they did.
Such was the spirit of the immortal Cresar. Why not make it yours, too, in this war to exterminate any foolish fear of audiences?
Second: Know Thoroughly What You Are Going to Talk About
Unless a person has thought out and planned his talk and knows what he is going to say, he can't feel very comfortable when he faces his auditors. He is like the blind leading the blind. Under such circumstances, your speaker ought to be self-conscious, ought to feel repentant, ought to be ashamed of his negligence.
"I was elected to the Legislature in the fall of 1881," Teddy Roosevelt wrote in his Autobiography, "and found myself the youngest man in that body. Like all young men and inexperienced members, I had considerable difficulty in teaching myself to speak. I profited much by the advice of a hard-headed old countryman-who was unconsciously paraphrasing the Duke of Wellington, who was himself doubtless paraphrasing somebody else. The advice ran: 'Don't speak until you are sure you have something to say, and know just what it is; then say it, and sit down.' "
Third: Act confident
One of the most famous psychologists that America has produced, Professor William James, wrote as follows:
Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.
Thus the sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our spontaneous cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there. If such conduct does not make you feel cheerful, nothing else on that occasion can.
So, to feel brave, act as if we were brave, use all of our will to that end, and a courage fit will very likely replace the fit of fear.
Apply Professor James' advice. To develop courage when you are facing an audience, act as if you already had it. Of course, unless you are prepared, all the acting in the world will avail but little. But granted that you know what you are going to talk about, step out briskly and take a deep breath. In fact, breathe deeply for thirty seconds before you ever face your audience. The increased supply of oxygen will buoy you up and give you courage. The great tenor, Jean de Reszke, used to say that when you had your breath so you "could sit on it" nervousness vanished.
In every age, in every clime, men have always admired courage; so, no matter how your heart may be pounding inside, stride forth bravely, stop, stand still and act as if you loved it.
Draw yourself up to your full height, look your audience straight in the eyes, and begin to talk as confidently as if every one of them owed you money. imagine that they do. Imagine that they have assembled there to beg you for an extension of credit. The psychological effect on you will be beneficial.
Do not nervously button and unbutton your coat, play with your beads, or fumble with your hands. If you must make nervous movements, place your hands behind your back and twist your fingers there where no one can see the performance--or wiggle your toes.
As a general rule, it is bad for a speaker to hide behind furniture; but it may give you a little courage the first few timcs to stand behind a table or chair and to grip them tightly-or hold a coin firmly in the palm of your hand.
How did Teddy Roosevelt develop his characteristic courage and self-reliance? Was he endowed by nature with a venturesome and daring spirit? Not at all. "Having been a rather sickly and awkward boy," he confesses in his Autobiography, "I was, as a young man, at first both nervous and distrustful of my own prowess. I had to train myself painfully and laboriously not merely as regards my body but as regards my soul and spirit."
Fortunately, he has told us how he achieved the transformation: "When a boy," he writes, "1 read a passage in one of Marryat's books which always impressed me. In this passage the captain of some small British man-of-war is explaining to the hero how to acquire the quality of fearlessness. He says that at the outset almost every man is frightened when he goes into action. but that the course to follow is for the man to keep such a grip on himself that he can act just as if he were not frightened. After this is kept up long enough, it changes from pretense to reality, and the man does in very fact become fearless by sheer dint of practicing fearlessness when he does not feel it. (l am using my own language, not Marryat's.)
"This was the theory upon which I went. There were all kinds of things of which I was afraid at first. ranging from grizzly bears to 'mean' horses and gun-fighters; but by acting as if I was not afraid I gradually ceased to be afraid. Most men can have the same experience if they choose."
You can have that very experience, too, if you wish. "In war," said Marshal Foch, "the best defensive is an offensive." So take the offensive against your fears. Go out to meet them, battle them, conquer them by sheer boldness at every opportunity.
Have a message, and then think of yourself as a Western Union boy instructed to deliver it. We pay slight attention to the boy. It is the telegram that we want. The message that is the thing. Keep your mind on it Keep your heart in it. Know it like the back of your hand. Believe it feelingly. Then talk as if you were determined to say it. Do that, and the chances are ten to one that you will soon be master of the occasion and master of yourself.
Fourth: Practice! Practice! Practice!
