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We’re all broadcasters now (and need urgent training!)

From a technological perspective, the switch to digital meetings has been pretty seamless.  Zoom, Teams and Google Meet have become the conference rooms of 2020. So why the need for training?

We have successfully made the physical transition to working from home.  But observing meetings and conferences since lockdown in many different countries and cultures, I sense that our communication skills have made a far less effective conversion.

We have spent years developing communication skills that work best in the flesh

This isn’t a surprise.  By the time we reach working age, we have spent many thousands of hours in the company of others.  We may not consider this as training, but it provides us with well-honed social antennae.  We learn to judge the mood in a room, read body language and interpret unspoken relationships and hierarchies.  Whether we are pitching, presenting or giving  a more formal speech, we react to these instincts and adapt accordingly.

We might make a joke to lighten the mood.  Instantly we know if it has had the desired effect and how to adjust our tone.  We will sense if a specific point has hit home. Notice if members of our audience are nodding in agreement, smiling in affirmation or sending more hostile, cynical signals.

Being in a room enables us to create meaningful eye-contact and to encourage interaction through the raising of hands or spotting immediately when someone is trying to jump-in.

We may take many of these skills for granted, but they are absolutely crucial in ensuring that we are relevant to each member of the audience, and responsive to their needs.  There are some crucial differences, but these are behaviours we have developed and finessed over many years, from the playground to the pub and from family meals to football matches.

Speaking to groups on screen requires a very different skill set

And then, in the space of days, all that experience, expertise and training became semi-redundant.  We lost the use of the handshake and the ability to make eye contact.  Video conferencing allowed us to be seen and heard, but the larger the audience, the greater the leap from our previous norm.

A video meeting between two people is hard enough, but is still riddled with challenges. Where to look? How still to sit? How to light the room? What’s the best way to interrupt?  Add another dozen attendees and the problems multiply.  How can you gauge the mood in all those room?  Can you make each member of your audience feel that you are speaking to them personally?  How can you encourage feedback and questions?

We were public speakers; we are now broadcasters

There is no magic answer because, unknowingly, we have taken on a new role in our professional lives.  We have become broadcasters.  We are speaking into a camera.  Our words are met with silence.  In this environment it is harder to have the confidence to pause, harder to communicate with energy, harder to understand the impact we are making.

In this setting, the ‘speech’ becomes a ‘show’; the conference a broadcast.  I spoke on Times Radio recently and was asked about Martin Luther King’s ‘Dream’ speech.  This wasn’t scripted.  In fact, Dr King had intended to give a different speech altogether. But he sensed the moment and, encouraged by his entourage “gave them the dream”.  That wouldn’t have been possible on a Zoom call!

Training is urgently required

This is not intended as a criticism of digital communication which has enabled many of us to stay in business (and sane!) during the crisis. But it does highlight the need for people speaking to groups via a camera to receive support and training that allows them to maximise their impact.

We will all have sat on the end of group calls this year listening to speakers sounding a little listless, lacking in energy and, as importantly, empathy.  The best broadcasters are able to close the empathy gap between speaking in the flesh and through a screen.

At Great Speech Writing we are helping our clients make that transition – and to speak with greater clarity, empathy and relevance online.  The pandemic will pass, but digital conferencing is here to stay.  Training your people to become better broadcasters is an investment that will create huge returns in the weeks and months to come.

Please call Lawrence directly on 07970 046 230 to discuss how we can help you write and deliver with more impact on and off screen.

The Great Speech Writing, Great Speech Awards, 2016

We’ve written hundreds and listened to many more. Speeches dominated the agenda. Some were poignant, others perfect. Some “tremendous”, others terrifying.  Some bombastic, others barbed.  After much deliberation at HQ we’re delighted to announce the recipients of the following ‘Great Speech Awards’ for outstanding contributions to public speaking in the extraordinary year that was 2016.

Lifetime Achievement Award – Barack Obama

What can be said that hasn’t been said already? Quite simply the most accomplished speaker to hold office in living memory. An eight-year Presidential master class in the art of rhetoric, and we would argue that he peaked before he’d even been elected.

