12 October 2015

Farewell to Howe and Healey: Tory & Labour Chancellors die in the same week

When I was doing the research that led to my first book on public speaking (Our Masters' Voices,1984) Margaret Thatcher was the leading British politician of the day and provided me with much of the data analysed in the book - for which I was and still am extremely grateful.

Later on, when I was writing speeches for former LibDem leader Paddy Ashdown, she provided much raw material for lines that were more or less guaranteed to get rapturous applause.

But those were only two of my debts to her. Another was that I've often summed up my professional life by saying that it came about as a result of being both a victim and a beneficiaryof Thatcherism.

Victim of Thatcherism
This was because of the appalling damage her governments inflicted on higher education and research in the UK, not to mention what they did to my standard of living or the two years of insecurity that came to a head in 1981 - when her Education Secretary Sir Keith Joseph commissioned Lord Rothschild to investigate my then employer (the Social Science Research Council) with a view to making a case for closing it down.

Luckily, he didn't oblige, concluding that it would be a 'gross act of intellectual vandalism' to do so. The compromise accepted by Thatcher and Joseph was to delete the word 'science' and elevate the importance of their favoured discipline with a new name: the Economic and Social Research Council.

Beneficiary of Thatcherism
A few years later, the benefit from Thatcherism came when Nigel Lawson's budget of 1988 reduced the top rate of income tax to 40%. That was the moment when and the reason why I decided to risk leaving the groves of academia to become a self-employed consultant and author (links to a fuller story of which can be found in the final post of the Claptrap series HERE).

To that extent, I can claim to be living proof that the official economic case for Thatcher-Reagan tax reductions, namely that they would unleash entrepreneurial zeal, worked in at least one case.

The cricketing simile that put an end to her innings
To mark the twentieth anniversary of Margaret Thatcher resignation as prime minister, links to some of my writings about her, both from Our Masters' Voices and this blog, are reproduced below.

I also thought it appropriate to mark the occasion with a clip from the speech that fired the starting gun for what turned out to be a rather quick sprint to the end - coming as it did only 21 days later.

In his speech on resigning as Deputy Prime Minister, Sir Geoffrey Howe, who wasn't renowned as a brilliant speaker, deployed a vivid cricketing simile to describe what it had been like working with Mrs Thatcher.

"It's rather like sending your opening batsmen to the crease, only for them to find, the moment the first balls are bowled, that their bats have been broken before the game by the team captain."

The speech ended with a fairly explicit invitation to other discontented colleagues to stand against her for the leadership:

"The time has come for others to consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long."

Three weeks later, she resigned.

There was a rumour at the time that this particular sequence was actually written by Sir Geoffrey Howe's wife - a claim that, so far, I've never managed to verify.

DENIS HEALEY - "Being attacked by Geoffrey Howe is like being savaged by a dead sheep"

Now watch the brilliant documentary by Michael Cockerell which was shown again last week on news of Healey's death at 98 on YouTube  here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gudj2-vSueo

He was one of the last politicians to have done other things before entering politics, had an amazing sense of humour and loads of hobbies unrelated to politics - an ominous reminder to Jeremy Corbyn and his fans, perhaps???

7 October 2015

Lifetime Achievement Award!!!


Dr Max Atkinson is to be awarded a ‘Lifetime Achievement’ award by the UK Speechwriters’ Guild.

The award is being made for his outstanding contribution to the theory and practice of speechwriting and public speaking over the past 35 years.

Dr Atkinson came to national prominence when he used his academic research into the speaking techniques of top politicians, and applied them to a speech delivered by a novice at a party political conference.

The speaker Ann Brennan went on to win a standing ovation at the SDP conference in Buxton in 1984.

The results were made into a ‘World in Action’ TV documentary, produced by Gus Macdonald, (now Baron Macdonald of Tradeston).

Dr Atkinson published the results of his research in a book called Our Masters’ Voices.

He also had a chance to put his theories to the test by offering speechwriting support to Paddy Ashdown, who became leader of the Liberal Democrats in 1989.

In 2004, Dr Atkinson published his book Lend Me Your Ears, which explains the techniques in simple terms to any layman who might wish to adopt them.

Founder of the UK Speechwriters’ Guild, Brian Jenner, said, ‘Using recording technology which was new at the time, Dr Max Atkinson discovered the ‘claptrap’ – the means by which speakers can provoke positive responses from audiences. He has championed ‘the language of public speaking’ which most people can master. We want to acknowledge the huge value of the research Max did.’

