Know When Enough is Enough in Public Speaking

February 5, 2013

ID-10022050George Horace Lorimer, when editor of the Saturday Evening Post, once told Dale Carnegie that he always stopped a series of articles in the Post when they were at the height of their popularity, and people were clamoring for more. Why stop then? Why then of all times? “Because,” said Mr. Lorimer, “the point of satiation is reached very soon after that peak of popularity.”

This same wisdom will apply, and ought to be applied, to public speaking. Stop while the audience is still eager to have you go on. “Always leave them wanting more,” is the saying attributed to P.T. Barnum or Walt Disney, depending on who you believe.

The greatest speech Christ ever delivered, the Sermon on the Mount, can be repeated in five minutes. Lincoln’s Gettysburg address—believe it or not—has only ten sentences. One can read the whole story of creation in Genesis in less time than it takes to read the latest murder story in the morning paper. The point is—be brief!

Doctor Johnson, Archdeacon of Nyasa, wrote a book about the primitive peoples of Africa. He lived among them, observed the, for forty-nine years. He relates that when a speaker talks too long at a village gathering, or the “Gwangwara,” the audience silences him with shouts of “Imetosha!” “Imetosha!” — “Enough!” “Enough!”

Another tribe is said to permit a speaker to hold forth only so long as he can stand on one foot. When the toe of the lifted member touches the ground, finito. He has come to an end.

And the average audience, even though they may be more polite, more restrained, dislike long speeches just as much.

Keep this in mind the next time you find yourself speaking in public. Chances are great that your audience only wants the important information you have to tell them without any embellishments.


This post is brought to you by the good folks at Dale Carnegie Training of Philadelphia, providers of professional development and management development courses and information in Philadelphia. We’d love to connect with you on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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