Best Cover Version – Melania Trump

Rising star Mel T  completely made it her own. A fresh, modern, and frankly superb cover of Michelle Obama’s wisdom on the campaign trail in 2008. Only by thanking her Democratic husband Barack could her plagiarism have been more brazen.

Best Catch Phrase – Claudio Ranieri

‘Dilly ding, dilly dong’. It might seem like one for the bedroom (particularly one inhabited by Sid James or Kenneth Williams), but Ranieri’s refreshingly old-school rallying cry was typical of the unorthodox and charming manager masterminding Leicester’s success. Previously beloved by benign Governesses and Edwardian nannies, it’s a phrase that galvanised an unlikely  group of millionaire, tattooed footballers. We’ve used it to great effect in our office whenever Seb arrives looking a little tired and emotional.

Best Acceptance Speech – Leonardo Di Caprio

Not the typical self-congratulatory Oscar-winning stuff that we’ve criticised in blog posts past. Di Caprio leapt through his thank yous to focus on climate change.  It may sound pompous, but he managed it without a whiff of self-importance. Brief, relevant, and delivered to perfection.

Most Improved Speaker – Andy Murray

Murray has won this so many times in recent years that he should probably keep the trophy. His tennis has provided a very public platform for his ever-more articulate and understated public speaking style.  A man whose comments about the English football team once had the blue rinses of the Home Counties spitting in indignation, his acceptance speech for his Third Sports Personality of the Year Award had them rolling in the aisles. Ace! (Second place Jeremy Corbyn. Seriously, he has improved.)

Best Speech of 2016 – Michelle Obama (New Hampshire)

Whatever your opinion of President-elect Trump, this damning indictment from the First Lady is this year’s most powerful and empowering speech. Truly magnificent. How she will be missed.  New Hampshire primaries 2020 anyone …?

Most Moving Speech – Major Tim Peake CMG

Gravitas at zero gravity. Clarity at 17000 mph.

Least Moving Speech – Tannoy Operator at Victoria Station

“Your Southern Rail train to…”

Best Speech Given In Absentia – Bob Dylan

In true rock and roll style, Dylan opted not to receive his Nobel Prize in person. But his speech  – delivered by the United States Ambassador to Sweden Azita Raji – was gracious, reflective, and pulled off the not inconsiderable challenge of drawing comparisons to Shakespeare without coming off like a prat. Hats off to you, Sir!

Careful What you Say Award – Boris Johnson

An orator of such magnetism and impact he managed to convince the country to vote for something neither it, nor he, wanted. Further awards sure to follow in 2017.

The Filibuster Award for Avoiding the Question – Theresa May PM

So many speeches, so many sound bites, so many words signifying very little.  Brexit means? To misquote a rather more equivocal PM, never before has so much been said to so many … revealing *$%& all.

Mentioned in Dispatches

Donald Trump talked (and tweeted) his way into the Oval office, but who could forget Hillary Clinton’s first genuinely emotional speech of the campaign?  Eloquent, thoughtful, empathetic and appealing.  And delivered rather too many hours after the vote.  Or David Cameron’s surprisingly upbeat farewell to office early one midsummer morning?  Then there was Gisela Stewart’s ability to remain measured and eloquent during the televised Brexit debate when those around her were losing all control.  And how about Len Goodman’s retirement speech on Strictly?  OK, maybe not.  But it says something that more of us watched it live in the UK than any other speech mentioned above.

For help writing, editing or discussing your own speech for 2017, feel free to contact us any time over the holiday season.

Trump, Brexit and the new rhetoric

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.  If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

This may be the only article you read this week that will introduce the rhetoric and success of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage with a quote from Nelson Mandela.  But I am here to analyse the speeches, not the politics.

It is no secret that the key to an impactful speech is relevance. Recent events have proved that in the modern political world, ‘relevance’ means talking directly to your target audience in their language, voicing their concerns, and demonstrating barrels of empathy in the process.


That’s not rocket science. But the times they are a changing. Not so long ago, crowds would gather to listen to political speeches expecting a seamless structure, clever wordplay and evidence to back-up each argument. Subtlety and nuance had real power. Think Nye Bevan.  Kennedy.  Clinton (Bill!).  Think Ronald Reagan’s campaign-defining ‘inexperience’ put-down of Walter Mondale.


