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FIRST STEPS IN ACTUAL DELIVERY
At this point in our study of Public Speaking, it may be well to stop for a few general suggestions in regard to actual speaking. From the written criticism of some fifteen hundred pupils a year, the following faults have been observed as the most common. Not all students will have all these faults, but hardly any student fails to have some of them.
Go slow. — The greatest fault of young speakers is that they go too fast. The words are so jumbled together and sent after one another so rapidly that nobody can possibly understand. Many students speak over two hundred words a minute. This speed should be cut nearly in two. From a hundred to a hundred and fifty words is enough for a minute. Take a watch in your hand, and after selecting some extract from a speech which has about a hundred and twenty-five words, time yourself. Do not be satisfied until you can occupy a full minute in giving the selection.
NOTE. — The rate of utterance, of course, as will be pointed out later, depends upon the size of the room.
In practicing slow speaking, rather lengthen the pauses than the words themselves. Be careful not to get a choppy style in doing this, but avoid the other extreme of drawling your words. Speak louder. — Nearly every student when asked to speak louder, answers, “Why, I'm yelling already.” This may actually seem so to the student, for he has been accustomed all his life to speaking with people only a few feet away. To speak to people over a hundred feet away is quite a different thing. A little bit of yelling must enter into the style, – perhaps calling would be a better term. The only thing to remember is that, although you seemingly yell, you must talk just as you would to a person near you. A speech to a thousand people is simply a conversation with one person greatly magnified. Get some one to stand at the back of a large room, and tell him to stop you every time he fails to understand a single word. Don't tell him what you are going to speak about, but see if he can make out what you say. Keep your eyes on the audience. — Very often a young speaker will look at the floor, or the ceiling, or will look out of the window. Don't do this. Look at the people. At first this will be hard to do, for it will make you forget what you want to say, but it must be done, if you are to succeed. Learn your production so well that you can look straight at your audience, and yet, back in your head, think what comes next. Even during your pauses, keep your eyes on your audience. Keep a good position. —When a speaker gets interested in making a speech, he is apt to forget all about his position. This is as it should be, provided, by constant practice, the speaker, by second nature, takes a correct position. But for a very long time one must constantly think of his position. Practice daily before a mirror. Get so familiar with your position and your changes that you cannot possibly get them wrong. Get so you do not feel at home in any other position than the correct one. Avoid, especially, allowing the weight to rest wholly on the back foot, with the front knee bent.
LESS ON XI
WE all know how hard it is to follow some one who reads or speaks without making any pauses whatever. This shows how important the matter of pause really is, and how great an advantage it is to a speaker to be skillful in choosing his places for pausing.
All pause depends primarily upon thinking. An image, or idea, in the mind, is like a picture thrown upon the screen by a stereopticon, or magic lantern, and the whole stream of ideas or mental images that passes through the brain may be likened to a series of dissolving views — each idea having its moment of greatest vividness or brilliancy, and then gradually fading away to give place to a new idea, which in turn likewise becomes vivid and then fades. And it will readily be seen that just as much confusion will be caused by attempting to have two ideas in the mind at once as would be caused by attempting to have two pictures on the screen at the same time. The mind can comprehend only one idea at a time.
This shows clearly the reason for our pauses. We aim to separate our images, or ideas, and in order to do so we must allow a little time for one image, or idea, to get out of the way before another is called up. The speaker who runs two ideas together without any pause between them is like the operator who throws two pictures on the screen at once — and the result is the same; namely, utter confusion to the audience.
CAUTION. — In all reading or speaking it is important to keep the lungs nearly full of air. Breath should be taken at the logical pauses, and pauses should never be inserted merely for breath.
From what has now been said, the following general law for pauses may easily be formed :
GENERAL LAW for PAUSEs. – The words conveying each idea should be grouped together, and the different groups separated from each other by pauses.
To illustrate: In the sentence, “The bridge being burned, the train left the track and plunged into the river,” there are three distinct ideas, which are easily recognized by the following grouping:
The bridge being burned, the train left the track and plunged into
CAUTION. — Do not confuse grammatical and logical pauses. A large amount of the punctuation on the printed page is merely to show grammatical construction and has nothing to do with the pauses made to show the meaning.
CASE I. — Do not pause after an introductory and, for but, if, etc., when followed by a comma. Example:
For, if this were true, he would know it now.
If, having been rebuked, he still erred, he should be condemned.
CASE II. -- Do not pause after an introductory that, when introducing a subordinate clause and followed by a comma. Example:
Charles told him that, however cheap it was, the other was a better
Before attempting to locate his pauses, or to execute them aloud, the student will do well to read carefully the following very applicable quotation :
“The intelligent use of pausing contributes very materially to artistic and effective speech. It discloses a speaker's method of thinking, and its possibilities are almost as varied as thought itself. Rapid utterance, unless employed specifically to portray hasty action, is usually a sign of shallowness. The speaker fails to weigh or measure his thought, and skims over its surface in undue anxiety to express what is in his mind. The school boy “speaking his piece” on Friday afternoon furnishes a good illustration of meaningless declamation. He rushes through his lines with breathless haste, oftentimes gabbling the last few words while resuming his seat.
“Correct pausing is the result of clear thinking. In the discussion or expression of the weighty and important truths of a regular discourse, a trained speaker will generally use a slower movement and appropriately longer pauses.”—KLEISER, How to Speak in Public.
Example of correct pausing:
True eloquence, indeed, does not consist in speech. It cannot be
brought from far. Labor and learning may toil for it, but they will toil
in vain. Words and phrases may be marshalled in every way, but they
cannot compass it. It must exist in the man, in the subject, and in the
occasion. Affected passion, intense expression, the pomp of declamation,
all may aspire after it; they cannot reach it. It comes, if it comes at all,
like the outbreaking of a fountain from the earth, or the bursting forth
of volcanic fires, with spontaneous, original, native force. — WEBSTER.