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The Art of Lecturing Part 9

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If the sale is made before the lecture while the sellers are pa.s.sing through the audience the speaker should continue speaking of the book so as to sustain interest. There will be no loss of time making change if the right priced books are sold. 10c, 25c, 50c or $1 are right prices.

At a public meeting it is a mistake to try to sell a book at an odd price as 15c or 35c or 60c. The demand dies and the audience gets impatient while the sellers are trying to make change.

The speaker who endeavors to make a success of book-selling at his meetings will find his labors doubled. The larger his sales the greater his labors. On my last western trip I sold on an average half a trunk full of books at each meeting and I had no spare moment from the work of ordering by telegram and rushing around to express offices and getting the books to the meetings. But the rewards are great. My trips are always a financial success and the books I leave scattered on my trail do far more good than the lectures I delivered.

CHAPTER XXII

CONCLUSION

In concluding this series I will group several items of importance which did not suggest themselves under any previous head.

Gestures should be carefully watched, especially at the beginning, when future habits are in the process of formation. They should not be affected or mechanical like those of the child reciting something of which it does not understand the sense.

A good story is told of the old preacher who could weep at will and marked his ma.n.u.script "weep here;" but, on one unfortunate occasion, to the great consternation of his congregation, got his signals mixed, and wept profusely during a reference to the recent marriage of two of his parishioners.

Never allow your thumb and fingers, especially the thumb, to stick out from the palm at right angles like pens stuck in a potato.

Never work the forearm from the elbow "pump-handle" fashion, but always move the arms from the shoulders. Do not move the palms of your hands toward yourself as if you were trying to gather something in, mesmerist fashion, but always outward as is natural in giving something forth.

Cultivate a narrative style. History, poetry, and all forms of literature take their origin in the story-teller who once discharged all their functions. The so-called dry facts of science, well told, make a "story" of surpa.s.sing interest.

If young, let no man despise thy youth. Plunge boldly in, blunder if needs be, but do something; experiment with your theories. Let the veteran who has no sympathy with your crude efforts "go to pot." The lapse of years has made his early inflictions look to him like the masterpieces of Burke and Chatham.

Never slight a small audience. Do your best as though you had a crowded theater. If you speak listlessly to a small gathering in a town, depend on it next time you go there it will be still smaller.

Preserve your health and take especial care of your throat. The speaker who doesn't smoke has a great advantage, and when the throat is at all relaxed smoking should be eschewed. The most dangerous time to smoke is immediately after the close of a lecture. Then the cells are all exposed from recent exercise, and it is positively wicked to so abuse them with tobacco fumes when they have served you so well. It is equally wicked to scald them with "straight" liquor. Any speaker who persists in either of these habits will pay a heavy penalty. If these things must be done, at least wait an hour or two after speaking.

All this is just so much more true of street speaking as the throat is more exhausted by the louder tone.

When you have worked out your lecture, and are waiting for the hour to strike, test its merit by this question: Does it contain enough valuable information to make a distinct addition to the education of an average listener? If you cannot affirm this, whatever merits otherwise it may have, fundamentally, it fails. When the enthusiasm has worn off, your audience should be able to decide that, in its acquaintance with modern knowledge, a distinct step forward has been made. Anything else is building on sand.

Always be firm, positive, courageous. First get a mastery of the question, and then let your audience realize that you know what you are talking about. The great merit of a certain speaker of long ago, seems to have been that "he spake with authority." Remember truth is not decided by counting heads, and if you are correct, even though the majority, in some cases in your own audience, may be against you, they will be obliged eventually to come to your position. True, in the meantime you may be obliged to suffer a temporary eclipse, but this is one of the permanent possibilities of the career of the real teacher.

Weigh carefully, investigate thoroughly, consult the authorities, be sure of your ground and prepared to defend it against all comers, and then--

"Plunge deep the rowels of thy speech, Hold back no syllable of fire."

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