And then along came social media. Followed by the financial crashes and crunches of the past decade.  In unison, these allowed a growing distrust of – and disrespect for – the political classes to spread virally.  Heckling and satire were replaced by ranting and trolling.  And not only on social media.  Compare Robin Day’s interviewing Margaret Thatcher to Jeremy Paxman bullying David Cameron.  The context is different.

Slowly but surely, the voting public has begun to rebel. Against globalisation, against the status quo, against the political elite, and against political correctness.

Those public speakers who have understood this and adapted to it, have won. “We’re sick of experts”. “We’re at breaking point.”  Guess who?  Suffice to say that they’ve been repeated ad nauseam by the Brexit and Trump camps.  From Gove and Johnson to Trump and Pence.  Politicians who have surfed the wave of disaffection and who, in the process, have adapted the age-old rules of public speaking to the modern political landscape.



Politicians have always tried to ‘get it’. But this year’s winners have managed to connect with their audiences on an emotional level.  They have done it by targeting their core voters and appealing to them. Even if it means angering everyone else.  It’s classic retail marketing – better to create a passionate response (for and against you) than apathy.  The Marmite effect.

Amazingly, they have been able to exploit the general disaffection with the political class by blatantly ignoring the truth to make their point. The Leave campaign knew there would not be £350 million a week for the NHS.  Trump is not going to build a wall. But the facts are ignored if the audience finally hears someone telling them what they want to hear.  And repetition has become a core element of the new rhetoric.

The Hook

Traditionally this was just a joke or an anecdote to ease the audience into the more formal speech. Now it is an end in itself.  Let’s build a wall.  Let’s divert £350m per week into the NHS.  The opening gambit has become the hook, line and sinker.  If you repeat it enough, it will stick.


OK, the Gettysburg address may have been less than 300 words, but it was the exception. A political speech was once only credible if it was long and detailed.  But speeches are getting shorter and punchier.  So are the sentences within them which have become interchangeable with soundbites.  ‘Yes we can’, ‘Make America Great Again’ and ‘Independence Day’ would once have been defined as slogans. Now they are sentences.  Repeated again and again and again.  Because YouTube, Twitter and Facebook love a link to something short, smart and memorable.


Ever listened to the entire Budget speech? It’s hard work.  So much detail that it’s almost impossible to summarise immediately afterwards.  Which is why Gordon Brown tried to summarise it using ‘prudence’.  And why George Osborne repeated ‘a budget for working people’.  They got the principle, but the protest generation have gone a step further by removing the vast majority of the content in favour of repeating the priority messages again and again, often without feeling the need to contextualise at all.


Trump, Brexit and, dare one say it, Marine le Pen, have stripped away the rhetorical flourishes, the adjectives and the poetry. What remains is a series of statements in language that sets them apart from the educated elite. Hard, simple and impossible to misconstrue.  It has been said that one is elected on poetry and governs on prose.  That now sounds like an observation from another age.


Where does this leave us? The bad (and sad) conclusion is that your speeches can include errors, lies and plagiarism.  They can be full of unfinished sentences and unfulfillable promises. And you can still win – possibly as a direct result.

But there are positive lessons to learn. Brexit and Trump demonstrate that if you think about your audience first, speak in their language, keep it simple, and don’t suffocate your speech with detail, then anything is possible.

Get in touch…

Email us on or give us a call on +44 (0) 207 118 1600.

Follow us in Twitter @Gr8speechwriter for tips and updates!

Amy’s tips on communicating with confidence

We recently started working with Amy Beth Hayes, star of stage and screen. She has been helping many of our clients deliver speeches and presentations with confidence, authority and more than a little success!

Watching Amy work is fascinating. She has broadened our horizons, away from simply delivering well-written scripts and into the impact we make in every day situations. It has been astonishing seeing her transform people’s confidence.  They immediately enter a meeting room with more confidence.  They shake hands at a networking event with more authority.  Or walk to the podium with real poise before they begin speaking. It needs to be seen to be fully appreciated, but we asked her to pen a few words to explain the principles behind her work.

How to be you at the very top of your game

Body Language, Posture, Voice. A tick-box of ways we are judged every second of the day. What we say clearly matters – Lawrence has built his reputation on improving it – but how we say it unlocks that content and affects every decision people make.  We can prepare our content to the finest detail.  But they are likely to invest in us due to deeply ingrained factors.

