The well-equipped speaker is one who has a superior culture of voice and body. All the instruments of expression must be made his obedient servants, but as master of them he should see to it that they perform their work naturally and spontaneously. He should be able while speaking to abandon himself wholly to his subject, confident that as a result of conscientious training his delivery may be left largely to take care of itself.
There are two essential qualifications for making an effective public speech.
First, having something worth-while to say.
Second, knowing how to say it.
The first qualification implies a judicious choice of subject and the most thorough preparation. It means that the speaker has carefully gathered together the best available material, and has so familiarized himself with his subject that he knows more about it than anyone else in his audience.
It is in this requirement of thorough preparation that many public speakers are deficient. They do not realize the need for this painstaking preliminary work, and hence they frequently stand before an audience with little information of value to impart to their hearers. Their poverty of thought can not be long disguised in flamboyant rhetoric and sesquipedalian words, and hence they fail to carry conviction to serious-minded men.
I would remind you that having something worth-while to say involves more than thorough preparation of the particular subject which the speaker is to present to an audience. The speaker should have a well-furnished mind. You have had the experience of listening to a public speaker who commanded your closest attention not only because of what he said, but also because of what he was. He inspired confidence in you because of his personality and reserve power.
It is often what a man has within himself, rather than what he actually expresses, that carries greatest conviction to your mind. As you listen to such a man speak, you feel that he is worthy of your confidence because he draws upon broad experience and knowledge. He speaks out of the fulness of a well-furnished mind.
It is important, therefore, that there should be mental culture in a broad way,—sound judgment, a sense of proportion and perspective, a fund of useful ideas, facts, arguments, and illustrations, and a large stock of common sense.
Every man who essays to speak in public should cultivate a judicial mind, or the habit of weighing and estimating facts and arguments. Such a mind is supposedly free from prejudice and seeks the truth at any cost. Such a mind does not want this or that to be necessarily true, but wants to recognize as true only that which is true.
In these days of multiplied publications and books of all kinds, when printed matter of every description is soliciting our time and attention, it is particularly desirable that we should cultivate a discriminating taste in our choice of books. The highest purpose of reading is for the acquisition of useful knowledge and personal culture, and we should keep these two aims constantly before us. It is noteworthy that men who have achieved enduring greatness in the world have always had a good book at their ready command.