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ESSENTIALS OF PUBLIC SPEAKING
WHILE listening to speakers for the purpose of determining their respective effectiveness, judges find it necessary to consider the delivery with reference to at least three things, — intelligibility, or ease, with which the speaker makes himself understood; the ability of the speaker to interest and move the listener; and the ease and gracefulness of the delivery, especially with reference to the bearing and gesture. Although not always so clearly analyzed by every one, these are the qualities that make speaking effective to all listeners.
These three groups of properties, under the names of Clearness, Force, and Elegance, are regarded by teachers of rhetoric as the essential properties of style; and in keeping with the rhetorical spirit, these terms are used to represent the essential properties of delivery.
Clearness. – One of the principal aims of public speaking is to give information. This aim addresses the understanding and satisfies the demand of the intellect. The group of properties by means of which information is communicated is called “clearness.” Professor Bain describes it as “opposed to obscurity, vagueness, ambiguity, or ill
defined boundaries.”* Prof. A. S. Hill says, “It is not enough to use language that may be understood, he [a writer or speaker] should use language that must be understood,” and quotes Quintilian and Emerson to the same effect.” In Public Speaking, clearness means more than the choice of words and sentences for this purpose. The clearest style of a Newman may be rendered obscure in the delivery. By the use of proper enunciation, varied pitch, pause, emphasis, and other elements of speech, the speaker must render the thought so clear to the ear that the listener cannot fail to understand at once the purposed idea. If, for purposes of information, a speaker aims only at the bare statement of facts, as in rendering judicial opinions, in the technical treatment of scientific subjects, and in reading news items, the speaking, if it is clear, answers every demand.” It is seldom, however, that a speech is limited to this single purpose. Force. — The second of the leading aims of speaking, and especially of oratory, is persuasion. Persuasion affects the will principally through the emotions. The group of qualities, by means of which the emotions are stirred and the will affected, is variously called “vivacity,” “energy,” “strength,” “force.” The term “force,” as we have seen, is now more generally used. While the tendency is toward a factive simplicity in Public Speaking, and especially toward a suppression of excessive emotion and sentimental adornment, so long as man is capable of poetry, and is susceptible of aesthetic influences, a speech must have certain emotional qualities. Conditions may modify the emotions, but can never obliterate them.
1 English Composition and Rhetoric. Bain, p. 48. * Principles of Rhetoric, by A. S. Hill, p. 65. * A. S. Hill's Rhetoric, p. 84.
Force satisfies this demand of the emotions; and while the listener does not consciously attend to the emotional states nor seek to promote them as he does an understanding of the speech, yet if a speaker lacks force, he is, in popular language, called “dull,” “dry,” “lifeless,” “inexpressive,” “without force.” But declamation and noise should not be mistaken for Force. A blind struggle for this property leads to just this mistake. The softest tone, the gentlest whisper, may be more forceful than the strongest declamation. Silence is often forceful. A natural manner, a vivacious, but subdued and dignified delivery, is the most impressive delivery, and is Forceful in the sense used in this book. By means of Force in the Delivery, the speaker first of all holds the attention of the audience; the listener “awakes the senses,” is alert and anticipative. Beyond this, other emotions, indeed, the whole range of emotions, may be affected. Elegance. — Public speaking, in the next place, aims to please. To give pleasure is a motive leading in poetry, prominent in the essay, and not neglected in oratory; for speech can persuade only as it pleases. The group of qualities that renders the discourse agreeable, and that gives the charm of language that pleases, is, as we have already said, called by the rhetoricians, “elegance.” It corresponds to the feelings, and satisfies the demand of the aesthetic nature. Besides the usual rhetorical elements that appeal to taste and imagination, and upon which the pleasing quality of the speech is primarily based, elegance in delivery demands also an agreeable voice, strong, easy bearing, graceful gesture, harmony of function, and correct pronunciation.
A WoRKING SCHEME.
In practice, the student still finds it difficult to hold before the subconscious attention the leading processes involved