It’s a scary thought and one that breeds huge insecurities. But the good news is that it can be taught and controlled. And its less about trying to transform you, and more about enhancing what is already there. The dream scenario isn’t to turn you into someone else, but to be yourself – on your very best form!

We all know how a ‘great day’ feels. It means walking to into a room, shoulders back and with confidence. Communicating ideas with ease and eloquence. We can crack a joke, we are relaxed and comfortable in our own skin.  We may feel like this meeting up with some great friends for a drink. Or chatting to people at work who like and respect us.

Us on a bad day? We’re afraid we’ll trip over our words when we’re put on the spot. We may not talk at all in that important board meeting. We might choose to blend into the background while others take the limelight. In essence, that voice in our head that tells us we’re not good enough takes over.

What if there was a way to turn off this voice?

The good news is: You can!

I can work on your body language, posture, eye contact and voice. Show how subtle changes in pitch and register can hook in your listener. Give you practical exercises to suit your particular needs and combat your fears.

Worried you will trip over your words on an important conference call? There’s an exercise that will entirely eliminate the possibility of this happening. Scared that others will sense your nerves in a board meeting? There’s an exercise for that. Hate walking into rooms? You guessed it, there’s an exercise for that too.

Once you have the confidence in your body and your voice, the foundations are in place.  It’s suddenly easier to be creative under pressure. To take risks.  To convince others to believe in you. Its that simple.

The Spoken Word

Got a speech coming up? A power point presentation? Or do you simply have to wine and dine a client to convince them to invest in you? Ask yourself this:

What really makes something or somebody interesting?

It’s their passion.
When we describe something we are passionate about, we naturally alter our pitch and tone and our emotional register shifts. Even our volume changes. This is why passionate people are interesting to listen to and why people who talk in a monotone and who are unconnected to their subject matter are not. Its about changing the vocal landscape.

Changing the vocal landscape:

Try it. Say this out loud :

“I really believe this could work.”

Now say it again by emphasising ‘really’ and ‘believe’:

“I really believe this could work.”

Say it another time, this time allowing the slightest pause after ‘believe’ :

“I really believe …
… this could work.”

See the difference? It sounded like you meant it and that you were excited by the idea and the potential of that idea.

In this way it is possible to make any subject matter interesting, to make people listen to you, to have what they call:


Charisma is essentially a connection between you and what you’re saying. Its means being connected. It is when we are nervous and fearful, when we don’t change the vocal landscape, that we stand to loose that connection.

Don’t throw away all your hard work by allowing nerves, a lack of confidence or a fear of taking the spotlight to get in the way. You are great at your job. Let the world know that. By writing great content and then presenting it as yourself on your very best day.

If you’d like to discuss how we can help, please call Seb for a chat on +44 (0)207 118 1600.

3.5 tips to guarantee a great motivational speech

It’s that time of year again.  The staff conference.  The team offsite.  The office party.  You need to stand up in front of your team and get them focused.  You probably haven’t advertised it as a ‘motivational’ speech.  But everyone knows you’re not really just updating them on the numbers from the second quarter.  They could have been emailed. What matters is the big message.  The team wants to understand how things stand and what the future holds.  You want to get them working harder and adding to the general good.

Those intentions are honourable,  but the result can often be a massive let-down, leaving your staff baffled, sniggering or, worst of all, both.

Things start to go wrong because our idea of what motivational speeches SHOULD be like stems from those at the very top of the game.  Yes, JFK managed to inspire a Nation by insisting that we “do these things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard”.  But he was a) the most powerful man in the world b) talking about a man on the moon and c) representing youth, good looks and a new world order.  Which means that his audience was a little more receptive than one might expect at the October accounting debrief.

Even worse than attempting to ape politicians, is to be influenced by cinema.  Al Pacino knocked out a hell of a half time talk in ‘Any Given Sunday’.  And there’s absolutely no doubt that “All comes down to today, and either, we heal as a team, or we’re gonna crumble. Inch by inch …” is inspiring stuff.  But a) it’s Hollywood and b) it’s Al Pacino.  This is not a template for the rest of us to gee-up our teams at work.

