Dale Carnegie on Public Speaking.
The bottom line:
Today, I am writing about Dale Carnegie’s book How to Develop Self-Confidence and Influence People by Public Speaking! Public speaking is an interesting topic, especially when it comes to building up your charisma, your professional profile, or if you are considering promoting something that matters to you.
But here is the thing: public speaking is difficult. How do you that? Where do you start? What are the expectations? What are the common mistakes you should be avoiding? In this book, Carnegie provides tons of actionable topics on the issue of public speaking. He takes us by the hand and shares his experience. Great read!
Charisma books: Dale Carnegie on Self-Confidence and Public Speaking.
Here comes another book suggestion featuring Dale Carnegie, the self-development guru!
Those of you who follow my reading notes regularly might remember that I wrote something about Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People a little while ago.
I have since then read another book (this book) by the author, which still focuses on developing your influence. Except that, this time, the way to proceed is through public speaking.
Dale Carnegie is a must-read author when it comes to charisma. The book I previously wrote about was totally worth my time, and I must admit that I often remember Carnegie’s suggestion that focusing on people’s feeling of importance is a strong tool.
Funilly enough, making people feel important is, indeed, a very efficient to make them talk to you or listen to you. The stake is to find out how you can make an audience feel good.
But what if you wanted to feel important too? Putting people at the center is a good thing for sure, but let’s be honest, we all need to move on with our own agendas and sometimes that requires stealing the show. So how do you do that?
As usual, here is what you get on this page:
- A brief overview of the book (that includes my SMART takes).
- A much more comprehensive commentary of what the book is about, with the author’s main topics explained in detail.
- The book’s main themes, questions, and conclusions in bullet points.
- Why the book was worth my time, why it will be valuable to you, and additional reading suggestions if you are interested in the topic!
Dale Carnegie on Self-Confidence and Public Speaking: brief book review (for starters).
Dale Carnegie’s book How to Develop Self-Confidence and Influence People by Public Speaking is probably one of the reference books for those who want to get on stage.
The point is not to become a comedian, of course, but the idea is to find ways to dare. Dare speak up. Dare to say what you have to say. Dare to attract attention. And all that.
The good news is, the book is extremely easy to read. It is practical and the author uses a good mix of seriousness and humor to convey his message. Carnegie provides tons of examples (often starring President Lincoln, but you can adapt) and that makes the book very actionable.
Talking about actionability, Carnegie actually provides very focused tips throughout, and each one of them is wrapped up with suggestion summaries. Said differently, the author has made sure that the book was written to be used. Not just read. Used!
I’m getting into the details with a much more comprehensive book review below (keep reading!), but in short, here is what the book says:
Dale Carnegie on Self-Confidence and Public Speaking: The comprehensive book review.
How to Develop Self-Confidence and Influence People by Public Speaking overall explores twelve topics all related to public speaking. In my opinion, however, the book mainly focuses on three major themes which I will tell you about in this more comprehensive part of my book review.
First, Carnegie explores the issue of self-confidence and elaborates on the art of preparing an address. Because these things are linked, obviously.
Second, he elaborates on the various elements speakers should keep in mind when making a speech (an address, in his words). Think, understanding how people think, improving your delivery methods, enhancing your presence, developing your leadership and charisma whilst boosting your personality.
Third, Carnegie focuses more specifically on the issues related to opening and closing a talk, which includes making sure that you have a clear point and that you manage to catch your audience’s attention.
Now, I know, that’s a lot of topics so I’m getting into the details.
As usual, this more comprehensive part of the book review starts with the main themes and questions considered in the book – in bullet points. I’ll then elaborate on the themes more extensively. Let’s dig in!
The book in bullet points
Dale Carnegie explores these major themes:
- Charisma development
- Self-confidence development
- Public speaking methods
He also asks a variety of questions, including:
- Can everyone do some public speaking?
- What are the main difficulties and how can you bypass them?
- What makes a speech a great speech and, of course, what are the big/common mistakes people always do?
- Where should we start and, more importantly, what is the importance of preparation?
Sounds interesting, right? Now, let’s get into the details. Just keep reading!
Theme #1: Carnegie’s thoughts on self-confidence and preparation.
Confidence and preparation are the basis, and Carnegie explains why in great length. To say things simply, everyone can speak publicly but to do that they first need to build up their confidence in various ways.
Everybody can speak publicly.
A key take in How to Develop Self-Confidence and Influence People by Public Speaking is that everybody can speak up. Dale Carnegie believes in that idea very passionately and the whole book explains why.
To him, the reality is that we all have an expertise. Something we are good at doing. Something that others don’t know about.
In other words, the problem that most people face when it comes to public speaking is not that we have nothing to talk about. It is that we usually don’t know where to start.