The last point we have to make here is emphatically the most important. Even though you forget everything you have read so far, do remember this: the first way, the last way, the never-failing way to develop self-confidence in speaking is - to speak. Really the whole matter finally simmers down to but one essential; practice, practice, practice. That is the sine qua non of it all, "the without which not."
"Any beginner," warned Roosevelt, "is apt to have 'buck fever.' 'Buck fever' means a state of intense nervous excitement which may be entirely divorced from timidity. It may affect a man the first time he has to speak to a large audience just as it may affect him the first time he sees a buck or goes into battle. What such a man needs is not courage, but nerve control, coolheadedness. This he can get only by actual practice. He must, by custom and repeated exercise of self-mastery, get his nerves thoroughly under control. This is largely a malter of habit; in the sense of repeated effort and repeated exercise of will power. If the man has he right stuff in him, he will grow stronger and stronger with each exercise oj it."
You want to get rid of your audience fear? Let us see what causes it.
"Fear is begotten of ignorance and uncertainty," says Professor Robinson in The Mind in the Making. To put it another way: it is the result of a lack of confidence.
And what causes that? It is the result of not knowing what you can really do. And not knowing what you can do is caused by a lack of experience. When you get a record of successful experience behind you, your fears will vanish; they will melt like night mists undcr the glare of a July sun.
One thing is certain: the acceptcd way to learn to swim is to plunge into the water. You have been reading this book long enough. Why not toss it aside now, and get busy with the real work in hand.
Choose your subject, preferably one on which you have some knowledge, and construct a three-minute talk. Practice the talk: by yourself a number of times. Then give it, if possible, to the group for whom it is intended, or before a group of friends, putting into the effort all your force and power.
A few thousand students have written the author stating why they wanted training in public speaking and what they hoped to obtain from it. The prime reason that almost all of them gave was this: they wanted to conquer their nervousness, to be able to think on their feet, and to speak with self-confidence and ease before a group of any size.
The ability to do this is not difficult to acquire. It is not a gift bestowed by Providence on only a few rarely endowed individuals. It is like the ability to play golf: any man or woman--every person--can develop his own latent capacity if he has sufficient desire to do so.
Many experienced speakers can think better and talk better when facing a group than they can in conversation with an individual. The presence of the larger number proves to be a stimulus, an inspiration. If you faithfully follow the suggestions in this book, the time may come when that will be your experience, too; and you will look forward with
positive pleasure to making an address.
Do not imagine that your case is unusual. Many men who afterward became famous speakers were, at the outset of their careers, beset with self-consciousness and almost paralyzed with audience fright. This was the experience of Bryan, Jean Jaures, lloyd George, Charles Stewart Parnell, John Bright, Disraeli, Sheridan and a host of others.
No matter how often you speak, you may always experience this self-consciousness just before you begin; but, in a few seconds after you have gotten on your feet, it will vanish completely.
In order to get the most out of this book and to get it with rapidity and dispatch, do these four things:
- a. Start with a strong and persistent desire. Enumerate the benefits this effort to train yourself will bring you. Arouse your enthusiasm for it. Think what it can mean to you financially, socially and in terms of increased influence and leadership. Remember that upon the depth of your desire will depend the swiftness of your progress.
- b. Prepare. You can't feel confident unless you know what you are going to say.
- c. Act confident. "To feel brave," advises Professor William James, "act as if we were brave, use all of our will to that end, and a courage fit will very likely replace the fit of fear." Teddy Roosevelt confessed that he conquered his fear of grizzly bears, mean horses, and gunfighters by that method. You can conquer your fear of audiences by taking advantage of this psychological fact.
- d. Practice. This is the most important point of all. Fear is the result of a lack of confidence; and a lack of confidence is the result of not knowing what you can do; and that is caused by a lack of expf1rlence. So get a record of successful experience behind you, and your fears will vanish.
Chapter 2: Self-confidence through preparation
It has been the author's professional duty as well as his pleasure to listen to and criticize approximately six thousand speeches a year each season since 1912. These were made, not by college students, but by mature business and professional men. If that experience has engraved on his mind anyone thing more deeply than another, surely it is this: the urgent necessity of preparing a talk before one starts to make it and of having something clear and definite to say, something that has impressed one, something that won't stay unsaid. Aren't you unconsciously drawn to the speaker who, you feel, has a real message in his head and heart that he zealously desires to communicate to your head and heart? That is half the secret of speaking.
