17 October 2014

Promotion or demotion at Sky News?

I've blogged previously about Adam Boulton's tendency to 'um', 'er', pause and otherwise hesitate far more than is to be expected from the Politics Editor of a major 24 hr news channel - not to mention other blogs elsewhere on the hazards faced by speakers who rely too much on teleprompters.

But Adam's problem seems to have been solved more or less completely in recent days - by the simple device of turning him into a news reader rather than an interviewee who answers questions put to him by one of the more regular news readers - who rarely serve as news reporters out in the field.

Whether being transformed from being a news reader rather than a news reporter/editor is a promotion or demotion for Mr Boulton I do not know. 

Perhaps he or one of his colleagues at Sky News knows the answer and will let us know in due course whether it's a temporary measure or it's been done to prevent viewers from having to suffer from listening to the continuous 'umming' and 'erring' of the political editor.

24 September 2014

Mr Miliband's style of delivery gets into the headlines

I've blogged before about politicians - including President Obama and Ed Miliband -  using teleprompters, reading from scripts, speaking without scripts, pretending not to have a script, modelling management guru walkabouts, etc.

In his leader's speech yesterday, Mr Miliband excelled himself by forgetting some crucial lines from the script he had tried to remember. Although his last two efforts to memorise scripts more or less verbatim were hailed by the media as great successes, the last thing you want is for journalists and their editors to concentrate on how you said something rather than what you actually said (or didn't say).

And here lies one of the hazards of 24 hour news and the reporting of speeches before they are actually spoken. If Mr Miliband had not circulated the text of his supposedly scriptless text-free speech, he might have got away with it. But he did not and has had to spend the day reading reports of what he had not said, appearing in broadcast news interviews trying to explain his omissions away, etc.

If I were asked, my advice would be to say that there's little to be gained from trying to memorise long speeches - unless you happen to be David Cameron performing in a 10 minute beauty parade for the Tory party leadership...

26 August 2014

What if 'energised' Salmond wins???

The Independent newspaper described Alex Salmond's performance in last night's leader's debate as 'energised' - which is surely bad news for Alistair Darling and the Labour Party.

One of the big questions about the debate to me is why did David Cameron and the Tories allow an experienced former Labour cabinet minister lead the Better Together campaign - when the loss of Scotland, legally complicated though it would be, would mean that Labour might never again form the government of the residual UK. In fact, why are the Conseratives opposing Salmond & Co. at all, I wonder?

Then there's the question of what the long term point of a Scottish National party be if they actually win the referendum on independence?

I'm not too keen on the idea of an independent Scotland, in spite of my Scottish ancestry, but I do wish someone would answer some of these rather obvious questions.

P.S. I've just noticed that they both seem to be speaking at the same time in this picture. Is violating the most basic conversational rule of all - one speaker at a time - a sure way to impress your audience???

21 July 2014

How to mark the 10th Anniversary of Lend Me Your Ears?

Next month marks the 10th anniversary of this book of mine.

Suggestions on how best to mark it - e.g. with another book based on this blog and/or what - will be very welcome.

10 July 2014

Attendance allowance: a Blair/Brown-Lab-Lib-Con victory?

Whether you voted Labour (and I didn't), Conservative (and I didn't) or Liberal Democrat, Labour's Attendance Allowance was a brilliant move that the Con/Lib Dem coalition has, in their own interests, preserved. The big question now is: which of them plans to boast the most about  it at the next election???

4 July 2014

Max Atkinson wonders whether the BBC is recommending that 4th July should also be a national holiday in the UK???

BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Friday, 30 July, 2004, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK 
The art of public speaking... revealed
In the words of one Democrat after John Kerry's long-awaited speech to his party's convention: "He was good, but he's no Clinton." When it comes to public speaking, what does it take to hold a crowd?He may be an experienced and highly adept politician, but even John Kerry's supporters acknowledge their man has a notable weakness: his public persona.
With his speech to the Democratic Party's convention on Thursday Mr Kerry turned in a better performance than many had expected.
But unlike Bill Clinton, or even his running mate, John Edwards, Mr Kerry is judged not to be a natural public speaker.
Of course it's not only politicians who wrestle with this tag. A new guide in the UK exposes some of the heart-stopping clangers that have cropped up in wedding speeches. In one case a groom got his bride's name wrong while another made a business-like presentation complete with overhead projector.
But all is not lost. Here, Max Atkinson, who once trained a public speaking novice to address a political party conference - and saw his pupil receive a standing ovation - delivers the key messages.

Bad speeches can be disastrous for weddings
Good speeches are memorable ones, and to that end the more rhetoric, the better. A key device in lodging phrases in the minds of an audience is the "list of three", which dates back to Classical times - "veni, vidi, vici (I came, I saw, I conquered)". Then there was "the father, the son and the holy spirit". Later came "liberté, égalité, fraternité" followed by Abraham Lincoln's "government of the people, by the people, for the people".
More latterly, there was former Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell's "fight, fight and fight again [for the party]" and Tony Blair's "education, education, education".

Setting out a puzzle, pausing and solving it for your audience is another time-honoured technique says Mr Atkinson. For example, Ronald Reagan declared his candidacy for the American presidential election in 1980 by offering up these words: "This is a moment of quite some mixed emotions for me... I haven't been on prime-time TV for quite a while." Another memorable example is Margaret Thatcher's "You turn if you want to... the lady's not for turning."

The average applause during a speech lasts about eight seconds, says Mr Atkinson. For a more rapturous reception combine these two techniques. Benjamin Disraeli carried it off well with "There are three kinds of lies... lies, damned lies and statistics, while the full Tony Blair quote actually went "ask me my three priorities... education, education, education."

Martin Luther King
A "master" of imagery in speeches, says Max Atkinson
Imagery requires the use of skilful similes. Think Denis Healey's observation that being attacked by [Tory chancellor] Geoffrey Howe was "like being savaged by a dead sheep". Or Muhammad Ali's "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." Martin Luther King was the master of imagery, says Mr Atkinson, noting how his "I Have a Dream" speech started with an extended banking simile. "We have come to our nation's capital to cash a cheque" before going on to talk of the "tranquilising drug of gradualism".

Amplification and the prevalence of wireless microphones enable speakers to get away from the lectern and walk as they talk. Mr Atkinson approves, so long as the speaker's movements aren't monotonous. "Moving around helps to drain the adrenalin; stops the build up of physical tension."

The words alone are not enough. The best public speakers practise their delivery. "When I first started working with Paddy Ashdown he never practised his speeches," recalls Mr Atkinson of the former Lib Dem leader. "It never occurred to him. But I advised him and after that he would practise hard to the extent he would read his speech out to an empty conference hall the night before."
Lend Me Your Ears by Max Atkinson will be published in September by Random House.