The fear of public speaking is something we all have. Well, some have fewer problems than others, but this skill is usually not a natural gift. The skill is the result of a lot of preparation, and usually, the more natural someone is at speaking, the more work they have put into being good at it.
Carnegie’s four points.
Accordingly, Carnegie summarizes the public speaking experience with four bullet points.
One, public speaking is not something that comes out of nowhere. You need to have a strong motivation, and you need to know why you want to do it. What is your big, personal, intimate reason to get on stage and speak up? Do you expect to feel satisfaction and pleasure at all? If the answer to that question is no, think twice…
Two, you need to make sure that you know your topic deeply. Unless you want to take the risk of being considered a jerk of course. And, no, this is not an expression you’ll find in Carnegie’s book.
Three, speakers must learn how to look confident even if they are a mess deep inside. And the best way to get there is to make sure that you have a clear, strong, and easy-to-remember message.
Four… “Practice! Practice! Practice!”.
The importance of getting prepared for public speaking.
This “practice, practice, practice” quote is fundamental for Dale Carnegie. In fact, he explores the idea in great depth and explains very pedagogically why and how every speaker should prepare, prepare, and prepare.
The biggest part of the work with public speaking comes from the “necessity of preparing a talk before one starts to make it and of having something clear and definite to say”, as he writes, and having a strong desire to communicate a message is “half the secret of speaking”.
What that means – and you’ll laugh next time you hear someone deliver a poor speech – is that those who want to engage in public speaking must get the right mindset and realize that an unprepared talk is a talk nobody will listen.
They will remember it as being one of the worst moments of their life, that’s for sure, but they won’t listen.
Tips on how to prepare.
Of course, Dale Carnegie doesn’t just tell us that we need to prepare. He tells us how to make sure that we are, indeed, prepared and operational. I won’t go into to much detail here, just get a copy of the book and enjoy the ride. But to give you a hint, preparation must focus on two elements.
The first element is the content of your talk, and the content has to be your own. Your experience, your own digested words, and your own message. “Experience and reflection”, as Carnegie calls it. That implies “assembling your thoughts” and nurturing your ideas until you come up with “a mosaic of your own”.
The second element is the method, and again Carnegie is a gold mine. He explains why a narrow topic is always better than a broad approach. He talks about the art of spotting the right questions, he explains the importance of doing, re-doing and re-doing again. He talks about the eternal issue of notes, and he elaborates on what it takes to be engaging.
Again, the book is full of examples on both counts, so go for it.
Theme #2: What makes your speech work.
How to Develop Self-Confidence and Influence People by Public Speaking then elaborates on what makes your speech work or not. Again, various topics are explored, including the art of understanding how people think, mastering delivery methods, and boosting your presence on stage.
Understanding how people think.
Dale Carnegie explains how people think by exploring the way memory works.
He does not explore memory in terms of remembering your talk here but in terms of making sure that your message gets through your audience’s minds.
A successful speech, he explains, cannot work without taking “the natural laws of remembering” into consideration. One, you must ensure that the information you provide gets printed in people’s mind (he tells you how to do that). Two, you must repeat the information so that it really gets printed in there. Third, you must give people a way to associate your ideas with something that will stick into their head after they leave the room.
In short? If people can’t relate to what you do, you are doomed.
Mastering the speech delivery part.
This leads us to the issue of mastering the speech delivery part. Here, Dale Carnegie talks about giving flavor to your speech. In his own words, “it is not so much what you say as how you say it”.
Said differently, delivery is not about just talking. Delivery is about creating a form of dual communication between the speaker and the audience, and that implies working on the way you talk.
Should you be very eloquent or should you speak the way you normally speak? Hint: the answer is probably not the one you have in mind right now.
Carnegie also elaborates on the difference between being natural, charming or naturally charming. He talks about whether you should try to do more or, to the opposite, to seek simplicity. He talks about the art of asking questions and using silence to break the rhythm and let people print your words in their mind… You get the point.
In short, again, Carnegie’s book How to Develop Self-Confidence and Influence People by Public Speaking is a gold mine when it comes to working on your “natural speaking” skills. Get your own copy and find out more for yourself.
Presence and personality.
I mentioned earlier that Carnegie talks about presence and personality too. Difficult to avoid the topic, because the way you behave on stage is the thing people will remember, often beyond the message you have to convey.
Anyway. From vitality and enthusiasm, Carnegie explains the importance of being “magnetic” and provides tons of tips to get there. How to get a “winning smiles”, how to deal with audiences of different sizes, how to avoid distractions on stage to make sure that people focus on you, how to have the right gesture, and all that.
Carnegie’s point is very straightforward here: “an ounce of spontaneity is worth a ton of rules”, he writes. The secret is to practice, practice and practice until all these become a reality.
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Theme #3: Opening and closing a speech.
