8 March 2009

How to improve impact by sequence, repetition and a rhetorical technique

In Vince Cable’s speech at the spring conference of the Liberal Democrats in Harrogate a couple of days ago, there was a sequence that would have been more effective had he (or his speechwriter) reversed the order in which he mentioned the two points, used repetition and packaged it as a contrast.

The line went as follows:

"Public companies should publish full pay package of all their highly paid employees [applause starts] as well as the directors."

You can see the sequence by looking here (1 minute, 25 seconds into the video), and will notice that the audience started applauding immediately after he said ‘employees’ and before he got to the key phrase ‘as well as the directors.'

As the current situation is that pay packages of directors already have to be published and Cable’s new/controversial point was that this should also apply to all highly paid employees, this would have worked better if the 'news' had come second rather than first.

It was also crying out to be turned into as a more explicit contrast between directors and other highly paid employees, with key words repeated, along the lines of the following:

"Public companies should not just publish the full pay package of their directors.
"They should publish the full pay package of all their highly paid employees."

Rhythmically and for adding emphasis, it would arguably have been improved further by making the second part of the contrast slightly longer, as in:

"They should publish the full pay package of each and every single one of their highly paid employees."

Either way, the applause would still have come immediately after the word ‘employees’, but it would have sounded more emphatic and there would have been no risk of the key point being drowned out by the applause.

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