And yet ‘motivational’ speeches (and speakers) keep falling into the same traps.  These often start with the Google search “Great Motivational Quotes”, which generally lead to Vince Lombardi.  He was a brilliant and popular American Football coach (Tony d’Amato, de Niro’s character in ‘Any Given Sunday’ quoted extensively from Lombardi).  But his goosebumpy quotes, taken from the rarefied atmosphere of the locker room, are clearly inappropriate for less dramatic occasions and subjects.

This leads us to ‘real’ life.  Which , for the vast majority of our clients, means a meeting room at work.  Or a few words at the end of a brainstorming day in a Regus building.  In this sort of environment, it’s going to be difficult to pull-off a speech beginning (or ending) with something along the lines of: “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”

The key to getting it right is to stop trying to be someone else.  Quoting some of the world’s greatest speeches makes us sound inspirational in the same way as donning a GB swim hat makes us Adam Peaty.

The key, as ever, is relevance.  In three areas:

Relevant to the audience

Don’t start your motivational speech by trying to be Bill Clinton (or even Hilary).  Start by putting yourself in your audience’s shoes.  What:

  • Do they want to hear?
  • Will interest them?
  • Can make them think differently?
  • Might inspire them?

Yes, inspirational language might work, but only if it’s relevant.  And in business, ‘relevance’ is usually defined by describing the benefits to them of getting things right.  Will they save more lives?  Could their day become easier?  Can they earn greater rewards?  Will their jobs be more secure?

Ultimately, we are motivated by these benefits.  ‘Winning’ is what turns on sportsmen, but it tends not to be relevant to most employees (even if it is to you).

Relevant to you

Yes, your audience comes first, but you are the conduit for the messages they’re receiving.  So there is no point trying to sound like someone you’re not.  Are you the thoughtful, introspective type?  If so, it’s unlikely that the Braveheart approach will work.  Relatively dry and detailed?  Let’s not try to make this a stand-up routine.  The key is to be YOU but at the very top of your game.  Otherwise your audience will see right through you, in the same way that they saw right through Gordon Brown when he tried to be pally, or William Hague pretending to be down with the kids. Authenticity and transparency can be the greatest motivational tools of all.

Relevant to the business

Apologies for dragging out the sporting references, but sport has a certain glamour.  It’s dramatic, often fast moving, and emotional.  Inspiring words can make a real, short-term impact in that world.  But in the world of business, people tend to respond better to transparency, simplicity and pragmatism.  Of course a shared vision and a set of common goals can work wonders, but relevance tends to require less throwing of tea cups than in a football changing room.

A sprinkle of motivational speech magic

You may have noticed that the title referred to three and a half tips.  Arguably the first three should all be parcelled together under the word ‘relevance’.  The half is less easy to define.  It’s something that makes your motivational speech original, memorable and inspiring – for all the right reasons.  It’s impossible to be any more specific from this distance because it’s impossible to sprinkle relevant magic without any ingredients.  But if you’d like to discuss how we can help, please call Seb for a chat on +44 (0)207 118 1600.

Melania’s greatest speech-related crime. And it’s not the cut and paste.

The facts aren’t in dispute.  Michelle in 2008.  Democratic Convention.  Melania in 2016.  Republican Convention.  Not just the same theme, but the same words and even the same sentences.  So Melania’s a fraud.  Isn’t she?

Well no.  Not necessarily.  It’s very easy to sneer.  But, as a speechwriter, I’d say she’s not to blame.

One assumes she briefed her speechwriting team on the key messages for the day.  One hopes she had some input into the content.  You’d assume she rehearsed it a few times and even edited some sections.  But that doesn’t make it her fault.

The words were good.  The theme was strong.  It was one of the oratorical highs of the Trump campaign so far (which, to be fair, is akin to being the most ethical inhabitant of Love Island).  And of course she’d approve this passage because it’s written terrifically well.

There’s no way she would have known that Michelle Obama had said the same thing.  And although its easy to quote the words back in hindsight, I challenge you to quote any other passage of the First Lady’s eight year’s in office verbatim.  Nope?  Nor could I.  And I read and write speeches for a living.

So who is to blame?