When a speaker is in that kind of mental and emotional state he will discover a significant fact: namely, that his talk will almost make itself. Its yoke will be easy, its burden
will be light. A well-prepared speech is already nine-tenths delivered.
The primary reason why most people want this training, as was recorded in Chapter I, is to acquire confidence and courage and self-reliance. And the one fatal mistake many make is neglecting to prepare their talks. How can they even hope to subdue the cohorts of fear, the cavalry of nervousness, when they go into the battle with wet powder and blank shells, or with no ammunition at all? Under the circumstances, small wonder that they are not exactly at horne before an audience. "I believe," said Lincoln in the White House, "that I shall never be old enough to speak without embarrassment when I have nothing to say."
If you want confidence, why not do the things necessary to bring it about? "Perfect love," wrote the Apostle John, "casteth out fear." So does perfect preparation. Webster said he would as soon think of appearing before an audience half-elothed as half-prepared.
Why don't we prepare our talks more carefully? Why? Some don't clearly understand what preparation is nor how to go about it wisely; others plead a lack of time. So we shall discuss thesc problems rather fully in this chapter.
The Right Way to Prepare
What is preparation? Reading a book? That is one kind, but not the best. Reading may help; but if one attempts to lift a lot of "canned" thoughts out of a book and to give them out immediately as his own, the whole performance will be lacking in something. The audience may not know precisely what is lacking, but they will not warm to the speaker.
To illustrate: some time ago, the writer conducted a course in public speaking for the senior officers of New York City banks. Naturally, the members of such a group, having many demands upon their time, frequently found it difficult to prepare adequately, or to do what they conceived of as preparing. All their lives they had been thinking their own individual thoughts, nurturing their own personal convictions, seeing things from their own distinctive angles, living their own original experiences. So, in that fashion, they had spent forty years storing up material for speeches. But it was hard for some of them to realize that.
This group met Friday evenings from five to seven. One Friday, a certain gentleman connected with an uptown bank - for our purposes we shall designate him as Mr. Jackson -found four-thirty had arrived, and, what was he to talk about? He walked out of his office, bought a copy of Forbe~ Magazine at a news stand and, in the subway coming down to the Federal Reserve Bank where the class met, he read an article entitled, "You Have Only Ten Years to Succeed." He read it, not because he was interested in the article especially; but because he must speak on something, on anything, to fill his quota of time.
An hour later, he stood up and attempted to talk convincingly and interestingly on the contents of this article.
What was the result, the inevitable result?
He had not digested, had not assimilated what he was trying to say. "Trying to say"-that expresses it precisely. He was trying. There was no real message in him seeking for an outlet; and his whole manner and tone revealed it unmistakably. How could he expect the audience to be any more impressed than he himself was? He kept referring to the article, saying the author said so and so. There was a surfeit of Forbe~ Magazine in it: but regrettably little of Mr. Jackson.
So the writer addressed him somewhat in this fashion: "Mr. Jackson, we are not interested in this shadowy personality who wrote that article. He is not here. We can't see him. But we are interested in you and your ideas. Tell us what you think, personally, not what somebody else said. Put more of Mr. Jackson in this. Why not take this same subject for next week? Why not read this article again, and ask yourself whether you agree with the author or not? If you do, think out his suggestions and illustrate them with observations from your own experience. If you don't agree with him, say so and tell us why. Let this article be merely the starting point from which you launch your own speech."
Mr. Jackson accepted the suggestion, reread the article and concluded that he did not agree with the author at all. He did not sit down in the subway and try to prepare this next speech to order. He let it grow. It was a child of his own brain; and it developed and expanded and took on stature just as his physical children had done. And like his daughters, this other child grew day and night when he was least conscious of it. Onc thought was suggested to him while reading some item in the newspaper; another illustration swam into his mind unexpectedly when he was discussing the subject with a friend. The thing deepened and heightened, lengthened and thickened as he thought over it during the odd moments of the week.
The next time Mr. Jackson spoke on this subject, he had something that was his, ore that he dug out of his own mine, currency coined in his own mint. And he spoke all the better because he was di~agreeing with the author of the artich.:. There is no spur to rouse one like a little opposition.
