27 September 2008

Did Gordon Brown take my advice?

Here's what I said in The Times after Mr Brown had made his speech:


Judging from his conference speech, Gordon Brown seems to have taken on board the three main points I recommended on these pages on Monday, and arguably gained from some of the benefits I had in mind.

The first was that he should stop trying to emulate the ‘unscripted’ walkabout style favoured by Messrs. Cameron and Clegg and return to the lectern. By doing this, he looked much more comfortable than when he’s tried walking about: his gestures looked much more ‘natural’, he didn’t have to worry about what to do during bursts of applause and, perhaps most important of all, he came across as a confident and experienced elder statesman.

My second concern was that, in some of his previous speeches, his average pause rate was only once every fifteen words -- three times longer than in speeches by the likes of Churchill, Thatcher, Reagan, Clinton and Blair, who used to pause, on average, every five words. Not pausing often enough can cause two main problems. One is that it’s much easier for audiences to follow if they can take in short chunks at a time. Another is that even slight pauses can transform the meaning, emphasis and mood of the point being made.

On this occasion, Mr. Brown made a startling improvement on some of his other efforts by matching, almost exactly, the one pause per five words of the famous leaders mentioned above.

The third thing that’s worried me about his speeches is his past tendency to pack in long lists of statistical information that doesn’t instantly mean very much to the average listener. On this too, he did particularly well. Certainly he had some big numbers, but there was a really nice sequence where made them come to life with real life examples, such as “That’s not just a number, that’s the dad who lives to walk his daughter up the aisle” – a contrastive technique that he used four or five times in quick succession.

And the contrast, in its various forms, triggers about a third of the applause in political speeches. Before Mr Brown’s speech, I’d said that if he could equal or exceed Mrs Thatcher’s achievement at the 1981 Conservative conference (when things weren’t going too well for her either), at which she was applauded, on average once every three sentences, he would be home and dry.

He came very close, with a rate of once every 3.5 sentences -- so he might just be nearly there.

1 comment:

big angus said...

NO!! and maybe because of this by the 3rd US President. did anyone listen then ?

" I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.
If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until the wake- up homeless on the continent the fathers conquered! "

{ Thomas Jefferson 1802}