Thanksgiving lesson: Harry Houdini on how to address a crowd
by Kevin Murphy
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Chances are at some point this week you will have the opportunity to speak to a larger than normal group of people. Be it family, friends, or total strangers, public speaking is an artform, and one that the multi-talented Harry Houdini mastered.
Below, from his book The Right Way to Do Wrong, is Houdini’s expert advice on making a lasting impression on your audience.
The book includes an introduction by one of the today’s best-known magicians: Teller.
Teller, of course is one half of Penn & Teller, and a devoted Houdini fan. Teller’s introduction touches on Houdini’s legacy, as well as his literary ambitions.
Houdini also aspired to be a writer. His expertise was in deception, both legitimate (magic) and illegitimate (crime), and he turned out fascinating books, pamphlets, and newspaper articles. You are about to read some of his liveliest and least known writings.
You’ll notice two contrasting voices in Houdini’s style. One is brash and sounds like a tough little street-fighter. That’s raw Houdini, the sixth-grade-educated self-made man braying out his very definite views. The other style is all curlicued and upholstered, with ten-dollar Latinate words, complex sentences, and quotations from classical literature. The content is Houdini’s, but translated from sideshow to lecture hall by ghostwriters who made him sound like the literate individual his rabbi father might have admired.
Kevin Murphy is the digital media marketing manager of Melville House.