What an incredible contrast between these two speeches by the same man, in the same fortnight, on the same subject. What a colossal difference the right kind of preparation makes!
A fortnight later, something happened that touched Mr. Flynn to the core: a thief stole his car out of a public garage. He rushed to the police and offered rewards, but it was all in vain. The police admitted that it was well nigh impossible for them to cope with the crime situation; yet, only a week previously, they had found time to walk about the street, chalk in hand, and fine Mr. Flynn because he had parked his car fifteen minutes overtime. These "chalk cops." who were so busy that they could not catch criminals, aroused his ire. He was indignant. He had something now to say, not something that he had gotten out of a
booklet issued by the newspaper, but something that was leaping hot out of his own life and experience. Here was something that was part and parcel of the real man-something that had aroused his feelings and convictions. In his speech eulogizing the city of Washington, he had laboriously pulled out sentence by sentence; but now he had but to stand on his feet and open his mouth, and his condemnation of the police welled up and boiled forth like Vesuvius in action. A speech lik:~ that is almost foolproof. It can hardly fail It was experience plus refiection.
What Preparation Really Is
Does the preparation of a speech mean the getting together of some faultless phrases written down or memorized? No. Does it mean the assembling of a few casual thoughts that really convey very little to you personally? Not at all. It means the assembling of your thoughts, your ideas, your convictions, your urges. And you have such thoughts, such urges. You have them every day of your waking life. They even swarm through your dreams. Your whole existence has been filled with feelings and experiences. These things are lying deep in your subconscious mind as thick as pebbles on the seashore. Preparation means thinking, brooding, recalling, selecting the ones that appeal to you most, polishing them, working them into a pattern. a mosaic of your own. That doesn't sound like such a difficult program, does it? It isn't. Just requires a little concentration and thinking to a purpose.
How did Dwight L. Moody prepare those addresses of his which made spiritual history? "I have no secret," he replied in answer to that question.
When I choose a subject, I write the name of it on the outsiue of a large envelope. 1 have many such envelopes. If, when 1 am r~ading, 1 meet a good thing on any subject 1 am to speak on, 1 slip it into the right envelope, and let it lie there. 1 always carry a notebook, and if I hear anything in a sermon that will throw light on that subject, 1 put it down, and slip it into the envelope. Perhaps 1 let it lie there for a year or more. When 1 want a new
sermon, 1 take everything that has been accumulating. Between what I find there and the results of my own study, I have material enough. Then, all the time I am going over my sermons, ta1'Jng out a little here, adding a little there. In that way they never get old.
The Sage Advice of Dean Brown of Yale
Brood over your text and your topic. Brood over them until they become mellow and responsive. You will hatch out of them a whole flock of promIsing ideas as you cause the tiny germs of life there contained to expand and develop.
He may meditate on it as he walks the streets, or as he spends some hours on a train, when his eyes are too tired to read.
I have sometimes gotten out of bed in the middle of the night to put down the thoughts which came to me, for fear 1 might forget them before morning.
Put all these ideas of yours down in writing, just a few words, enough to fix the idea, and keep your mind reaching for more all the time as if it were never to see another book as long as it lived. This is the way to train the mind in productiveness. You wiU by this method keep your own mental processes fresh, original, creative.
Put down all of those ideas which you have brought to the birth yourself, unaided. They are more precious for your mental unfolding than rubies and diamonds and much fine gold. Put them down, preferably on scraps of paper, backs of old letters, fragments of envelopes, waste paper, anything which comes to your hand. This is much better every way than to use nice, long, clean sheets of foolscap. It is not a mere matter of economy-you will find it easier to arrange and organize those loose bits when you come to set your material in order.
Keep on putting down all the ideas which come to your mind, thinking hard all the while. You need not hurry this process. It is one of the most important mental transactions in which you will be privileged to engage. It is this method which causes the mind to grow in real productive power.
Y ou will find that the sermons you enjoy preaching the most and the ones which actually accomplish the most good in the lives of your people will be those sermons which you take most largely out of your own interiors.
