1 October 2008

‘Mature, grown-up and statesmanlike’ Cameron at the lectern

So David Cameron did stay at the lectern for his big speech - and won the instant accolade of being ‘mature, grown-up and statesmanlike’ in one of the interviews with the party faithful a few seconds after he’d finished.

But there’s still some room for improvement in his delivery. There were quite a few mis-readings of the script that had to be corrected as he went along. If, as seems likely, this was because he hadn’t had enough time to rehearse all the last-minute changes that were apparently made, the lesson is clear – late modifications are fine, but only if you leave enough time to rehearse the new lines.

He also did something I’d never noticed before, perhaps because it doesn’t happen when he’s doing a walkabout speech. In fact, it was a rather unusual form of ‘skewed’ eye-contact. It wasn’t that he excluded one half of the audience by hardly ever looking at them at all, as is likely to happen if you’re sitting to Gordon Brown’s right during a speech (see 'More tips for Gordon Brown'). What Cameron did was to alternate between one very long period looking one way and another very long period looking the other, with occasional glances straight ahead.

On average, it was about 20 seconds each way, which means that the rest of the audience was having to wait for about five sentences before they got another glance from their leader (see for yourself what it looks like by clicking on the title of this section, and go to video 4).

The most extreme case was one sequence when he spent nearly a minute and a half (about twenty sentences), looking continuously to one side, effectively excluding everyone on the other side (and in front of him) for a very long time indeed.

So my advice would be that, if he’s going to carry on using a lectern, he needs to work on alternating his glances much more frequently than he did in this speech, so that no one in the audience can complain that he’s ignoring them for unusually long periods of time.

As for why I think he’s doing it, I’ll leave that for another blog when I’ve got more time.

Cameron skewed gaze video:

1 comment:

sal said...

I too noticed the "skewed" eye contact. But I thought it was just David glancing at his notes but trying not to make it look onvious.