Mini Book Review: The Art of Public Speaking

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The Art of Public Speaking by Dale Carnagey (aka Dale Carnegie)

I was reading this book on the side, mostly out of curiosity. The book was originally published in 1915(!) and I was interested what, if anything, it has to say that's still relevant to public speaking and presenting almost a hundred years later ...

Not unexpectedly, the basics are timeless: You must learn to speak by speaking, Have something to say, You ought to be ashamed to steal the time of your audience, If you believe you will fail, there is no hope for you. You will. etc. There are a lot of these nuggets in here.

Most of the time, however, it's showing its age. The content may still be valid, but the style is often outdated which can make it hard to read in places (although the passion of the author for his topic does shine through). It also refers to a lot of then-current people that nobody has heard of today, so many of the examples leave you scratching your head: If you don't know the person who's mentioned as an example for a certain style, you are none the wiser.

Each chapter has extensive exercises - which I skipped. Some seemed to make a lot of sense, but I'm not sure of their effectiveness without a teacher or mentor to check the results, or your progress.

Overall, this book is okay if you want to confirm that the basics of public speaking (and thus presenting) haven't really changed in the last 100 years. The book is about public speaking in the traditional sense, i.e. visuals are not discussed (PowerPoint isn't that old ...). You can still draw quite a few nice quotes for motivational purposes from it, though.

The Art of Public Speaking is available for free in various ebook formats from the Project Gutenberg website.

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