They are bone of your bone. flesh of your flesh, the children of your own mental labor, the output of your own creative energy. The sermons which are garbled and compiled will always have a kind of second-hand. warmed-over flavor about them. The sermons which live and move and enter into the temple. walking and leaping and praising God. the sermons which enter into the hearts of men causing them to mount up with wings like eagles and to walk in the way of duty and not faint- these real sermons are the ones which are actually born from the vital energies of the man who utters them.
How Lincoln Prepared His Speeches
How did Lincoln prepare his speeches? Fortunately, we know the facts; and. as you read here of his method. you will observe that Dean Brown, in his lecture, commended several of the procedures that Lincoln had employed three-quarteIS of a century previously. One of Lincoln·s most famous addresses was that in which he declared with prophetic vision: " ' A bouse divided against
itself cannot stand.' I believe this government cannot endure. permanently, half slave and half free." This speech was thought out as he went about his usual work. as he ate his meals, as he walked the street. as he sat in his bam milking his cow. as he made his daily trip to the butcher shop and grocery. an old gray shawl over his shoulders. his market basket over his arm, his little son at his side. chattering and questioning, growing peeved, and jerking at the long bony fingers in a vain effort to make his father talk to him. But Lincoln stalked on, absorbed in his own reflections, thinking of his speech, apparently unconscious of the boy's existence.
From time to time during this brooding and hatching process, he jotted down notes, fragments, sentences here and there on stray envelopes, scraps of paper, bits torn from paper sacks-anything that was near. These he stowed away in the top of his hat and carried them there until he was ready to sit down and arrange them in order, and to write and revise the whole thing, and to shape it up for delivery and publication.
In the joint debates of 1858, Senator Douglas delivered the same speech wherever he went; but Lincoln kept studying and contemplating and reflecting until he found it easier, he said, to make a new speech each day than to repeat an old one. The subject was forever widening and enlarging in his mind.
A short time before he moved into the White House, he took a copy of the Constitution and three speeches, and with only these for reference, he locked himself in a dingy, dusty back room over a store in Springfield; and there, away from all intrusion and interruption, he wrote out his inaugural address.
How did Lincoln prepare his Gettysburg address? Unfortunately, false reports have been circulated about it. The true story, however, is fascinating. Let us have it:
When the commission in charge of the Gettysburg cemetery decided to arrange for a formal dedication, they invited Edward Everett to deliver the speech. He had been a Boston minister, president of Harvard, governor of Massachusetts, United States senator, minister to England, secretary of state, and was generally considcred to be America's most capable speaker. The date first set for the dedication ceremonies was October 23, 1863. Mr. Everett very wisely declared that it would be impossible for him to prepare adequately on such short notice. So the dcdication was postponed until November 19, nearly a month, to give him time to prepare. The last three days of that period he spent in Gettysburg, going over the battlefield, familiarizing himself with all that had taken place there. That period of brooding and thinking was most excellent preparation. It made the battle real to him.
Invitations to be present were despatched to all the members of Congress, to the President and his cabinet. Most of these declined; the committee was surprised when Lincoln agreed to come. Should they ask him to speak? They had not intended to do so. Objections were raised. He would not
have time to prepare. Besides, even if he did have time, had he the ability? True. he could handle himself well in a debate on slavery or in a Cooper Union address; but no one had ever heard him deliver a dedicatory address. This was a grave and solemn occasion. They ought not to take any· chances. Should they ask him to speak? They wondered, wondered. • • • But they would have wondered a thousand times more had they been able to look into the future and to see that this man, whose ability they were questioning, was to deliver on that occasion what is very generally accepted now as one of the most enduring addresses ever delivered by the lips of mortal man.
