27 July 2009

How many numbers can you get into a minute?

A few months ago, I made the point that Gordon Brown tends to pack far too much information into his speeches and still has to take notice of a crucial tip from Winston Churchill about simplicity.

In his final press conference before the Summer recess, he was at it again. At one stage, as you can see below, he managed to mention nine numbers in less than a minute.

The trouble is that a lot of people glaze over when numbers come at them so thick and fast – a problem that’s even worse if, as in this case, they’re delivered in a flat monotonous tone of voice.

And the importance of speakers conveying enthusiasm for their subjects cannot be overestimated – for the very obvious reason that, if a speaker sounds bored by his or her subject matter, why should the audience feel any less bored, let alone be inspired by it?

Add to this Mr Brown’s earnest facial expression and it's hardly surprising that he’s so often referred to ‘dour’.

video

3 comments:

simon said...

Hmmm... I'm no fan of GB's style but I'm not sure the numbers are completely wasted in this clip. Sure, no-one will take any of them in (and even if they do they'll probably think they're wrong) but this clip does at least leave a gentle impression of 'more... more... more... new... new... new....', which supports the wider message of Labour investment vs Tory cuts, and is probably precisely what GB intended.

Max Atkinson said...

Simon - I'm sure you're right about it being precisely what he intended, but wouldn't you have thought he'd sound a bit more enthusiastic about it, and would have rehearsed it at least well enough not to stutter a few times over the numbers?

pintosal said...

This reminds me of the Yes Minister episode where Jim Hacker is rehearsing for his Ministerial Broadcast. The conversation between Hacker and Godfrey, the producer, goes:
"It's OK to mention figures, isn't it Godfrey?"
"Yes, I mean practically no one takes them in, and those who do, don't believe them. But it makes people think you've got the facts at your fingertips. And don't forget, people don't know you're reading them off the Teleprompter..."