The blame lies with her speechwriters.  The relationship between speaker and writer should be sacrosanct.  Complete trust.  The writer has the huge responsibility of making the speaker sound at the very top of their game.  Not because they couldn’t do it alone, but because they are busy, and because they want to get it right.

In this case, that trust was breached.  There is no excuse for cut-and-pasting ANY section for ANY speech.  We write for politicians and we’d never intentionally ‘borrow’ a line. Nor would we even contemplate using someone else’s material for a wedding speech.  We estimated recently that we’d written over five million words worth of speeches.  I can guarantee that no two speeches have used the same chunk of text (except for a few quotes attributed to others).  But if I somehow snuck one in, and my client was ‘caught’ giving it, I would resign immediately (or, at least offer a full refund and apologise profusely!).

And what has Melania done wrong?

So Melania should not be given too much abuse for reading her script, simply for trusting the wrong speechwriter.  But she is culpable of a worse crime than plagiarising.  When challenged, she claimed to have written the speech largely herself.  That’s about as likely as those words having been replicated by accident.  By claiming to be the writer, she is either guilty of copying or of lying.  The piece was about honesty.  It was originally written by Hilary Clinton’s ex-speechwriter Sarah Hurwitz.  So Melania is copying material about “your word being your bond” from her husband’s Democratic rival.  If Carlsberg did irony …

The key to writing and delivering ANY speech or presentation

This piece is based on a video that includes eight brief clips.  Four of them show different speakers starting some pretty unimpressive speeches.

We then see each of them filmed again after receiving some simple professional presentation advice.

On the surface, you may wonder why we have pulled them into one stream.  Two are preparing speeches for social occasions: a wedding and a funeral.  The others are for professional purposes: an internal HR briefing/presentation and an advertising meeting.

There are all sorts of other superficial differences.  Two are given standing up and two sitting down.  Two are women, two are men.  Two are holding notes in their hand, two are not.  Two arrived relatively confident, two nervous and shy.

And yet, ultimately, writing and delivering a great speech isn’t rocket science.  It always comes back to the two same challenges:

1) Can you make it relevant to your audience?

2) Is it clear what you are saying and why you are saying it?


The best man in these clips starts quietly, staring at his notes.  So does the eulogy which comes across as a series of facts, lacking emotion.  In both cases, the original script doesn’t make an emotional connection.  And it’s exactly the same with the business speeches.  The HR professional rushes through a list presented as a lexicon of HR jargon.  She’s rushing because (as she admits) she’s embarrassed by how dull it all sounds.

The lesson is simple but often ignored.  A speech is only worth delivering if it is built around the needs of the audience.  What do they already know?  What will inspire them?  What will they find amusing?  What do you want them to remember?  These questions remain relevant whether you are opening a conference or standing to speak after a boozy dinner.

Relevance also means avoiding some of the typical public speaking sins.  Like ‘listing’ facts and reams of thank yous.  And over-using the word ‘I’.  And acronyms.

In the ‘after’ clips, each of the speeches becomes instantly more relevant.  The eulogy taps into an emotional link with the audience.  The HR professional reminds her colleagues what they have to gain from her subject.  A more relevant script makes them both more confident in their delivery.  The improved eye contact, body language and pace are all made easy by the belief that their audience might now be interested in what they are going to say.


Even relevance is of limited benefit without clarity.  Not just clarity of writing and delivery, but also of thinking.  Clarity means prioritising your messages so that your audience understands what matters most.  It means focusing less on what happens on more on why.  It means brevity – ensuring your key points are not suffocated.

The advertising director creates clarity by reminding his client of the brief and contextualising what follows.  The best man demonstrates balance – he is going to praise his friend before having a joke at his expense.

Meanwhile, the style shifts in all four cases to create clarity.  Long sentences are replaced by shorter punchier soundbites.  These enable all four speakers to pause for longer.  The pausing allows time for eye contact and, where a appropriate, a smile or two.  It also facilitates emphasis.  We all push certain words harder when we are speaking naturally and then fall into monotone when nervous in front of a crowd.  The best man starts his second clip enthusiastically: “Good AFTERnoon everyone!”  It’s clear that we’re about to have some fun. Clarity of writing, creates clear delivery.  Which increases the likelihood that your audience will actually listen.

