The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Public Speaking

By Dale Carnegie

I have enjoyed public speaking most of my life and have coached adults on point and have given some mini “seminars” to certain public figures. Dale Carnegie has been a primary guide for me all of days. Carnegie was one of the most popular speakers and writers of his era. His books include one of the best sellers of all time, How To Win Friends and Influence People, of which I have given away 50 or more copies over the years. In the above book (PS), Carnegie’s goal is help the average person deal with public speaking engagements of all kinds: formal speeches, introductions, accepting awards, presiding at meetings, job interviews and simple conversation, and it accomplishes this in spades.

Here are some of Carnegie’s invaluable suggestions:

Before You Talk. Determine (1) your topic, (2) the likely persuasion of your audience, and (3) how long you can (or should) speak – and always under speak; leave your audience wanting more.

Handling Fear. All speakers have some degree of fear. Fear can cause you to speak to appear stiff, to stumble, to talk too fast, to stutter, to forget key points, and will make the audience nervous. So, fear must be managed, and it can be by preparation and practice. Also, if you really believe in your message and if you’re excited about it, fear will dissipate naturally. However, some fear is helpful; it makes you try harder and do better. If you prepare thoroughly, you will be much more relaxed. Write the word “R E L A X” in bold letters across the top of every page of your talk or notes. Meditate about your speaking; see yourself speaking effortlessly, flawlessly, convincingly and happily. The Apostle John said, “Perfect love casteth out fear.” If you truly love Bermuda and its people, your love will come through and your fears will be suppressed.

Goals. Every talk has three goals: to inform; to persuade or induce action; and to entertain.

Debate Style. (1) Tell them what you’re going to tell them. (2) Tell them in detail. (3) Tell them what you told them. Illustrations can help explain your main point.

Don’t Sell; Explain. Don’t try to sell anything; just explain your heartfelt beliefs.

Facts Not Conclusions. Don’t say that something is “good” or “bad”; those are conclusions; explain the facts in a way that will lead the listener to reach the conclusion on his own.

Use Personal Experiences. Humanize your talk with comments about yourself (without bragging); don’t preach; tell interesting stories that make your points.

Mechanics. Make your key point(s) clearly. Don’t cover too many topics or points. People’s attention span and capacity to absorb is limited. Give the reasons to support your point(s). Arrange your ideas in a logical order. Number your ideas/points.

Using Questions. Declarative statements can offend listeners. Questions never offend. The right questions can make the same points as a declarative statement. You can make points by asking questions. E.g., “Do you favor having drugs sold in Hamilton, on the streets, in plain sight, where any passerby can see it?” When the listener answers the questions your way, it is the listener’s idea, not yours, and he is much more inclined to agree with you and to remember your point.

Graphics; Distributing Written Materials. Drawings, charts, slides, etc. can be very effective; as goes the axiom, “A picture is a thousand words.” However, you should never distribute materials to read while you’re speaking, or your listeners may start reading and stop listening to you.

Techniques. Don’t be concerned with techniques; concentrate on content and conveying your sincere beliefs, convictions and emotions.

Avoid Hand Gestures. While you don’t need to use artificial techniques, you need to avoid bad ones. Hand motions cause the listeners to focus on the hands, rather than the words. Don’t use hand gestures, if possible. If you can’t help it, keep them to the barest possible minimum.

Being Genuine and Be Passionate. Be so genuine, so sincere, so intent upon your message that no one is conscious of your method, style or technique. You don’t want your listeners to think of you as a trained speaker. You want them to see you as a genuine person with good intentions and with great passion for his ideals and goals.

Be Yourself. Don’t try to imitate others; be yourself.

Write Your Speach. Prepare in advance: Make a list of bullet points to be covered and also put them on 3x5 or 4x6 cards that are easy to carry with you; then write it out in essay form. Only prepared speakers deserve to be confident. You need to have a number of “canned talks” ready: your bio; why the PLP has failed; why the UBP won’t. You need to have several versions of each: a one minute, a five minute, a ten minute, and, for rare occasions, a 20 minute version.

Practice. Practice it. Initially read your fully written text until it is almost memorized, but, when you give it, do not read it; either speak from the list of bullet points or glance at the full written version as needed (but rarely) when you give the talk. Practice in front of a mirror or in front of family or friends. Do it until you are 100% comfortable with what you’re going to say.

Spontaneous Talks. Impromptu talks can and should be prepared in advance, whenever you can anticipate the subject, the audience and the approximate time available.

Voice Tones. Do not speak in a montone; that’s boring. To make a point, sometimes raise your voice; sometimes whisper, but, above all, think of the meaning of your words and emphasize the more important words (with voice inflexions, volume, whispers and even pauses). If you think about the meaning of your words, voice inflexions should come naturally.

Good and Bad Words. The two most effective words in advertising are, “You” and “Free”. The most offensive words are “I”, “me”, and “mine”. If you must use personal pronouns, use “we”, “our”, “you”, and “yours”. In general, de-emphasize yourself; emphasize your audience, its needs and desires. Freely mention the names of those present (in favorable ways). Do not say, “Ahh” or fill the air with extended “and’s”. Silence between words and thoughts is good, as it allows the listener to rest and regroup his own thoughts. Never use a profane word.

Never Apologize. Audiences didn’t come to hear you say, “I’m sorry” about anything. If you make mistakes, ignore them or make a joke about them, but don’t apologize. Eye Contact: If you can do it naturally, without getting distracted, by all means use eye contact and move your eyes among your listeners, engaging each. IF you find eye contact with your audience distracts you, do not look in their eyes. Look at their foreheads, chins or ears; they’ll never know the difference.

Quotations. People love to hear quotations of famous people. It elevates and flatters the listeners. You can find great quotations that fit your specific message in books like Bartlett’s Quotations. Such books list quotes by subject matter and by author. It’s easy to find great quotes. It’s fun to find them and more fun to use them.

Vocabulary. Try not to overuse the same words. There are wonderful synonym books, like Roget’s Thesaurus. Buy one and use it. Using different words to express the same thoughts adds interest and life to your remarks.

Believe in Yourself. We become what we think about. To be good, we must believe that we can and will be good; with each speech, we become better. Meditate about this; see yourself speaking well; hear your words.

Speak as Often as Possible. Seize every opportunity to speak. The more that you speak, the more you will develop “a habit of success”; success breeds success. As Bernard Shaw said, “I kept speaking and making a fool of myself until I got used to it.”

How long will it take one to become a good speaker? The answer must vary for each person, but the average person can probably achieve an adequate level of communicating publicly by preparing and giving 10 to 20 talks, and seizing every opportunity to practice, again depending upon the person. Carnegie’s guide is invaluable.