The third part of How to Develop Self-Confidence and Influence People by Public Speaking explores the topic of public speaking in even more practical terms, i.e. how do you start and how do you end things?
Opening a speech.
The point is extremely relevant and, to be very honest, what Carnegie wrote decades ago is still extremely true.
As he explains, people often start a speech with two different techniques.
One consists in finding a joke, which is risky because you never really know how people will react to that. In fact, those who succeed at starting a speech with a joke have usually used it countless times and already know how the audience will react. Which is probably not your case right now.
The other consists in apologizing for not being experienced enough or for not being an expert, in which case the audience usually starts wondering what on earth they do here.
So, Dale Carnegie comes up with a series of advice and ideas. Again, this is a very practical book and you should really get your own copy if you want to find out more about this stuff.
Closing a speech.
Carnegie finally describes the closing as ‘the most strategic point in a speech”.
Again, this aspect of the public speaking exercise is usually ignored or poorly prepared, which means that the audience has a great opportunity not to print your message.
So, Carnegie elaborates on the art of not being too abrupt and on what it takes to master harmony, humor. Of course, calling people to action is a big part of the closing exercise, and it implies that your message is, more than ever, extremely clear.
Dale Carnegie on Self-Confidence and Public Speaking: The main conclusions
Dale Carnegie comes to the following conclusions.
- Public speaking is something everyone can do because we all have an expertise most people don’t know anything about.
- The major limitation we all face is our lack of confidence and the fear of getting outside of our comfort zone.
- Nonetheless, public speaking requires having a clear message and mastering the art of making people understand and remember it.
- In reality, the most natural speakers are usually the ones who spend the more time preparing their talks, and looking natural is nothing but the result of hard work.
- The key is to make sure that your message is not just about yourself: a good speech helps people relate to what you have to say so that they end up feeling that your talk was made for them.
- Public speaking is, therefore, a process, which requires a lot of preparation, practice, practice, and practice.
Food for thought.
How to Develop Self-Confidence and Influence People by Public Speaking is overall one of those books on self-development and public speaking everyone should read before they give a speech.
As I’ve explained throughout my book review, Carnegie provides tons of ideas, food for thought and tips on what it takes to do the exercise properly. And that makes it a very interesting source of information and inspiration.
Something I found very interesting was the connection between How to Develop Self-Confidence and Influence People by Public Speaking and Carnegie’s other book, How to Make Friends and Influence People, which I have written about some time ago (just follow the link to find out more).
The big take away in the other book was very straightforward: people have a feeling of importance and those who understand that have an edge when it comes to making friends and convincing people.
In this book, Carnegie explores a fairly similar idea, i.e. that the secret when it comes to catching people’s attention (as a speaker) is to “tie” your message to something the audience is already interested in.
In other words, the key to a successful speech is not to elaborate on something people don’t know, it is to make sure that they will be able to relate to whatever you say, even if they have no clue.
As Carnegie says, the “three most important things in the world” are sex, property, and religion (or life), but the point we all have in common is our ego (the feeling of importance) and the way these three things relate to us.
The key, therefore, is to find a way to tell people your story in a way that touches upon one of these topics. When you do that, you tell people about something they want to hear, and that makes you what Carnegie calls “a good conversationalist”.
Let me finish this food for thought with a couple of additional reading suggestions.
If you are interested in the charisma-building aspect of public speaking, I strongly recommend that you have a look at my review of Dale Carnegie’s other book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. There’s a lot of food for thought in there.
>> Related reading: Books on looking smarter, charisma and public speaking.
If you are interested in giving a speech (sooner or later), there are also several books worth looking at on the TED Talks topics.
I have mainly read Talk Like Ted by Carmine Gallo and would recommend it as, let’s say, an update of Carnegie’s public speaking food for thought, decades later (I’ll publish my review here soon).
Of course, another book on the topic would be TED Talks, The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking by Chris Anderson, the TED Talks Founder.
Another book finally comes to my mind. Whilst the TED books overall focus on the way to communicate and make a speech, a key point in How to Develop Self-Confidence and Influence People by Public Speaking is that you need to have a message. Dale Carnegie insists on that point a lot, but one question he can’t really answer is how do you find a topic you are good at?
One book, in particular, has helped me a lot finding out what I am really interested in. The One Thing, by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. This book focuses mainly on helping you find whatever it is you want to do with your life and can really help you to get there. And my guess is that if you can find that one thing you want to focus on, that might give you a starting point in terms of preparing your future public speaking projects. Just saying!
Your turn now, get the book!
That’s it for now, but don’t stop here! My reading notes are meant to give you a very comprehensive overview of the books I read and some food for thought for the month. That’s why I’ll Make You Think SMART is the Kick-Ass Book Reviews blog after all!
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