« PreviousContinue »
inclination to think of himself. Let him remember to think outward and not inward; to concern himself with his subject and not his audience; and, most of all, not himself; to keep his mentality ever active, ever seeing his picture or his theme; self-consciousness will then disappear, taking with it all uncertainty and nervousness, and leaving him master of the situation because of his being master of himself. This self-mastering is of the utmost importance to the public speaker; therefore he should do all in his power to cultivate and strengthen it. Without it, he is like a ship without a rudder ; but with it, he possesses not only the means of controlling his course, but also the knowledge of directing it and the certainty of reaching his destination. He is then the purposeful speaker, conscious only of his ability to perform his task, and not creating imaginary difficulties which, once created, would surely overwhelm him.
How to ACQUIRE FLUENCY OF SPEECH A good working vocabulary is obtained best by studying words, learning their meaning, their origin, and their connections; finding out how many words express practically the same idea; what words are directly opposed to other words; and, in fact, becoming perfectly familiar with them in every way. A comparatively small number of words, if thoroughly mastered, will be of more service to a speaker than will a much larger number with which he is only indifferently acquainted. It is not so much the number of tools that a workman possesses that insures the
successful performance of his work, but the skill with which he manipulates those that he has at his disposal. So is it with the speaker. Let him thoroughly master a small vocabulary, because the effort he puts forth to become fully acquainted with his limited stock of words will, in itself, increase them and give him confidence in their use, and he will be better off than the less informed speaker with the greater vocabulary.
An easy flow of language is secured only by practice in speaking. No matter how many words one may have at one's disposal, they will be valueless unless the possessor has also the courage to use them. All who desire fluency of speech should practice continually to convey thought by word of mouth. Enter into conversation at every favorable opportunity with persons of education and refinement, doing as much of the talking as the proprieties will permit, bearing in mind that only by using a faculty is it developed and strengthened. Speak before public gatherings as often as possible, commencing in a modest manner by speaking for a few moments, and gradually gather confidence and power by demonstrating to yourself that you have the ability to acquire the art of speech. After satisfying yourself on that point, all that remains for you to do is to go ahead and acquire it.
How to ACQUIRE PROFICIENCY IN GESTURE Gesticulation, even more than speech, should be characteristic of the speaker, and entirely free from parade or pretense. Any gesticulation that calls attention to itself,
and not to the thought it is intended to express, is wrong and should not be made. The aim of gesture should be to amplify, illustrate, or strengthen the spoken word, and it should only be employed in the furtherance of these objects. Nothing tends more to give the speaker an appearance of affectation than does a superabundance of gesture, and nothing makes a speaker more awkward than does the making of ungainly gestures. The best speakers of today use very few gestures, these being mainly expressive of emphasis; and most strong gestures, both descriptive and active, have been abolished by English and American orators. The speakers of ancient days, and those of the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries, were profuse in the use of gesture, but the declamatory style of delivery has given way to the colloquial form, which does not permit of the making of many gestures, particularly those of the arms and hands, and depends more on the vocal expression than it does on the physical. While speakers are advised to be sparing in their use of gesture, there is a certain class that may be employed effectively, the movements of this class not being considered by audiences, as a rule, as gestures. These are the movements and expressions of the face, and consist of the distinctive light of the eye — whether languid, animated, sorrowful, gay, loving, or threatening; the play of the lips — indicating scorn, strength, or weakness; and the state of the brow whether smooth or contracted. All these gestures, however, after they have been thought out and clearly understood, may be left to be governed by
the same force that controls the coloring of the voice, and if the mentality of the speaker so acts as to cause the voice to properly express the thought, it will also move the body to work in harmony with it and to correspondingly convey the idea by means of physical expression.
The question of gesticulation might easily be discussed at such length as to make a book, but the author does not deem it wise to put forth any new system of gesture, nor advise the use of any
but will content himself with stating a few serious errors to be avoided by all speakers, and by giving some general principles that should be adopted: Do not put your hands in your pockets, nor appear not to know what to do with them. Refrain from playing with your watch chain, or running your fingers through your hair. Let your arms hang easily at your side, and appear unconscious of the fact that you possess hands. Do not always point upward when talking of heaven or the sky, nor put your hand on your breast when speaking of love or conscience. Do not attempt to describe the action of every thing - such as the flowing of rivers, rolling of clouds, or leaping of cataracts. Avoid using too many active gestures — that is, gestures expressive of the action of your own mind, such as anger, fear, and joy. Do not tear your hair, stamp your feet, nor give any other such outward manifestation of your feelings. Keep away from reading desks, tables, and all articles of furniture. Stand on your feet, in clear view of the audience; look outward and upward, and let the assembly see that you are not afraid
to show yourself. Use gestures sparingly until you find the ones that feel easy to you; and all gestures that come without effort it is safe to consider natural, for if they feel easy to you, they are likely to look natural and to be effective. Finally, follow Hamlet's advice to the players:
Do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus; but use all gently: for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, whirlwind of your passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. . . . Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion be your tutor: suit the action to the word, the word to the action; with this special observance, that you o'erstep not the modesty of nature.*
*Hamlet, Act III, Scene II.