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The speaker should welcome criticism from others and give himself to careful self-examination in order to rid himself of everything of this nature that will stand in the way of the effectiveness of his message.
It is an interesting fact that in organizations, such as college literary societies, that aim to give training in effective speaking, rules are often passed that prohibit their speakers from wearing polished stickpins or other jewelry that will flash and interfere with attention to the speech. Indeed, the merest trifle sometimes becomes the determining factor of a speech, and it is here that one cannot be too painstaking with the small things that seem apparently insignificant.
The speaker should know good platform manners. The speaker's manner of address before his audience should be something as follows: As he rises from his seat upon the platform he should turn and face the chairman of the occasion, addressing him with a slight bow of the head and using the words, "Mr. Chairman" or "Mr. President" or such other form of address as may be appropriate to the occasion. In case the presiding officer is a woman the proper form is, "Madam President." The mistake is often made of attempting to address the chair while in the act of walking out upon the platform or while mounting the steps that lead to the platform. This shows little courtesy to the one presiding and should not be done. The correct mode of addressing the chair is always while standing erect with the heels close together and just as the speaker rises from his seat or, if he happens to be seated off the platform, just after he mounts the steps. Speakers are often very careless in this matter, sometimes
merely bobbing the head in the direction of the chairman and almost ignoring him as they walk towards the front of the platform, or even neglecting to address him at all. To do these things looks boorish and awkward. Under no circumstances should the speaker neglect the formality of turning and facing the presiding officer and in a gentlemanly manner addressing him with the proper title. Sometimes a speaker, instead of facing the chairman, will give a kind of dip of the body sidewise in an awkward fashion that is ungraceful and very noticeable. Certainly it is not too much to expect the speaker to turn and face the chairman squarely and address him in a manner that is at once civil and dignified.
It should not be supposed that the speaker needs to use the profound bow of the actor; indeed, such action, while quite appropriate for the stage, would not be in place upon the platform. His bow should be merely a graceful inclination of the upper part of the body, that is in harmony with the dignity of the occasion and that in no way attracts the attention of the audience. The ungraceful bending of the body forward from the hips, while the trunk and head remain stiff, in a kind of "jackknife" fashion is very common. It is as if the only hinge of the body were at the hips and the trunk and head entirely inflexible. Such movement as this has no part in good action and should not be used. It would seem that this is a principle which a great many speakers, as well as some singers and actors, need very much to learn.
As soon as the speaker has been recognized by the presiding officer he should walk straight out before his audience, not with a happy-go-lucky, shuffling, or swinging
movement of the body, but with a straightforward manner that would indicate that he is there for a purpose. It is desirable that he look directly toward his audience as he does this, rather than to one side, as this makes his manner seem more personal and communicative. The mere matter of coming before the audience is always of much importance. From the speaker's manner of approach a judgment is formed that will count very much in his favor if the impression is a good one, and equally against him if the impression is poor. I do not mean to suggest that it is necessary for the speaker to assume a bustling manner of approach, but that he avoid the listless, lackadaisical manner of one who apparently has no very definite purpose with his audiencein other words, that his manner of approach be sincere and purposeful.
And while his manner should be expressive of purpose and sincerity, he should carefully avoid giving the impression that he is ill at ease or fidgety. Hardly anything is more undesirable than for the speaker to come out upon the platform with hurried strides and begin speaking with nervous twitchings of the body. Nervousness on the part of the speaker engenders a similar feeling in the audience; while the speaker who appears perfectly calm as he steps out before his audience usually has the satisfaction of knowing that he is to have the rapt attention of his hearers from the beginning. This is, of course, far easier to say than to do, for how is the speaker to appear calm when he is already quaking in his shoes? The important thing is to exercise such self-control that to all outward appearances he seems quite composed.
The importance of exercising the will. Many speakers who suffer a veritable turmoil within appear to be perfectly calm so far as anyone can tell. This requires complete self-mastery - the absolute dominion of the will over the body. It is one of the first and most difficult undertakings of the beginner. He cannot hope to accomplish it the first time that he speaks nor the second. Every speaker has to pass through the "knee-shaking period" of public speaking, when he hardly knows his own name, to say nothing of attempting to express himself upon his feet. All this, however, gives way gradually but surely to persistent practice of the right kind.
It is sometimes necessary to exert every ounce of will power during the first moments of delivery. In doing this the speaker should employ every possible resource at his command to make himself master of the situation. First of all he should take a commanding position. No one has respect for the speaker who stands with flat chest, drooping head, and a general appearance that is slouchy. He should stand up with the mental attitude of one who respects himself and expects others to do the same. A stiff backbone engenders a certain feeling of moral strength that exerts a remarkable influence upon the audience.
The speaker's position. It is essential, then, that the speaker stand in a substantially erect position. This will mean that he must stand on both his legs, and not on one as the beginning speaker is almost always inclined to do; that he must rest his weight on his feet, and not on one hip or the other; and that his body must not appear angular, with the head thrown in one direction, the
trunk in another, and the legs in still another. The body should be erect and vertical, and the position one both of strength and of freedom. This is not easy for the beginner to do, for in his attempt to acquire a position that has the appearance of strength and command he is likely to stand like a statue. This he must not do. He must add to his feeling of strength a feeling of ease, so that he will look and feel comfortable before his audience.
After the body has become reasonably erect so that there is no angularity or slumping, the next essential is a high chest. The chest should not be unduly thrust out in a way that will make others think of the speaker as chesty," but should be held sufficiently high for the lungs to have free play and for the speaker to gain a feeling of self-confidence and strength. Then the lower part of the trunk at the waist line should be held in; never protruded after the manner of slovenly speakers. The lower trunk, thus drawn in, aids considerably in giving freedom to the upper chest; while, if protruded, it invariably draws the chest down. The head should be held erect with the eyes directed toward the audience. The speaker with drooping head is rarely ever effective.
Luther Gulick,1 an eminent teacher of physical culture, suggests that one simple exercise will accomplish all three things erectness of the head, the high chest, and the receding lower trunk. This exercise is merely to hold the back of the neck firmly against the collar. This is an excellent suggestion and one that is of much value if the speaker is careful to avoid stiffness and rigidity of the 1 Gulick, The Efficient Life, p. 40.