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The Lost Art of the Great Speech

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The Lost Art of the Great Speech

How to Write One - How to Deliver It


15 min read
10 take-aways
Text available

What's inside?

Often, people fear public speaking more than they fear dire illness or bugs. To beat stage fright, prepare and practice.

Editorial Rating



  • Applicable


Richard Dowis’s manual on public speaking is useful and comprehensive. He covers everything from why you should learn to speak in public to "leveraging" your speech to improve your organization’s visibility. No detail is too small. Dowis takes you step by step through researching, outlining, writing and practicing your speech. He discusses room set-up, commonly mispronounced words, formatting (including why he prefers sheets of paper to index cards), and what to eat or drink beforehand (eschew alcohol as a relaxant and try deep breathing or stretching instead). His appendices include an editing checklist and a list of public speaking resources. Each chapter comes with a "podium presence tip." Dowis insists that just as you can’t become a good writer unless you read books, you can’t become a good speaker unless you read and listen to speeches. Therefore, each chapter ends with the text of a speech by a skilled orator, including Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Jesse Jackson and Mario Cuomo. Inspiring as they are, these examples have little obvious connection to the chapters’ contents, so you may be tempted to skip them instead of studying them. getAbstract recommends this book to executives and managers whose jobs include representing their companies to the press and the public, and to anyone who wants to be more confident, poised and articulate.


Do I Have To?

A speech can change the direction of events. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s powerful speeches during WWII contributed to the Allied victory. As John F. Kennedy said, "He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle." Even if you are not a world leader, you should learn to speak in public. Other people will gain from your knowledge and experience. You can promote causes you believe in or boost your business. As you prepare, you’ll improve your writing and communication skills, as well as your posture, diction and voice modulation. An invitation to speak at a meeting or on a panel is an opportunity, not a calamity. In fact, if you are serious about overcoming fear and improving your skills, seek such invitations and even volunteer to make presentations.

When You Should Not Make a Speech

Do beware of invitations that you probably should turn down. Only agree to speak about subjects on which you’re really an expert. To sound knowledgeable, you must be knowledgeable - and you may need to field questions after your talk. Make sure the people who invited you understand your credentials and experience. Suggest an alternative topic...

About the Author

Richard Dowis is a former journalist and former vice president of a public relations firm. He is the author of How to Make Your Writing Reader-Friendly and co-author of The Write Way and Sleeping Dogs Don’t Lay. He leads business writing seminars.

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