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The Art of Public Speaking Dale Carnegie Summary

The art

According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than giving the speech there. We have all sorts of fear especially when it comes to public speaking. George Jessel once said, “The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public.” In the book, The Art of Public Speaking, Dale Carnegie tells us that overcoming that fear is just about practice; there’s no other way around it but through it. In this summary, I’ll share with you three key lessons I learned from the book on how to give better speeches.

Key Lesson #1: Practice is all you need to become a skilled public speaker

Do you remember how you learned to swim? Did you go to the library, study a book on the art of swimming, and then, equipped with that knowledge, go to the nearby lake and fearlessly plunge into the water? Probably not. You learned to swim by, well, swimming. And there likely were lots of failings. Well, mastering the art of public speaking is much like learning to swim. Giving speeches is the only way to become better at it. At first, you might experience some fear. But speech-giving isn’t a matter of becoming fearless; it’s a matter of mastering your fear. Your first few speeches may feel like a drowning – but keep practicing, and they’ll soon get better.

Key Lesson #2: Use emphasis to overcome monotony

There is no end to the number of ways you can give a successful speech, but first, you’ll need to master the speech-giving basics. In a speech as in music, monotony is the enemy. Imagine trying to play a one-keyed piano. No amount of determination or ingenuity could keep your monotone performance from being dull. So how can you avoid monotony? The key here is the emphasis, and a basic way to do that is to stress important words. You can do this by increasing the volume of your voice to emphasize the important words. The other ways are changing your pace and pausing. So, you can rush through the less important parts and then lower your speed for the crucial part. Or you can add pauses directly before, or right after, an important word. Changing the volume, speed, and pausing can remove the monotony from your speech and make it more interesting.

Key Lesson #3: You must try to arouse emotions

Imagine two speakers, each delivering anti-slavery speeches in the old America. The first is a white man. The second is a black mother who’s just watched her son get sold down the river. Whose speech do you think would be more stirring? Many of American history’s most heartrending speeches were given by just such women. These women had no formal training in public speaking. But they possessed something that neither study nor practice can bestow: the force of feeling. So, arouse the feelings of your listeners, if only for a moment. How do you do that? Well, pretend you’re an actor and you’re speaking through your character. No matter the cause you’re arguing for or the case you’re making, you must, in a certain sense, become it.

So, in summary, there’s only one way to become an effective public speaker: practice, practice, practice. That said, there are techniques that’ll help you succeed. For starters, avoid monotony by effectively using emphasis. Change the volume and speed of your speech and add dramatic pauses. And try to arouse emotions in your listeners by first arousing them in yourself.

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