This is not a definitive list to propel every speech to the moon.  But it’s a start.  The four speakers were trained for up to 90 minutes.  Each could, by their own admission, improve their presentation much further.  But the key conclusion to this piece is that the techniques that can rescue a best man from embarrassment are no different to those helping the HR director communicate her message to her team.  A eulogy can be improved in similar ways to the advertising pitch.  Great speeches don’t start with facts and figures.  They start with an audience.  Working backwards from that point is the key to almost everything.  It creates relevance, allowing clarity to unlock the door to understanding.

We would be happy to discuss your coaching needs whether it is for a social speech or business presentation.  Call us on 0207 118 1600.

Speech and presentation delivery coaching

Three crucial lessons about presenting in 1 minute 53 seconds!

How do you turn a detailed corporate message into something interesting?
How do you avoid your colleagues yawning their way through your big presenting moment?
How do you communicate with impact?

This video clip is less than two minutes long, but it contains many of the answers.

It shows the start of two presentations. The first was recorded before we spent some time coaching the speaker, the second afterwards.


This is a crucial question, but one that she hadn’t addressed fully in advance of her first attempt. And it shows. She knew the ‘evidence’ required to support her case, but hadn’t spent any time preparing a case. And so the presentation became rushed, full of detail, and delivered without a great deal of confidence.

Having discussed this at the start of her session with us, it became clear that the details were not particularly important. The key was to introduce a new way of doing things within the business. Suddenly there was a goal – which enabled her to speak with clarity and relevance.

Lesson One: Don’t start speaking until you know what you want to achieve.


In the ‘before’ video, we see that she has gone big on detail at the expense of structure. She senses this is wrong by starting with an apology – not recommended! She then states that “I want to talk about …” which isn’t terribly audience friendly, before explaining that there is lots to get through. No wonder she ends the clip by admitting “I bored myself with my own content!”

‘After’ is a completely different story. She now has a clear purpose. This allows her to start with a benefit rather than a series of features. Her content is suddenly so focused on her audience that she is able to look at them and joke that this really should be fun. We are hooked by this stage and remain so because she continues to focus on people rather than processes.

Lesson two: Prioritise your audience and the key message you want them to remember. Then use the facts as evidence in your argument.


It is next to impossible to deliver a bad script well – certainly after the first 30 seconds. Your audience will quickly see through you. Better content lends itself to calmer, more confident delivery. Our speaker in this video is still using notes – and she makes no secret about checking them. But that doesn’t matter. Her thoughts are now ordered, her message is clear and she instantly comes across with more authority. She uses a few simple techniques to improve her delivery:

1) Speaking slower gives her time to think. It gives us time to react to what she is saying. She’s giving a monologue, but in a much more conversational way.

2) She pauses regularly. This ‘white space’ creates impact. It provides her with a chance to check her notes. And it leaves us wanting to hear more.

3) She emphasises key words. This makes her sound much more engaged and convincing. This time she seems to believe in herself.

4) She smiles. Amazing what a difference that makes! And she looks at us. She uses her fingers to count to three – which is fine – but body language is about much more than using your hands. It’s about connecting with your audience and letting your expressions reflect the mood you are trying to create.

Lesson three: never forget that there is a seamless link between well thought-out content and impressive delivery

If you would like help writing or delivering a speech or presentation, please give us a call. This piece covers the basics, but we specialise in taking communication to a completely new level.

Why was Hilary Benn’s speech so impressive?

Ten hours of debate. Over a hundred speeches. The Prime Minister, leader of the opposition and Foreign Secretary made notable contributions. And yet overwhelming consensus is that Hilary Benn topped them all.

Watch the speech on the Guardian website

Whether it was actually the ‘greatest’ parliamentary speech is questionable (24 hour news lends itself to hyperbole), but it was certainly great. Why?

As regular readers of this blog will be well aware, a speech has two component parts: it’s content and delivery. One without the other either leaves the audience feeling uninspired or cheated. Benn’s had both.


– It started well. He understood that it was vital to set out his high level position with respect to his politics and his party. Thirty seconds into his speech we knew how he would vote, and also how he felt about his Leader and the Prime Minister. Too many speakers take too long to prioritise their message. He set the scene perfectly for what followed.

