3 October 2013

Cameron's speech: who thinks he should be seen pretending not to use a script?

It is very well-known that technology can have a marked impact on how effectively speakers come across to an audience - as anyone who's ever been at a PowerPoint presentation knows only too well (see also HERE).

So a matter, if not the matter,  arising from this year's party conference season is just how effectively do speakers come across when they pretend not to use a script?

Three 'scriptless' leaders
Because this year, we saw Ed Miliband repeating the feat of memory that worked so well for him last year, while Nick Clegg and David Cameron relied on huge teleprompter screens that were hidden towards the back of the audence - as did  George OsborneJeremy Hunt and no doubt a few others .

Of the party leaders, Miliband showed us that he could indeed do it again and Clegg showed us (as I've long suspected) that standing at a lectern works better for him than wandering about the stage like a management guru.

But Cameron was more disappointing than usual, not least because he's a talented enough public speaker, whether speaking from a script or from memory, not to have to rely on such gadgets. You don't have to watch very far into the above to notice that his head and eyes don't always move in time together: his head sometimes turns slightly while his eyes stay firmly glued to the screen directly in front of him - rather like some of Margaret Thatcher's problems when she spoke from Autocue screens.

Where is the advice coming from and what's the evidence for it?
As has often concerned me about the BBC's obsession with PowerPoint style news and current affairs coverage, what gave them the idea that audiences like it and can they point to any research that actually supports such a claim.

So for Messrs Miliband, Clegg and Cameron (and their aides), I have a similar question or two.

Who has advised you that it's a good idea to be seen to be pretending not to have a script and have they shown you any empirical evidence that supports their claim. If so, what is it and where can I see it?

If not, why on earth are you taking any notice of their advice?

(P.S. And some questions for Mr Miliband: who thinks it's a good idea to have some of the audience behind you and do they have any evidence to support their claim? If so, what is it and where can I see it? If not, why are you taking any notice of their advice?)

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