23 July 2009

Standing ovation for Gordon Brown after anecdotes about Reagan, Cicero and Demosthenes

A couple of days ago, Gordon Brown took time out from local problems, like today’s by-election, to make a surprise appearance at the TED Global conference, and one can’t help wondering if the chance to give a lecture in Oxford marked the official start of his exit strategy into teaching that he was dropping hints about a few weeks ago.

You can see the whole of his TED performance at the bottom of this page and inspect a brief review of Twitter responses HERE.

Readers of my books will know that I give great emphasis to the importance of anecdotes in effective speeches and presentations, and there are two nice examples of this in Mr Brown's speech.

The first one came as he tried his hand at a bit of standup with this story about what Ronald Reagan is alleged to have thought of the then Swedish prime minister, Olaf Palme:

Then, right at the end came another anecdote involving a contrast between the way audiences used to respond to Cicero and Demosthenes. Brown firmly identifies himself with the latter and gets a positive reaction that doesn’t often happen to him outside Labour Party conferences – a standing ovation - and it doesn't often happen to anyone in Oxford either (or at least, I never got one when I worked there).

The whole unedited 16 minute speech can be watched below. And, as you'll see from the first few minutes, someone must have advised Mr Brown that, if you must use PowerPoint, you can't beat genuinely visual slides like pictures:


Theresa said...

I thought he also used repetition very effectively. I'm curious as to your thoughts on his body language. He seemed to pace quite a bit - taking a few steps and then turning, taking a few steps and then turning, again. How do you think this effected his delivery? Thank you!

Max Atkinson said...

Theresa - you're not the first person to notice the pacing up and down. This has become a bit of a fashion among British politicians since David Cameron won the leadership 'beauty parade' at the Conservative Party conference a few years ago with an apparently unscripted walkabout speech. Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has copied it and this is another of Brown's (not very effective)attempts at doing it.

I call it the 'management guru' style of delivery, because I suspect the idea came from people like Tom Peters. But how effective it is for political speeches is, in my opinion, at best questionable.

This blog began when I was asked by 'The Times' to give some tips for Brown's conference speech last September, which you can see at http://tr.im/tORV and http://tr.im/tOT3, and in which I recommended him to go back to the lectern.

If you're interested in more on Brown, Cameron, etc., type their names into the search box at the top left. Or, if you go to http://tr.im/tOV0 you can browse through everything that's ever been on the blog since it started.