Finally. a fortnight before the event, they sent Lincoln a belated invitation to make "a few appropriate remarks." Yes, that is the way they worded it: "a few appropriate remarks." Think of writing that to the President of the United Statest
Lincoln immediately set about preparing. He wrote to Edward Everett, secured a copy of the address that that classic scholar was to deliver. and, a day or two later, going to a photographer's gallery to pose for his photograph, took Everett's manuscript with him and read it during the spare time that he had at the studio. He thought over his talk for days, thought over it while walking back and forth between the White House and the war office, thought over it while
stretched out on a leather couch in the war office waiting for the late telegraphic reports. He wrote a rough draft of it on a piece of foolscap paper, and carried it about in the top of his tall silk hat. Ceaselessly he was brooding over it, ceaselessly it was taking shape. The Sunday before it was delivered he said to Noah Brooks: "It is not exactly written. It is not fu:rished anyway. I have written it over two or three times, and I shall have to give it another lick before I am satisfied. "
He arrived in Gettysburg the night before the dedication. The little town was filled to overflowing. 11s usual population of thirteen hundred had been suddenly swelled to fifteen thousand. The sidewalks became clogged, impassable; men and women took to the dirt streets. Half a dozen bands were playing; crowds were singing "John Brown's Body." People fore-gathered before the home of Mr. Wills where Lincoln was being entertained. They serenaded him; they demanded a speech. Lincoln responded with a few words which conveyed with more clearness than tact, perhaps, that he was unwilling to speak until the morrow. The facts are that he was spending the latter part of that evening giving his speech "another lick." He even went to an adjoining house where Secretary Seward was staying and read the speech aloud to him for his criticism. After breakfast the next morning, he continued "to give it another lick," working on it until a rap came at the door informing him that it was time for him to take his place
in the procession. "Colonel Carr, who rode just behind the President, stated that when the procession started, the President sat erect on his horse, and looked the part of the commander-in-chief of the army; but, as the procession moved on, his body leaned forward, his arms hung limp, and his head was bowed. He seemed absorbed in thought."
We can only guess that even then he was going over his little speech of ten immortal sentences, giving it "another lick."
Some of Lincoln's speeches, in which he had only a superficial interest, were unquestioned failures; but he was possessed of extraordinary power when he spoke of slavery and the union. Why? Because he thought ceaselessly on these problems and felt deeply. A companion who shared a room with him one night in an Illinois tavern awoke next morning at daylight to find Lincoln sitting up in bed, staring at the wall, and his first words were: "This government cannot endure permanently, half slave and half free."
How did Christ prepare his addresses? He withdrew from the crowd. He thought. He brooded. He pondered. He went out alone into the wilderness and meditated and fasted for forty days and forty nights. "From that time on," records Saint Matthew, "Jesus began to preach." Shortly after that, he delivered one of the world's most celebrated speeches: the Sermon on the Mount.
"That is all very interesting," you may protest; "but I have no desire to become an immortal orator. I merely want to make a few simple talks occasionally."
True, and we realize your wants fully. This book is for the specific purpose of helping you and others like you to do just that. But, unpretending as the talks of yours may prove
to be, you can profit by and utilize in some measure the methods of the famous speakers of the past.
How to Prepare Your Talk
What topics ought you to speak on for practice? Anything that interests you. Don't make the almost universal mistake of trying to cover too much ground in a brief talk:. Just take one or two angles of a subject and attempt to cover them adequately. You will be fortunate if you can
do that in a short speech.
Determine your subject in advance, so that you will have
time to think it over in odd moments. Think over it for seven days; dream over it for seven nights. Think of it the last thing when you retire. Think of it the next morning while you are shaving, while you are bathing, while you are riding down town, while you are waiting for elevators, for lunch, for appointments, while you are ironing or cooking dinner. Discuss it with your friends. Make it a topic of conversation.
Ask yourself all possible questions concerning it. If, for example, you are to speak on divorce, ask yourself what causes divorce, what are the effects economically, socially. How can the evil be remedied? Should we have uniform divorce laws? Why? Or should we have any divorce laws? Should divorce be made impossihle? More difficult? Easier?
Suppose you were going to talk on why you are studying speech. You ought then to ask yourself such questions as these: What are my troubles? What do I hope to get out of this? Have 1 ever made a public talk? If so, when'! Where? What happened? Why do 1 think tins training is valuable for a business man? Do 1 know men and women who are forging ahead commercially or in politics largely because of their self-confidence, their presence, their ability to talk convincingly? Do I know others who will probably never achieve a gratifying measure of success because they lack these positive assets? Be specific. Tell the stories of these people without mentiouing their names.
If you stand up and think clearly and keep going for two or three minutes, that is all that can be expected of you during your first few talks. A topic such as why you are studying public speaking, is very easy; that is obvious. If you will spend a little time selecting and arranging your material on that topic, you will be almost sure to remember it, for you will be speaking of your own observations, your own desires, your own experiences.