Dr Atkinson will be presented with his award at a reception at St Matthew’s Conference Centre, 20 Great Peter Street, London on Wednesday 25 November from 6.30pm. Press passes are available on application to info@ukspeechwritersguild.co.uk


Brian Jenner
Winner of the Vital Speeches of the Day Cicero Speechwriting Award 2010http://www.thespeechwriter.co.uk
+44 (0)7545 232980


6 October 2015

Corporate Speaking Challenge 2015

Corporate Speaking Challenge 2015

‘Everything needs to change, so that everything can stay the same.’
(Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa)
This year’s Corporate Speaking Challenge gained its influence from Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, an Italian writer, who was known for his only novel Il Gattopardo, translated as The Leopard.
Now in its 6th year, the College of Public Speaking Corporate Speaking Challenge is an innovative public speaking competition designed to promote and encourage communication excellence in the business world. Bringing together some of the best speakers across the country, the Corporate Speaking Challenge is designed to showcase a high standard of public speaking, an exciting event that enables speakers to demonstrate their public speaking talents.
The public speaking competition is a marvellous opportunity for individuals to develop themselves in a friendly, supportive and pressurized environment; it’s a development opportunity for both contestants and companies alike.


Mintel Group Ltd
11 Pilgrim Street
20th & 27th October 20156.30pm


Ascham Suite
Bloomsbury House
17th November 20157-9.30pm

What is the Judging Panel Looking for?

The judges are looking for confidence and credibility as a speaker, clarity in the message, clearstructure and engaging content.
  • Judges will look at the expression and delivery of the speech so ensure the speech has a clear purpose – persuade, inform, inspire and entertain.
  • First impressions are important, the audience and judging panel will be at their most attentive at the beginning of the speech, so ensure you grab their attention from the start, similar emphasis should also be put on the conclusion of the speech, linking back to the opening of the speech.
  • Your verbal skills are paramount, speak clearly, slowly and loudly, ensure the audience and judging panel can hear every single word, vary your pitch and tone of voice to keep the audience and judging panel alert.
  • Nonverbal skills are also important.  Be conscious of your body language and (purposely) only use gestures that support and enhance your speech.
  • Confidence and style are at the core of effective expression and delivery, and vital in any professional context so try to project this during your speech.
The judges are looking for a strong message combined with excellent delivery skills. Please - no acting, performing, magic tricks or monologues. Please ensure that your content and delivery would be appropriate for a boardroom style meeting. Please ensure that the majority of the speech is original.
For more guidance on public speaking read our public speaking tips here.


First place winner will be awarded with a £100 Amazon voucher, a framed certificate and a Corporate Speaking Challenge trophy to retain for a year. 2nd place will be awarded with a £50 Amazon voucher and third place will be awarded with a £25 Amazon voucher.


Registrations are now closed for the Corporate Speaking Challenge.

Recommended workshops

If you would like to improve your public speaking skills we have a variety of workshops to help you prepare for the Corporate Speaking Challenge.
Our fear of public course includes interactive exercises and confidence building activities. The course will identify the issues around fear and public speaking and face each of these with questions, identifying their cause and where possible eradicating them. The aim is to reframe your issues of loss of confidence, anxiety and fear.
Our advanced public speaking course is ideal for those that already have an acceptable level of public speaking ability but are looking to build upon this and improve their communication skills. The course is primarily focused on the structure of giving a speech, enthusiasm, influence and persuasion, creating a rapport with an audience and developing a deeper grasp of rhetorical impact.
Our storytelling workshop is designed for those looking to discover where to find the perfect story to reinforce your key messages. The course will examine how stories, pictures and metaphors work and why they work, examining when to use them and who they appeal to. The course will provide you with expert story telling techniques alongside overcoming public speaking issues and concerns.

26 July 2015

Sun on Sunday - Fabulous???

Take a look at today's Fabulous magazine (Sun on Sunday) to see a picture and interview with Louise Atkinson, my daughter -in-law, about dealing with the death of her brother 4 years ago.

