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he is going to be scared, and almost broods over the supposed terror of facing an audience. Therefore, when the occasion arrives he is in a state of nervous tension which invites panic. The remedy for this weakness is to prepare for an address and then throw it off the mind until the final review of the outline just before speaking.
Another producer of "stage-fright" is a common misconception regarding the attitude of the audience toward the speaker. The latter is apt to imagine his listeners as looking for an opportunity to ridicule him or to rejoice in his failure. Under ordinary circumstances, where no unfriendliness toward the speaker exists, this is most certainly not the case. As a matter of fact a speaker in difficulty is rather less distressed than is his audience. Almost every individual in an average assembly feels that his own enjoyment depends largely upon the speaker's ease and felicity, and appreciates the effort that the speaker is making in behalf of the audience. The result is a composite spirit of co-operation and good wishes. A realization of this fact should further reduce the preliminary fear of embarrassment which in many cases haunts the speaker from the moment he has agreed to make an address.
The residue of apprehension should be met with a summoning of courage, of determination to go through the first half dozen appearances, after
which a speaker will, ordinarily, experience a fair and increasing degree of comfort before his audience.
II. Misconception of the Speaker's Task
A second cause for dread is a misconception of what is usually expected of a speaker. The source of this faulty idea lies chiefly in the character of the speeches published in the average "collection," and the teaching of speaking which has obtained in the past and is still in vogue in many schools and colleges. The pieces which comprise the bulk of the collections mentioned are masterpieces of oratory, delivered on great occasions by the giants of the rostrum. Demosthenes, Cicero, Robespierre, Hugo, Patrick Henry, Wendell Phillips, Gladstone, Henry W. Grady, W. J. Bryansuch are the men whose most striking efforts are read by young men and women as models of the speaker's art. The lights and shades of Phillips' chiselled diction, the passion of Patrick Henry's burning periods, the lofty imagery of Webster's surging oratory, the telling pathos of Grady's vivid word-pictures-such are the features which are studied and rehearsed under the tutelage of instructors who frequently possess an unfortunate excellence in dramatic interpretation, serving to obscure rather than to advance the real aim of studying public speaking.
And what is the relationship between this kind of reading and study and the dread which the average man feels when asked to address an audience? Simply that he has more or less unconsciously acquired from it a false notion of what is expected of a speaker. If the things which he has read or studied are models, then he must attempt to deliver himself in a profound, dramatic, or elegant manner. Is it any wonder that he quakes inwardly when called upon to speak?
In pointing out the misconception derived from the study and practice of masterpieces, it is only fair to draw a clear distinction between the results as applied to dramatic interpretation and to practical public speaking. The practices which have just been mentioned are very likely valuable for the former, but of comparatively little worth for the latter, because the student is working with types of matter and style which he will probably never use. Thundering orations against Catiline, soul-stirring appeals to arms, and "key-note' speeches are rarities. What everyday students of public speaking may more profitably take as models for study and practice are the best addresses delivered from day to day by doctors, lawyers, engineers, business men and others who are speaking in clinics, courts and lecture-halls; at clubs, conferences and committee meetings. A current newspaper file contains better material
for study than does a set of "Masterpieces of Oratory." I do not mean to say that great orations are not worthy of careful consideration, but that they are clearly out of place as models for the man who wishes to explain the workings of a piece of mechanical apparatus, to give an account of the proceedings of a convention, to deliver an address on the drama, or to discuss the merits of a product which he wishes to market. What any speaker should first strive for is substantial material not brilliant imagery, clearness not profundity, common enthusiasm not glowing passion. As long ago as 1886, Thomas Wentworth Higginson wrote in his "Hints on SpeechMaking," "Always speak in a natural key, and in a conversational manner. The days of pompous and stilted eloquence are gone by." So one may dismiss the dread which arises from the mistaken idea that a speaker is expected to orate after the manner of past-masters of the art.
III. Poor Preparation
The third cause for dread of speaking, poor preparation, is the most important and at the same time the most surely avoidable. It is of greatest importance because the hardest task for a public speaker is to face an audience without material or plan. Such a situation is strikingly suggestive of the time-honored "bricks without straw"
proposition. Moreover, in this connection it is well to point out that a speaker should always have a definite topic for consideration. Nothing is more apt to result in ineffective preparation than a vague idea as to what one is going to talk about. A person who proposes to discuss "something touching upon labor unions, international arbitration and the minimum wage law" faces an enormous task of investigation-a task which he will probably leave undone. Even any one part of the above subject would be rather broad and indefinite for the unpracticed speaker. Much more adaptable to satisfactory preparation are such clearly defined topics as, "The Aims of Labor Unions," "The Shortcomings of Labor Unions," "The Difficulties of International Arbitration," "What International Arbitration Has Accomplished," "Why We Need a Federal Minimum Wage Law," etc.
But let us suppose that a person has chosen a definite topic and that he knows the great danger of lack of preparation. Here is a critical juncture at which speakers sometimes weaken, thereby nurturing the feeling of dread. The weakness lies. chiefly in one or more of the following attitudes: laziness, a forlorn hope of sudden inspiration or of picking up material from other speakers, and ignorance of how to prepare. The first two of these may be dismissed with a brief comment.