Dale Carnegie on Public Speaking

Before my recent talk at the Wine Blogger’s Conference, I reviewed Scott Berkun’s post on the best reading for a public speaker. He recommended ‘Public Speaking for Success,’ Dale Carnegie’s book. I picked up the audio version and listened to it on my drive down to Corning.

There’s a lot to pull out of this book – especially the exercises at the end of each chapter, which I would love to do but were not a great fit for an audiobook – but there were a few things that stood out to me, and really had an impact on how I approach public speaking.

  • Pauses: The way Carnegie discusses pauses, and the examples he uses to demonstrate the power of being selective and intentional in their use, was really interesting.
  • The Golden Mean: Carnegie didn’t describe it this way, but in nearly every area he touched on (gesture, pitch, volume, preparation) rather than advocating an absolute, he encouraged the reader to find a happy middle ground that suited their particular style.
  • Success: He mentioned in a few different ways the fact that an audience arrives hoping for your success. They want nothing more than to gain value from your talk – it’s up to you to respect that expectation, and to really deliver your very best.

If you plan to make public speaking part of your professional or personal life, this little book is absolutely worth your time. It’s a bit dated, but the bones are solid. I would recommend against the audio book, however – the exercises at the end of each chapter sounded very useful, and are really only feasibly usable for folks with a hard copy or digital copy.

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