Back when I was a pompous lawyer – with lots of books but no time to read – my wife bought me an embossed, original, 9-volume set comprising the “International University Course”. Exactly the kind of thing that looks good on a shelf, but no-one ever reads.
With (slightly) more time on my hands as a (slightly) less pompous speech pathologist, I’ve cracked open volume 1. And, ignoring the regular blasts of British Imperial propaganda, several gold nuggets glint inside, including an address by Lord Bryce to the State University of Iowa back in 1910 called “The Value of Speech”.
Lord Bryce had 14 tips for speakers. Most of them are spot on for 2017. Paraphrased for a post-Colonial, ‘politically modern’ readership, here they stand for your inspection:
- Always have something to say.
- Always know what you mean to say.
- Always arrange your remarks in some sort of order.
- At all hazards, be clear. Make your meaning plain to your audience.
- In controversial speaking (e.g. in a lawsuit or when arguing with the government), always think of what your opponent will say and anticipate his/her answers. Meet your opponent’s jests with earnest, and earnest with jest.
- Know your audience and be prepared to adapt/discard your prepared speech to suit them.
- Never speak down to your audience, “whatever you may think of their intellectual attainments”.
- Be sparing of literary ornament.
- When you tell a story, plan it out, make it relevant, and don’t overdo the humour, even if you’re good at it.
- Never, if you can help it, be dull.
- Remember, delivery matters. “Articulation, modulation and expression may all be cultivated”. Make sure people can hear you. Do not shout. Don’t wear out your voice. Vary your pitch. Speak slowly.
- Never read from a script if you can help it. The fewer notes the better, unless you’ve got a terrible memory.
- Always memorise the last two of three sentences of your speech.
- Never weary your audience. If they are tired before you start, cut your talk short, unless your speech is good enough to freshen them up.
True to his tips, Lord Bryce finished his address with panache. Paraphrased and em-bulleted for your modern attention span and disposition:
- Remember the purpose of your speech. Are you trying to persuade or entertain (or both)?
- You will sometimes fail – no-one is always at his/her best.
- Don’t give up. If you stuff up a speech, try to fix it next time!
Source: Lord Bryce (1910). The Value of Speech. Address to the State University of Iowa, April 1910, in Volume 1, International University Reading Course, International University Society, London.