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CHAPTER VI

THE CONVERSATIONAL BASIS

The conversational style of delivery is the next source of clearness, force, and elegance in Public Speaking. The communicative attitude of mind, direct address, is closely related to the conversational style. This style is the basis of all effective delivery. It is simple, direct, varied.

The conversational is not to be confused with the feeble and indifferent manner of speaking. It demands animation, energy, and is consistent with loudness.

The main characteristic of the conversational is that of variety; and in this respect is identical with our characterization of speaking as opposed to reading. In the delivery of strongly emotional, oratoric, and forensic discourse, the delivery heightens with the emotion. Increased intensity, loudness, and dynamic effort will be demanded; but then the words containing the leading thought will be differentiated by change of pitch and increased ictus (emphasis), and by use of the characteristic long slides belonging to the conversational style.

After each emotional heightening, there must be a return to the composure and discrimination of the conversational. Without this return the style becomes “declamatory," “speech-making,” “noisy,” “grandiloquent." This kind of delivery is loud, labored, and heavy, and is sometimes called monotonous. It deals with a single emotion; and even this does not grow out of the ideas involved, but is, rather, that vague feeling arising out of the notion that something important is being attempted. The emotion may be the prevailing emotion of the speech or composi

process of

tion, without any of the varied emotions, the lights and shades, of the piece; but even in this case the speaker is blindly swept along. Transition. - An important aspect of the differentiating

conversational style is that of tra ion. The separation of the parts of the sentences, of one sentence from another, and the change from one paragraph to another, are clearly marked by pause, change of pitch, kind of voice, etc. The delivery changes with the varied thoughts and emotions. At the main divisions, there is a lull not unlike that of well-ordered conversation when the subject is spontaneously changed. The speaker then starts out with much of the composure and deliberation of a new beginning

Another aspect of the conversational delivery, closely allied to that of transition, is that of time-taking, or deliberation.

In beginning, the speaker should be deliberate; for the persons of the audience are thinking of many things other than the speech. If he speak rapidly, they will become bewildered and be left behind. The speaker should be sure that the listeners are with him before the pace is greatly quickened. The same conditions are to be observed in the transitions of the main divisions.

Time-taking is not to be confused with lazy, tardy, drawling delivery. In the heat of the emotion, the time may be unusually rapid: so also may the utterance of slurred phrases in all kinds of delivery; but even in rapid delivery some parts are retarded, and pauses made at appropriate places.

Silence. — The hesitance and thoughtfulness, at times characteristic of the purely colloquial, should be allowed as a feature of the conversational style. Normal silence, arising from a transition of ideas, is an important factor in delivery. The mind of the speaker, however, at this

point must be active, as the silence resulting from mental vacuity is quite another matter. The silence resulting from waiting on the idea, or from adjusting one's self to a new trend of ideas, is full of significance. It points to the past, and anticipates the future. At such pauses the listener is active, adjusting himself to the conditions; hence, no disappointment is felt, no time is lost. Contrast the short silence occasioned by a misplaced page of manuscript.

The inexperienced speaker regards silence as ominous. To him it seems to suggest inefficiency and to presage failure. He must hear his voice constantly sounding. Except in the case of natural drawlers and stolid folks, the art of time-taking in delivery must be acquired.

The Start. — Select persons (possibly an individual is better) in the farthest part of the audience, and direct your talk to them. To insure a proper start, Col. T. W. Higginson recommends the speaker to say, when occasion admits, as in after-dinner speaking, “I was just saying to my friend here." This induces the conversational attitude. A favorable start is the best assurance of a good time speaking. To recover from a faulty beginning as to key, force, and time, is difficult, if not impossible. Think of good speaking as simply strong talk.

CHAPTER VII

THE AUDIENCE

ence.

The next source of the essentials of Public Speaking is that of the audience. The speaker is conditioned by the audience as truly as the audience is affected by the speaker. A speech is, in fact, the joint product of speaker and audi

The audience reflects the thought and feeling of the speaker; and the speaker, in turn, reflects the mind of the audience. He intuitively realizes the sympathy of the audience, and is quick to feel when a false chord is struck. He realizes when an unwelcome or unharmonious idea is felt by the audience. The stimulus of attention and sympathy is, at times, exhilarating in the highest degree. In the highest flights of oratory, so unobserved are the symbols of communication, that the minds of the speaker and listener seem to affect each other immediately. Antagonism may overcome a feeble speaker; but he who is confident of the right and assured of his strength finds it a stimulus. He arouses his energies, determined to win.

Speaking, in which there is not conscious communication, is destructive of everything that might be called eloquence. A response of some kind is essential to the welfare of speaking Frequently the speaker is unconscious of this lack of grasp on the audience, because he is having a good time all alone, or is occupied with the subordinate processes of the speech. At other times, the conscious lack of grasp is realized in an overwhelming way. In order to communicate, the speaker must first of all gain, and then hold the attention of his audience.

Attention. He held the attention of the audience

from the beginning to the close," is often heard in proof of a successful effort. The ability to do this is one of the commonest tests of effective speaking. It is the safest one, too, if the speaker is sure that the attention given is spontaneous. Spontaneous attention is the attention that the person must give because he cannot, under the circumstances, avoid it.

Frequently, however, the attention is voluntary or “forced,” and is the result, not of the speaker's power, but of the good manners of the audience. The listener compels himself to attend. It requires effort, and involves purpose.

A speaker with marked ability to hold the attention and to exert a masterful control over an audience is called magnetic. No description of a speaker's power is more common than this, and yet none is more vague. Sometimes it is used as a literal description of what takes place. The speaker is said to magnetize the audience with "animal magnetism.” In describing the power of a certain speaker, a minister of more than ordinary culture once said to me, I could almost see the fluid pass to the audience.” With imagination a little more vivid, the cautious “ almost” would have been turned into an absolute statement.

What are the most striking effects produced by the "magnetic" speaker? Rapt attention, that makes the listener oblivious to all else but the speech. The listener enters thoroughly into the thoughts, emotions, and volitions of the speaker. For the time he loses his independence; he is susceptible to the slightest suggestion; he involuntarily applauds, laughs, cries, is pitiful, burns with indignation, becomes angry, as swayed by the thought of the speaker. The stir of the audience and the sigh of relief are the most common reaction from this kind of attention. The listener

comes to himself,” somewhat as if waking out of a dream. Sometimes the issue is in action, as when the audience of Demosthenes cry out, “Let us march against Philip!”

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