First off here are some things that enthusiasm is not.
Enthusiasm is not noise or high pressure speaking. An enthusiastic speaker may talk louder and faster than the average person, but there can be no set rate or manner. It is entirely a matter of spirit. When the spirit within the speaker is fully and sincerely alive minor points, such as “eye contact” and rate of speaking, seem to adjust themselves.
Neither is enthusiasm a jumpy, “nervous,” push-them-out-of-the-way manner of behaviour. Nor need an enthusiast yield to exaggeration as he may be inclined to do.
Enthusiasm, being a spiritual quality, does not depend upon physical size or strength for its existence. For instance, the Apostle Paul was probably one of the most enthusiastic people who ever lived. He was five feet, one inch tall, and weighed about one hundred and ten pounds. He had “a thorn in the flesh,” yet nothing could daunt his enthusiastic nature. Stoning, jail, shipwreck, hunger, nakedness, whippings — nothing could stifle his enthusiasm to communicate his message. He said to Timothy, “Never lose your sense of urgency in season or out of season.”
Ah enthusiast does constantly feel that the cause he repre¬sents is urgent. Willingly, earnestly, eagerly he works at it. Always he is alert to learn more about his subject because this encourages self-confidence which is so necessary for effective communication.
Some people seem to be conserving their enthusiasm, probably thinking that by using it they will become tired or exhausted. But just the opposite is true. Enthusiasm takes the drudgery out of work. It renews a speaker’s energy and actually rests him. Norman Vincent Peale discovered the stimulating effect of enthusiasm when he said to a statesman who had made seven consecutive speeches, “Aren’t you tired?” And the statesman replied, “No, because I believe absolutely in everything I said in those speeches. I am enthusiastic about my convictions.”
Enthusiasm takes the chloroform out of speaking and injects vibrant life. It not only keeps listeners awake, but it also enlivens them, inspires them to think and feel with the speaker. Sincere enthusiasm in a speech causes people to say, “I could listen to that kind of speaking all night!”
A speaker who is highly enthusiastic about his subject can feel that he is truly serving his listeners by sharing his life with them. He becomes what John G. Shedd, a former President of Marshall Field and Company, would have called a “geyser.”
“I’d rather be a geyser than a mud puddle!” he said, when comparing an enthusiastic person with an unenthusiastic one.
Next week I’ll conculde this series on enthusiasm and provide a list of ideas to help understand enthusiasm and using it in public speaking.