The Art of Public Speaking was published over a hundred years ago, and while the technology around public speaking has changed radically with amplification, radio and television broadcasting, self-publishing on YouTube, presentation aids like teleprompters, PowerPoint and digital projectors, the basics behind behind effective public speaking remain the same.
Dale Carnegie was a remarkable man who ushered in a renaissance of sorts in the business world. A pioneer in the self-improvement movement, Carnegie wrote classics in the genre that have stood the test of time: How to Win Friends and Influence People; How to Stop Worrying and Start Living; Apply Your Problem Solving Know How, and more.
In 1912, when Carnegie was just 24 years old, he founded The Dale Carnegie Course in Effective Speaking and Human Relations. The course offerings diversified and over a hundred years later, Dale Carnegie Training is still going strong, offering customized business training to corporate clients. It is estimated that over 8 million people have taken The Dale Carnegie Course.
The Art of Public Speaking was written when Carnegie spelled his last name “Carnagey”. He changed it as a strategy to borrow the prestige of the successful Carnegie family. It was co-written with Joseph Berg Esenwein who also served as the book’s editor.
This book lays out the fundamentals of Public Speaking, which really are the principles of effective communication coupled with advice on handling the anxiety that some feel when speaking in front of crowds. The chapters are brief, lay out concise tips and pointers on the individual aspects of successful public speaking, and then gives you questions and exercises to reinforce what you’ve learned at the end of each chapter.
The very first chapter deals with stage fright. You have to have the courage to actually do the thing before any of the other tips will help you.
The next chapters take you through using emphasis, pitch, tempo, pauses for effect, inflection, focus, passion, voice, vocal charm, pronunciation, and gestures to aid in the delivery of your message.
The lessons conclude with a series of chapters on how to prepare, compose, critique and edit your own writing. Carnegie tells you how to move your audience, not just talk at them.
The authors emphasize how important practice is, and to encourage that practice they close the book off with four lengthy Appendices. The first one is a listing of 50 topics to pick from to inspire a formal debate. The second is a list of 30 articles and writings that can be potential themes for speeches. The third is a list of 109 topics with a seed list for most of them, and the final one is the text of 15 actual speeches (some of them abridged) which the reader can use to practice inflection, emphasis, tempo, pauses, and so on. By reading these speeches after learning from the previous chapters you can easily find a feel for ways of improving improving your delivery.
I am an experienced public speaker. I grew up in front of crowds, am totally comfortable in front of an audience, have delivered many speeches, reports and presentations, and I still managed to learn from this book. This is not the kind of book that you pick up the night before a speaking engagement or a class presentation and hope that it will help you. This is the kind of book that you study before you need to use the skills. Once you have done that, you can pick up the book to brush up on what you’ve learned while you’re preparing your next presentation.
Read this book. Now. You will thank yourself for it later.