LOUISE Atkinson, 36, a nurse, lives in Bridgwater, Somerset, with her husband Joe, 43, a teacher, and their children Stanley, six, and Connie, two
”I will never forget my brother Ian’s trembling voice as he told me he’d tried to kill himself.
It was May 2004 and Ian, then 28, had woken up on his bedroom floor after he’d attempted to hang himself.
When I got off the phone, I couldn’t stop shaking.
Even as a child, Ian was a sensitive soul.
Three years older than me, he’d always been funny and popular and we were incredibly close.
But he took everything to heart, and if things went wrong, he became despondent.
Although he fulfilled his dream of joining the police in 2003, within a year he’d lost his job as he just wasn’t cut out for it. He grew very depressed, but until that terrible conversation, I hadn’t realised how bad things were.
Following his suicide attempt, Ian was hospitalised with clinical depression for a month.
Our parents Steve, now 66, and Margaret, 65, had no idea as he didn’t want them to worry, so I became his main support.
Even with very strong antidepressants, Ian suffered from insomnia and black moods.
The depression was often so severe he could barely function, although he somehow managed to train as an occupational therapist – ironically in mental health.
At times, being Ian’s rock was tough. I worked long shifts as a nurse, and I had my own life to lead.
But he gradually felt better and things started to look up for him. He had a job he loved and he was open with a small number of supportive colleagues about his mental health problems.
Over those next few years, Ian seemed to grow stronger and even told Dad about his suicide attempt.
Then in September 2011, a girl he’d dated for a few months broke up with him.
Ian found this hard, but when I spoke to him, he sounded more fed-up than depressed, so I didn’t panic.
But at 8pm the following night, Dad rang – and his words will stay with me forever: ’It’s Ian. He’s done it.’
I listened, stunned, as he explained that Ian’s worried boss had called the police after he hadn’t shown up for work and she couldn’t get hold of him. Ian was discovered dead, hanging in his bedroom. He was 35.
Louise with her brother Ian
Louise with her brother Ian

Completely broken, I sat crying with Mum and Dad and my sister Naomi, now 22.
We agreed right from the start that we’d be honest about his death.
So I spoke at Ian’s funeral about his depression. Some people were shocked, but after years of seeing him suffer in silence, we were not going to feel ashamed of his illness.
Grief changed me. I saw the world differently and started to question everything.
A year later, I was diagnosed with depression. I’ve had therapy and rely on antidepressants. Unlike Ian, I’m open about my illness and won’t let shame or fear make me feel worse.
Nearly four years after Ian’s death, I am determined to destroy the stigma surrounding mental health, as well as raise money for those suffering. In May, I took part in the Mind 3000s – a sponsored 24-hour, 50km trek in the Lake District – and have raised over £3,500.
I couldn’t save Ian, but I hope I can help people who are suffering like he did.”


There were 4,858 male suicides in England and Wales in 2013 – making it the most common cause of death for men under 35.*
You can support Louise by visitingMemoryspace.mind.org.uk/memoryspace/ian-paul-carter.

9 December 2014

A PowerPoint 'weather bomb' presentation!!!

What is a weather 'bomb'?

A Met Office "be aware" warning is running for parts of Scotland, England and Northern Ireland.
Parts of western Scotland are braced for strong winds and "unusually high" waves, while there have already been a string of road accidents amid snow and ice.
But with newspapers predicting a UK weather 'bomb' for the second year running, what does the term actually mean?
BBC weather's Peter Gibbs (above) explains:
A Met Office "be aware" warning is running for parts of Scotland, England and Northern Ireland.
Parts of western Scotland are braced for strong winds and "unusually high" waves, while there have already been a string of road accidents amid snow and ice.
But with newspapers predicting a UK weather 'bomb' for the second year running, what does the term actually mean?

The above (word for word) appears on today's BBC website. To watch the presentation, click on "What is a weather 'bomb'".

Then ask yourself whether weather forecasts are aided or abetted by yet another PowerPoint style presentation (on which I've blogged previously and ad nauseam.

I don't think such expensively created graphics add very much. Nor do I believe for one moment that we are about to be 'bombed' out of existence, or at least under cover.

But I suppose such graphics are a good excuse for inflicting yet more frightening tabloid headlines on us unsuspecting viewers (and license payers)...

P.S. 3  days later: The 'bomb' shows no sign of appearing here in the depths of Somerset! Quel surprise...  
Meanwhile, PowerPoint style news programmes continue apace on the BBC and elsewhere.

4 December 2014

Former Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe dies today

 Jeremy Thorpe

    It was the first time I voted tactically, having always voted Labour until then. But, as is quite well          known, I have voted for the SDP and Liberal Democrats ever since.

    Before the days of video tapes, let alone the internet, there's not much chance you'll see many
    examples of him speaking - except on tonight's prime time news programmes.

