30 September 2010

'Clap on the name': a practical tip for Ed Miliband and/or his speechwriters

Yesterday, I mentioned an example in Ed Miliband's first speech as Labour Party leader where the audience might have applauded more promptly had the two parts of a positive-negative contrast been written the other way around (HERE).

There were also some examples that reminded me of two posts back in March, showing how to use the 'clap on the name' technique to ensure that the applause comes in on time:
The basic principle is that you identify or hint at the identity of the person to be introduced or commended, say a few words about them and then name him or her (for more on which, see Lend Me Your Ears, pp. 324-327).

Miliband shows how to do it
In this first clip, the person being commended is identified (the deputy leader), there's a word about her (she's "fantastic") and her name then prompts instant applause:

video

Miliband shows how not to do it (1)
In this next sequence, announcing that he's going to talk about 'friends of mine who are standing down from the shadow cabinet' gives us a pretty strong hint about who they'll be. But going straight on to name Alistair Darling is enough to set the audience off and runs the risk of the first commendable point being drowned out by the applause.

But those weren't all the warm words he's got for Mr Darling, so he has to add the rest as a postscript after the applause has died down and the final "thank you" is then greeted with silence.

video

A sight revision of the script would have avoided any such glitches and ensured that the ovation came in exactly on cue. This would have been even more assured given that he actually had three complimentary things to say (though the triple sequence had been obscured by the applause).

Rewriting it along the following lines would have restored the power of the rule of three and, because the audience would have had more time to get ready for the name, they would probably have produced a longer and more enthusiastic burst of applause):

The first is someone who kept his cool amidst one of the worst economic storms in our economic history,
who we'll always remember for the way he steered Britain through that crisis
and to whom we all owe a big debt of thanks for what he did:
Alistair Darling<[INSTANT APPLAUSE]

Miliband shows how not to do it (2)
Immediately after that, the same thing happens again when he names Jack Straw too early, so that the other nice things he has to say about him have to be deferred until after the premature applause has died down. And, by starting where it did, the ovation again interrupts the flow of what would otherwise have been a perfectly effective three-part list:

video

In this case too, things would have gone more smoothly by simply changing the sequence to preserve the three-part list and leave the name until the end:

.. my second friend is one of the most loyal servants of our party,
someone who is Labour to his core
someone who is Blackburn to his core:
Jack Straw<[INSTANT APPLAUSE].

Nervous, awkward and inexperienced?
Technical details like this (and the ones discussed in the previous post) not only have implications for the audience, but also contribute towards media reporters drawing conclusions like the above, as they did after the speech.

The are also the kind of thing that led me to suggest over the last couple of days, both here and on Twitter, that there was some rather amateurish speech-writing on show.

For Mr Miliband and his supporters, the good news is that such problems are very easy to cure.

As a 'non-aligned' blogger, I'm obviously not offering my services or touting for trade from team Miliband. But they can mug up on all they need to know from Lend Me Your Ears or Speech-making & Presentation Made Easy, both of which are dirt cheap (or, as a marketing expert has told me to say, 'competitively priced').

4 comments:

Julien said...

At least he didn't end up like Cecil Parkinson once did, introducing William Hague to dead silence. "You're supposed to clap!" Ouch.

Anonymous said...

I'm in another presentation where the speaker has just shown a slide about "action verbs" for CVs, a list of about 75 words all in green with a few highlighted in red.

The speaker explains "there are some highlighted in red because I thought it looked boring."

Despair!

Hadleigh Roberts said...

That comment was me, hit the wrong button on the phone!

Hadleigh Robers said...

It gets worse. The peniultinate slide was a block if text that was read out, and the last slide said "good luck"