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The Art of Public Speaking by Dale Carnegie and J. Berg Esenwein online

VIII CONCENTRATION IN DELIVERY

page 1 of 3 | table of contents

The Art of Public Speaking by Dale Carnegie and J. Berg Esenwein

Attention is the microscope of the mental eye. Its power may be high or low; its field of view narrow or broad. When high power is used attention is confined within very circumscribed limits, but its action is exceedingly intense and absorbing. It sees but few things, but these few are observed "through and through" ... Mental energy and activity, whether of perception or of thought, thus concentrated, act like the sun's rays concentrated by the burning glass. The object is illumined, heated, set on fire. Impressions are so deep that they can never be effaced. Attention of this sort is the prime condition of the most productive mental labor.

--DANIEL PUTNAM, _Psychology_.

Try to rub the top of your head forward and backward at the same time that you are patting your chest. Unless your powers of co÷rdination are well developed you will find it confusing, if not impossible. The brain needs special training before it can do two or more things efficiently at the same instant. It may seem like splitting a hair between its north and northwest corner, but some psychologists argue that _no_ brain can think two distinct thoughts, absolutely simultaneously--that what seems to be simultaneous is really very rapid rotation from the first thought to the second and back again, just as in the above-cited experiment the attention must shift from one hand to the other until one or the other movement becomes partly or wholly automatic.

Whatever is the psychological truth of this contention it is undeniable that the mind measurably loses grip on one idea the moment the attention is projected decidedly ahead to a second or a third idea.

A fault in public speakers that is as pernicious as it is common is that they try to think of the succeeding sentence while still uttering the former, and in this way their concentration trails off; in consequence, they start their sentences strongly and end them weakly. In a well-prepared written speech the emphatic word usually comes at one end of the sentence. But an emphatic word needs emphatic expression, and this is precisely what it does not get when concentration flags by leaping too soon to that which is next to be uttered. Concentrate all your mental energies on the present sentence. Remember that the mind of your audience follows yours very closely, and if you withdraw your attention from what you are saying to what you are going to say, your audience will also withdraw theirs. They may not do so consciously and deliberately, but they will surely cease to give importance to the things that you yourself slight. It is fatal to either the actor or the speaker to cross his bridges too soon.

Of course, all this is not to say that in the natural pauses of your speech you are not to take swift forward surveys--they are as important as the forward look in driving a motor car; the caution is of quite another sort: _while speaking one sentence do not think of the sentence to follow_. Let it come from its proper source--within yourself. You cannot deliver a broadside without concentrated force--that is what produces the explosion. In preparation you store and concentrate thought and feeling; in the pauses during delivery you swiftly look ahead and gather yourself for effective attack; during the moments of actual speech, _SPEAK--DON'T ANTICIPATE_. Divide your attention and you divide your power.

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