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How to Be a Leader in Speech


The best way to attain leadership in talk is to make everything that you say worthy of being heard.

I know a keen business man who masters any conversation in which he takes part—but he never appears to be doing so. He speaks directly to the point, with clear common sense. He tells a story that illustrates a point in question. He takes up a remark, and amplifies and illustrates it. He gives a new turn of thought to the conversation. You feel that there is a world of personal power back of him. As a result, he is head of a great business enterprise.

A talkative person is not usually a leader. Leadership lies with the one who gives his judgment opportunity to act before he speaks.

People are quick to discover sound points of view. It is well not to be too ready to enter into talk.

Listen, gather evidence, reflect upon it, and speak with weight rather than with glibness.

Take the lead in introducing topics of discussion.

If you know with whom you are likely to talk, and under what circumstances, prepare yourself by thinking, ahead of time, of topics that are likely to prove of interest.

Read newspapers, periodicals, and books of the day, so that you will be able to speak from a full mind. One who has a fund of information at command will be able to make any discussion interesting.

Take a commanding position in any talk by proposing new lines of thought, or new subdivisions of old lines.

Avoid letting those with whom you speak give most of the suggestions.

Do not allow a conversation to close until you have determined that you wish it to close. When you have presented all the lines of thought that you think advisable, bring the talk to a close yourself, with "the last word."

If you can do all this without bumptiousness or conceit, and with proper regard for the opinions of others, you will soon find yourself talking easily, and masterfully, with those of whom you may once have stood, in awe.


1. In your next group conversation notice which person takes the lead. What are his methods? What is the effect?

2. Try the experiment of mastering a group conversation. What difficulties do you find? How may you overcome the difficulties?

3. When you are next called upon for suggestions make an endeavor to say the last word, and notice the difficulties, their remedies, and the result.


How to Make a Point of Contact in Speech


A point of contact is a common ground of interest on which you meet.

Make a point of contact by talking about things in which you and your hearers are alike interested.

There is always some definite point of contact that can be established, even with strangers, or with an audience that is cold, or even openly antagonistic.

Once I found myself left in a room face to face with Theodore Roosevelt. How could I possibly say something that would be personal and friendly, rather than formal? But there is always a close point of contact between any two people. I turned the conversation to one of Mr. Roosevelt's personal friends whom I also knew— President Butler of Columbia University. Mr. Roosevelt at once brightened, and we had a friendly, familiar talk on a subject in which we were both interested.

Recently, in talking on different occasions with three men in authority, all strangers to me, I found,—within a few minutes in every case,—that one had been born within a block of my own birthplace; that another had two sons in my own college fraternity; and that the third had visited a little country town where I spent my boyhood. ~ In every case I was at once placed upon a more familiar footing, and gained greater opportunity to conduct my interview successfully.

Much of the so-called mastery of speech, and power of oratory, is nothing more nor less than the clever establishing of a point of contact.

The common ground between friends of long standing is what makes the talks of friendship so delightful and appealing. A mere suggestion made by a friend is more convincingly powerful than the most carefully thoughtout words of a stranger.

When you speak with anyone whom you particularly wish to interest, find a point of contact from some of the following:

1. The memory of pleasant days spent together.

2. Acquaintanceships in common.

3. Associations in school.

4. Associations in business.

5. The love of similar objects.

6. Similar experiences.

7. Life in similar places.

8. Generally interesting recent events.

9. Recent books.

10. Recreations.

In public speaking, as well as in social and business life, it is as necessary, as vital, to have points of contact.

If you are to speak to any audience, first, in a few quick sentences, show that audience that you and they are on some basis of common interest in life. You are, as it were, one of them in some one way.

Listen to some popular speaker and notice how cleverly he establishes the common ground. From that moment he ceases to be a stranger to his audience and becomes, in part, a friend and associate.

Listen to the talk of some person who is popular among men and notice how he habitually begins any talk by assuming, or by immediately forming, a common bond of interest. Such a person adds to his popularity by meeting people on common ground. He also adds to his power over men. He will be remembered and will be liked.

Follow his example and, by habit, form points of contact on every occasion.


1. Think of three different people whom you will talk with soon. What points of contact will you establish with every one?

2. You are to give a demonstration of your work. What point of contact can you establish with an ordinary audience?

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