Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Phil Collins

No, not the singer. The Deputy Editor of the Times and speech writer extraordinaire. He was talking to a group of my members at a dinner last night at our friends in CCLA.

And what a star Phil is. Of course it helps that I agree with his articles and editorials in the Times; that indicates genius clearly.

He was talking about how to make good speeches and he had the gathered charity CEO audience in thrall. Some important points I relay for general edification.

You need a good speech. Not necessarily a great one. We don't all need to be Barack Obama. But mediocre is not good.

You must remember context of audience and subject. So think about your audience. Don't patronise them; or give them a speech that does not speak to them and their concerns. Context is vital.

Emotion should go into a speech because it is an act of performance. But it is not all emote. You need Logos; the rational bit. Words are important. So a period of thinking before you write is essential.

So with a blank sheet; first thing: think about audience. What do they know? What level of knowledge or interest in subject? Who are they? Are you informing? Are you persuading? Are you inspiring? What is your primary purpose in this speech?

Set expectations correctly. Only a short time to do this. So many speeches fail because you end up trying to do too much and lose the way.

So now ready to put down argument. Has to be done in a sentence. Has to be something people disagree with. Conflict. Do not caricature an opponents argument. You must put an opposite view in terms they understand. It essentially a dialogue you are setting up.

So write down your central argument. Write it in one sentence. Who disagrees with it?

Then take the sentence and build into a paragraph- a vivid way of encapsulating ideas and narrative. Then you can build into a page or two.

A good speech must be authentic.

Avoid jargon (unless it's right for audience). Language not used in the pub is best avoided. Think tabloid.

Be yourself. So watch yourself and listen to yourself beforehand.

Use silence.

Learn the beginning. Learn the end. End with a flourish. Book-ends are crucial.

Now that is a very rough Bubb encapsulation of the talk. But I'd strongly recommend the book he has just published.

"The Art of speeches and presentations".

From Capstone Publishing. Also available as an ebook. So get onto Amazon now! This is a great investment.

Any CEO in our sector has to be able to make effective speeches and presentations; for fundraising, for tender pitches, conferences, with clients and Ministers. It is cote to the job. You must communicate well as a Chief.

And of course Phil had some great anecdotes from his time in No 10; but I'm not repeating them here. You should have come to the dinner to hear them!

Stephen Bubb

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