Twelve Steps to Success in Public Speaking

enthusiasm is catchingI’ve been busy preparing for a talk I gave last week at the American Studies Association conference in Detroit. I was on a panel that discussed secondhand shops and thrift stores, and told all about purchasing books for this site.

Since I spend more time behind the safety of the keyboard, I was a bit nervous about speaking in public. Ruth Tolman’s Charm and Poise for Getting Ahead saved me, thankfully, and the talk went off without a hitch. And I didn’t even get a chance to size up the audience first!

1969: Twelve Steps to Success in Public Speaking

1. Be sure of what you are going to say.
2. Do not memorize your speech word for word. First make many notes and become familiar with them. Then throw them away and use only a short outline on small, easily handled cards.
3. Practice, and then practice, and then practice again until you are saturated with the material of the introduction of the speech.
4. Practice before a full length mirror and see how the audience will see you. Check all aspects of your appearance and facial expression.
5. Practice your introduction aloud so that you can hear your voice saying the things you intend it to say.
6. Check your pronunciations and diction to see that they are as they should be.
7. Study your audience. If possible, arrive early enough to size them up beforehand. When you finally get up to speak, look at them for a moment until they settle down. Then take a good, deep breath and let them have it. This will give you composure and it will give the audience more confidence in you.
8. Keep your posture easy and relaxed; move around occasionally. It is great for relieving tension.
9. Use gestures, but use them to complement what you are saying, not to detract from the speech. Also, gestures give freedom from platform jitters and tend to relax you.
10. Look at your audience at all times. Do not let your eyes wander out the window or at the pictures on the walls. Keep someone’s eyes as your focus at all times. Let your glance go to all sections of your audience from time to time. You will keep better control of your audience.
11. Lose yourself in your subject. Really be interested and you will be interesting. Enthusiasm is catching. If you are interested and enthusiastic, your audience will be too.
12. Use as much variety as possible with your voice. Change the inflection and pitch level, as the content dictates. We all become lulled by a monotonous voice. Don’t let it happen to you. A change of volume and rate of speaking lend drama and interest to your speech.

Source: Tolman, Ruth. Charm and Poise for Getting Ahead. Bronx, NY: Milady Publishing Corporation, 1969.
~ pp. 283-84 ~