    And expect most of them to remind us of some scandalous and negative events in the life of an old    Etonian...
I once heard Jeremy Thorpe make a speech at a boys' grammar school in Wilmslow, Cheshire. just before the 1979 general election - long before I was in the least bit interested in public speaking as a subject worthy of research. And an extremely effective speaker he was.

Our reason for going to the meeting, apart from the fact that my late wife taught at Wilmslow girls' grammar school and we lived nearby, was that it was then a marginal seat.

The Labour party's sudden lurch to the extreme left had made us think of voting against the Tories, without actually voting for Michael Foot et al.

Michael Clarke's moving tribute to another cricketer's sudden death

I'd recommend anyone interested in funeral orations -  or speech-making of any kind - to watch this splendid example by Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke (right) at the funeral of a colleague (who was hit on the head by a ball) Philip Hughes.
The text can be read verbatim and in full below - and is a model of how to make a great speech on any occasion - not just at a funeral, but in business, politics or anywhere else.

It will be interesting to see how many hits Clarke's tribute  eventually gets on YouTube.
So far, the total number of YouTube  views is 85,000.

Anecdotes, 3 part lists and other rhetorical devices are here in abundance (see my books).

Clarke in not a professional speaker (yet), but his mastery of rhetoric and delivery is pretty good. Keen anoraks among you might like to check it in detail - as I shall be doing if and when when I have time. 

Watch this space...

I'm deeply honoured to have been asked by Phillip's family to speak today. I am humbled to be in the presence of you, his family, his friends and his community. He was so proud of Macksville and it is easy to see why today.
Taken from the game, his family and loved ones at the age of just 25, he left a mark on our game that needs no embellishment. I don't know about you, but I keep looking for him. I know it is crazy but I expect any minute to take a call from him or to see his face pop around the corner. Is this what we call the spirit? If so, then his spirit is still with me. And I hope it never leaves.
I walked to the middle of the SCG on Thursday night, those same blades of grass beneath my feet where he and I and so many of his mates here today have built partnerships, taken chances and lived out the dreams we paint in our heads as boys.
The same stands where the crowds rose to their feet to cheer them on and that same fence he sent the ball to time and time again. And it is now forever the place where he fell.
I stood there at the wicket, I knelt down and touched the grass, I swear he was with me. Picking me up off my feet to check if I was okay. Telling me we just needed to dig in and get through to tea. Telling me off for that loose shot I played. Chatting about what movie we might watch that night. And then passing on a useless fact about cows.
I could see him swagger back to the other end, grin at the bowler, and call me through for a run with such a booming voice, a bloke in the car park would hear it. The heart of a man who lived his life for this wonderful game we play, and whose soul enriched not just our sport, but all of our lives.
Is this what indigenous Australians believe about a person's spirit being connected with the land upon which they walk? If so, I know they are right about the SCG. His spirit has touched it and it will be forever be a sacred ground for me. I can feel his presence there and I can see how he has touched so many people around the world. The tributes to him from cricket lovers kept me going.
The photos, the words, the prayers and the sense of communion in this loss from people across the globe have shown me his spirit in action. It has sustained me and overwhelmed me in equal measure. And the love of my band of baggy green and gold brothers an sisters have held me upright when I thought I could not proceed.
His spirit has brought us closer together - something I know must be him at work because it is so consistent with how he played and lived. He always wanted to bring people together and he always wanted to celebrate his love for the game and its people.
Is this what we call the spirit of cricket? From the little girl holding a candlelight tribute to masters of the game like Tendulkar, Warne and Lara, the spirit of cricket binds us all together. We feel it in the thrill of a cover drive. Or the taking of a screamer at gully, whether by a 12-year-old boy or by Brendan McCullum in Dubai. It is in the brilliant five-wicket haul, just as significant to the players in a Western Suburbs club game as it is in a Test match.
The bonds that lead to cricketers from around the world putting their bats out, that saw people who didn't even know Phillip lay flowers and that brought every cricketing nation on earth to make its own heartfelt tribute. The bonds that saw players old and new rush to his bed side. From wherever they heard the news to say their prayers and farewells. This is what makes our game the greatest game in the world.
Phillip's spirit, which is now part of our game forever, will act as a custodian of the sport we all love. We must listen to it. We must cherish it. We must learn from it. We must dig in and get through to tea. And we must play on. So rest in peace my little brother. I'll see you out in the middle.