Kirk Kirkpatrick dramatically recites lines from a Walter
Wintle poem as he hands out copies of it to students in his
The poem's message about overcoming defeat seems almost
secondary to the way he delivers it. "Emotion is important to your
speaking," he tells them. "It'll get your audience to listen to you
- and if they don't listen to you, it won't matter what you've got
Learning to get their message across is the reason these 19
men and women are spending their Monday evenings in a classroom on
the campus of Emory University in Decatur, Ga.
Some have real-world presentations scheduled in the weeks
ahead, most have had to speak before groups in the past, a few have
never dared to utter word one before an audience. But to varying
degrees, all share the same desire: to tame the impulse to run
whenever the opportunity to speak publicly arises.
They also share with a growing number of Americans the
realization that effective communication has become a requisite in
today's world. Few are the jobs or community activities that never
require speaking up at meetings, making a presentation, running a
training session, or participating in a negotiation. As Emma Murad,
who is deciding between pursuing graduate studies and taking a
sales job, puts it, "Whatever I do, the things I learn in this
class will help me."
In the US alone, more than 50,000 men and women signed up for
the 12-week Dale Carnegie public-speaking course last year.
130,000 people have joined Toastmasters International clubs, and
countless others attend evening classes in public speaking.
And they are not all fast-track corporate executives. The
students in Mr. Kirkpatrick's course range from recent college
graduates to the almost-retired.
Adrian Douglass is a successful doctor who does not need
public-speaking skills in his profession, but "I'm becoming more
active in my church," he says. He still cringes remembering a
Christmas meeting when he stood up before the congregation and
A graduate of an earlier class, Myrtle Miller, reports that
her evaluations as a teacher of nursing at Dekalb College in
Clarkston, Ga., "skyrocketed" after taking the course. "I have
added humor, the kids like the way I express my beliefs - I
couldn't have done that before."
There are, of course, limits to what a six-week class can
teach, and not all classes are identical. Each professional has a
pet organizational technique. Kirkpatrick favors "the key-word
outline," whereby each letter of a word represents a point in the