On the other hand, let us suppose that you have decided to speak on your business or profession. How shall you set about preparing such a talk? You already have a wealth of material on that subject. Your problem, then, will be to select and arrange it. Do not attempt to tell us all about it in three minutes. It can~t be done. The attempt will be too sketchy, too fragmentary. Take one and only one phase of your topic: expand and enlarge that. For example, why not tell how you came to be in your particular business or pro-
fession? Was it a result of accident or choice? Relate your early struggles, your defeats, your hopes, your triumphs. Give a human interest narrative, a real life picture based on firsthand experiences. The truthfUl, inside story of almost anyone's life-if told modestly and without offending egotism-is most entertaining. It is almost sure-fire speech material.
Or take another angle of your business: what are its troubles? What advice would you give to a young person
Or tell about the people with whom you come in contact
-the honest and dishonest ones. Tell of your problems. What has your work taught you about the most interesting topic in the world: human nature? If you speak about the technical side of your job, about things, your talk may very easily prove uninteresting to others. But people, personalities-one can hardly go wrong with that kind of material.
Above all else, don't make your talk an abstract preachment. That will bore. Make your talk a regular layer cake of illustrations and general statements. Think of concrete cases you have observed, and of the fundamental truths which you believe those specific instances illustrate. You will also
discover that these concrete cases are far easier to remember than abstractions; are far easier to talk about. They will also aid and brighten your delivery.
Here is the way a very interesting writer does it. This is an excerpt from an article by B. A. Forbes on the necessity of executives' delegating responsibilities to their associates.
Note the illustrations-the gossip about people.
Many of our present-day gigantic enterprises were at one time one-man affairs. But most of them have outgrown this status. The reason is that, while every great organization is 'the lengthened shadow of one man,' business and industry are now conducted on such a colossal scale that of necessity even the ablest giant must gather about him brainy associates to help in handling all the reins.
Woolworth once told me that his was essentially a one-man business for years. Then he ruined his health, and it was while he lay week after week in the hospital that he awakened to the fact that if his business was to expand as he hoped, he would have to share the managerial responsibilities.
Bethlehem Steel for a number of years was distinctly of the one-man type. Charles M. Schwab was the whole works. By and by Eugene G. Grace grew in stature and developed into an abler steel man than Schwab, according to the repeated declarations of the latter.
Eastman Kodak in its earlier stages consisted mainly of George Eastman, but he was wise enough to create an efficient organization long ago. All the greatest Chicago packing houses underwent a similar experience during the time of their founders. Standard Oil, contrary to the popular notion, never was a one-man organization after it grew to large dimensions.
J. P. Morgan, although a towering giant, was an ardent believer in choosing the most capable partners and sharing
the burdens with them.
There are still ambitious business leaders who would
like to run their business on the one-man principle, but, willy-nilly, they are forced by the very magnitude of modem operations to delegate responsibilities to others.
Some men, in speaking of their businesses, commit the mforgivable error of talking only of the features that interest hem. Shouldn't the speaker try to ascertain what will enterain not himself but his hearers? Shouldn't he try to appeal o their selfish interests? li, for example, he sells fire inurance, shouldn't he tell them how to prevent fires on their Iwn property? li he is a banker, shouldn't he give them .dvice on finance or investments? li the speaker is a naional leader of a women's organization, shouldn't she tell ler local audience of the ways they are part of a national [lovement by citing specific examples from their local ,rogram?
While preparing, study your audience. Think of their ,ants, their Wishes. That is sometimes half the battle.
In preparing some topics, it is very advisable to do some eading, to discover what others have thought, what others lave said on the same subject. But don't read until you have ISt thought yourself dry. That is important-very. Then go o the public library and lay your needs bdore the librarian. ~ell her you are preparing a speech on such and such a Jpic. Ask her frankly for help. if you are not in the habit 'f doing research work, you will probably be surprised at Ile aids she can put at your disposal; perhaps a special olume on your very topic, outlines and briefs for debate, ;iving the principal arguments on both sides of the public luestions of the day; the Reader's Guide to Periodical -iterature listing the magazine articles that have appeared In various topics since Lhe beginning of the century; inormation Please Almanac, the World Almanac, the Encyclopedias, and dozens of reference books. They are tooh in your workshop. Use them.
