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CHAPTER XII

CONCLUSION

The final word of advice is practice! Speak at every opportunity! If your situation does not allow frequent chances, make them by joining a club, class, social, business or professional association which will afford occasions for applying the principles advocated in the foregoing pages!

A few specific suggestions relative to practice may be useful to those who are inexperienced. In the first place, careful investigation and organization, as set forth in the chapter on preparation, are always requisite. In the second place, it is best to talk on relatively easy subjects at first, preferably those which can be developed in greater part by narration or description, such as personal experiences, scenes, pictures, plots of plays or novels, biographies, or historical accounts. If exposition or argument is undertaken, the topic should not be a complex one, but rather an exposition of a simple machine, structure, or process, or an argument on a local or otherwise familiar proposition. Thirdly, the inexperienced speaker should not try to build up or revise his method of speaking by an attempt to follow all the advice at once. It is better to work first, let us say, for a clear purpose, definite points, solidity of elaboration, and fairness of attitude toward the subject; then for unity, coherence, clearness and force; next for attractiveness in composition; then for flexibility of response to the reactions of the audience. By this time, or perhaps before, the speaker will be sufficiently free on the platform to make his personality felt.

The above order of progress is not fixed, of course, but in advising some such gradual application of the essentials presented in the text, I write with a realization of what confusion would result from trying to direct the attention to a dozen different things at once. If the speaker uses the method proposed, he will find after a few careful trials that unity, coherence and clearness tend to become natural qualities of his expression. He can then give a part of his attention to attractiveness of style. When this becomes more or less spontaneous, he can devote himself more to the reactions of his audience, etc.

A fourth suggestion is that the speaker refrain from trying to make a “hit.” He should aim at a clear, sensible talk, not dry to be sure, but free from any striving after brilliancy, cleverness or profundity. These may come, perhaps, as a later development, but they are not of immediate concern.

Finally, and emphatically, the student should begin right by trusting only to a simple outline (preferably memorized), such as was illustrated in the chapter on preparation. Even hesitation, breaks, weakness of phrasing, in the early efforts, are better than elaborate notes carried in the hand. Once the habit of depending on a “speaker's crutch" is formed, it is extremely difficult to become an effective practical speaker. A set of notes is undoubtedly a barrier between speaker and audience. So, as Hamlet said to the players, “Pray you, avoid it.”

Printed in the United States of America

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