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How to Gain the Confidence of an Audience

Oct 9, 2007
The first thing for the public speaker to do is to gain the confidence and sympathy of his audience. Under no circumstances is he to antagonize or prejudice his audience against him in the beginning.

A favorite method is to begin by telling a humorous story bearing upon the subject, or an apt quotation. Let the story be fairly well told and it will not fail to capture an audience. The introduction if rightly prepared and given will do much to win an audience at the very beginning and secure to the speaker sympathetic attention and confidence. A careful study of the following introductions, many of them taken from oratorical masterpieces, will reveal the practice of successful speakers.

There are some speakers who by their presence beget confidence, and others lack this power, and are never able to acquire it. The following introductions of some of the great orators reveal a studied attempt on the part of the speaker to win the confidence of his audience before the address is revealed.

Mark Antony banished suspicion and secured the confidence of the Roman populace by saying:

"I come not, friends, to steal away your hearts: I am no orator, as Brutus is, But, as you know me all, a plain, blunt man, That love my friend; and that they know full well That gave me public leave to speak of him. For I have neither wit, nor words, nor worth, Action, nor utterance, nor the power of speech, To stir men's blood: I only speak right on: I tell you that, which you yourself do know, Show you sweet Caesar's wounds, poor, poor, dumb mouths And bid them speak for me; but were I Brutus," etc.

Henry W. Grady began his great after-dinner oration on 'The New South' by making a quotation:
"'There was a South of slavery and secession - that South is dead. There is a South of union and freedom - that South, thank God, is living, breathing, growing every hour.' These words, delivered from the immortal lips of Benjamin H. Hill, at Tammany Hall, in 1866, true then, and truer now, I shall make my text tonight."

Judge Jeremiah S. Black prefaced his forensic oration on 'The Right to Trial by Jury' with these words:
"May it please your Honors: I am not afraid that you will underrate the importance of this case. It concerns the rights of the whole people. Such questions have generally been settled by arms.

But since the beginning of the world no battle has ever been lost or won upon which the liberties of a nation were so distinctly staked as they are upon the results of this argument. The pen that writes the judgment of the court will be mightier for good or for evil than any sword that ever was wielded by mortal man."

A popular speaker has said: :Never show annoyance before an audience. Preachers have lost their pulpits, lawyers their cases, and lecturers their second invitation in consequence of speaking unadvisedly. "Little boy," said the preacher, "if you don't stop see-sawing your bead I'll come down there and cut it off." He wished one minute after, and has wished all his life since, that he had allowed the youngster to see-saw to his head's content. Better that the boy should kill the sermon than the preacher should kill himself.

The teeth of one lecturer were set on edge by the interruptions of an inebriated hearer, and the audience applauded the lecturer. But the lecturer, not content with his victory, alluded again and still again to the interruption long after it had ceased, and the audience turned against the lecturer, who was finally hissed. Never put yourself in the wrong with an audience. It has every advantage of you. It has many heads to your one. Keep your audience on your side in every case of speaker vs. some one hearer. This is where the speaker needs self-restraint and tact.

Study well the above introductions of these great orators and keep the above tips in mind. You will then always have the confidence of your audience, something which every public speaker desires.
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