The Secret of Reserve Power
Luther Burbank said, shortly before his death: "j have often produced a million plant specimens to find bu! one or two superlatively good ones, and have then destroyec all the inferior specimens." A speech ought to be preparec somewhat in that lavish and discriminating spirit. Assemble a hundred thoughts, and discard ninety.
Collect more material, more information, than there is any possibility of employing. Get it for the additional can· fidence it will give you, for the sureness of touch. Get it for the effect it will have on your mind and heart and whole manner of speaking. This is a basic, important factor 01 preparation; yet it is constantly ignored by speakers, batt in public and in private.
"I have drilled hundreds of salesmen and saleswomen, canvassers, and demonstrators," says Arthur Dunn, "ane the principal weakness which I have discovered in most oj them has been their failure to realize the importance of . knowing everything possible about their products and get· I ting such knowledge before they start to sell.
"1 have often found salesmen who get impatient at the preliminary time required for the study of their articles. They have said, 'I will never have time to tell all of this to a retail grocer. He is too busy. If 1 talk protein and carbohydrates, he won't listen and, if he does listen, he won't know what 1 am talking about.' My reply has been, 'You don't get all this knowledge for the benefit of your customer, but for the benefit of yourself. If you know your product from A to Z you will have a feeling about it that ls difficult to describe. You will be so positively charged, so fortified, so strengthened in your own mental attitude that ~ou will be both irresistible and unconquerable.'"
Miss Ida M. Tarbell, the well-known historian of the itandard Oil Company, told the writer that years ago, when ;he was in Paris, Mr. S. S. McClure, the founder of 'v1cClure's Magazine. cabled her to write a short article lbout the Atlantic Cable. She went to London, interviewed he European manager of the principal cable, and obtained mfficient data for her assignment. But she did not stop here. She wanted a reserve supply of facts; so she studied til manner of cables on display in the British Museum; she 'ead books on the history of the cable and even went to nanufacturing concerns on the edge of London and saw :ables in the process of construction.
Why did she collect ten times as much information as she :auld possibly use? She did it because she felt it would give ler reserve power; because she realized that the things she ~ew and did not express would lend force and color to the ittle she did express,
Edwin James Cattell has spoken to approximately thirty mllion people; yet he confided to me that if he did not, on he way home. kick himself for the good things he had left JUt of his talk he felt that the performance must have been I failure. Why? Because he knew from long experience that he talks of distinct merit are those in which there abounds I reserve of material, a plethora, a profusion of it - far nore than the speaker has time to use.
When a speaker has a real message in his head and heart-an inner urge to speak, he is almost sure to do himself credit. A well-prepared speech is already nine-tenths delivered.
What is preparation? The setting down of some mechanical sentences on paper? The memorizing of phrases? Not at all. Real preparation consists in digging something out of yourself, in assembling and arranging your own thOUghts, in cherisrung and nurturing your own convictions. (Illustrations: M r . Jackson of New Y ork failed when he attempted merely to reiterate another man's thoughts he had culled from an article in Forbes' Magazine. He succeeded when he used that article merely as a starting point for his own speech-when he thought out his own ideas, developed his own illustrations.)
Do not sit down and try to manufacture a speech in thirty minutes. A speech can't be cooked to order like a steak. A speech must grow. Select your topic early in the week, think over it during odd moments, brood over it, sleep over it, dream over it. Discuss it with friends. Make it a topic of conversation. Ask yourself all possible questions concerning it. Put down on pieces of paper all thoughts and illustrations that come to you and keep reaching out for more. Ideas, suggestions, illustrations will come drifting to you at sundry times-when you are batrung, when you are driving downtown, when you are waiting for dinner to be served. That was Lincoln's method. It has been the method of almost all successful speakers.
After you have done a bit of independent thinking, go to the library and do some reading on your topic-if time permits. Tell the librarian your needs. She can render you great assistance.
Collect far more material than you intend to use. Imitate Luther Burbank. He often produced a million plant specimens to find one or two superlatively good ones. Assemble a hundred thoughts; discard ninety.
The way to develop reserve power is to know far more than you can use, to have a full reservoir of information. In preparing a speech, use the methods Arthur Dunn employed in training his salesmen to sell a breakfast food specialty, the methods that Ida Tarbell employed in preparing her article on the Atlantic cable.