– He explained complex topics in simple ways. This didn’t patronise, but it ensured that it was easy to follow his points. Detail was used, but only to illustrate a broader point. Therefore, it clarified rather than befuddled. A good example was his forensic explanation of the legal position for air strikes that backed-up a broader, more emotive argument.

– He was rhetorical but never dogmatic. He agreed with his opponents before taking a different line (think Mark Anthony not coming to praise Caesar). As a result, he was able to persuade those who might have been put off by a more one-eyed argument.

– He mastered the difficult balance between objectivity and passion. He clearly believed strongly in defending national interests against a terrorist threat, and in joining in the fight against a common enemy. Yet he balanced his own argument by explaining that air strikes would not win the war.

– He used vivid imagery to paint pictures with his words. The ‘fictional border’ between Iraq and Syria described perfectly in two words the different perception of national boundaries as perceived in the West and on the ground.

– The comparison between Daesh, Franco and Nazism allowed him to draw together all his arguments into a compelling conclusion. It is a comparison that beautifully concluded a well balanced narrative and that enabled him to end with an emotional plea. Doing this by addressing his own party was relevant and clear (the two keys to great public speaking) whilst adding a little spice by straying ever so slightly from Parliamentary convention.


– He demonstrated that it is possible to read from a script and still appear emotive and focused on one’s audience. His pace was perfect, allowing him to glance down at the next passage before delivering key phrases into the eyes of his audience.

– His body language was strong, emphasising his key points with his right hand, whilst never going over-the-top.

– He managed to sound passionate but calm – not as easy as it sounds! One technique that enabled him to carry this off was to speak in waves – a louder, intense sentence or two, followed by a softer, more detached phrase. Listen to his listing of Daesh atrocities – assertive and hard-hitting – was in stark contrast to the calmer, measured tone that followed immediately after. (Boris Johnston on form is a great exponent of this art).

– He managed to look entirely at ease, despite standing directly in front of the party leader with whom he was disagreeing. Nor, at any stage, did he appear aggressive.


In short, this was a speech that was very much more than the sum of its parts., and it’s mostly a question of balance. Passionate and yet calm; rhetorical and yet thoughtful; detailed and yet clear; full of style AND substance. All delivered in front of a packed house, live on television, and in direct opposition to his own boss. A great speech.

Election 2015 – when the best political speeches came too late

From a political speech writing perspective, this was an election to forget. The campaign lasted for weeks, and yet there were few really memorable speeches.

For the most part, the key players confirmed to their own stereotypes. And that, in a nutshell, was why the election campaign was so unremarkable.

Ed Milliband improved a little from a technical perspective. Nick Clegg did the right things, but people stopped listening some time ago. David Cameron gave us just what we expected.

The common denominator was a lack of empathy.   Language (often including the repeated use of the presidential first person) was generally uninspiring and unoriginal.   Phrases that mean little were repeated ad infinitum (“hard working families” in particular).

There were two possible causes of this mediocrity.

The first was that these leaders are just unable to express themselves with genuine insight, passion and magic. The second was that they had the personalities to do so, but were managed by spin doctors who strangled any spontaneity out of them.

As the results poured in, it was easy to assume the first.   But, during the course of Friday, we heard the concession speeches. And, as if by magic, real people emerged.

Ed Milliband touched a cord with his admission of failure, his re-iteration of his convictions, his sympathy for the fallen and his humble vote of thanks to his party: “Thank you for the privilege. I joined this party aged 17. I never dreamed I would lead it.”

Nick Clegg, who we have a lot of time for as a speaker (we are politically neutral!), was equally open, heartfelt and humble.   “It’s simply heart-breaking to see so many friends and colleagues who have served their constituents over so many years abruptly lose their seats because of forces entirely beyond their control.”

Even Ed Balls, a man not typically described with touchy-feely adjectives, was self-effacing, magnanimous and engaging.

And so, in their moment of weakness, each of these men felt able to open up and to be themselves. Each had his own Andy Murray moment, where losing enabled them to become more likeable.

The 323 seat question, is what would have happened had they spoken in this personal way earlier and more often.

Politics is a tough business. Every slip-up is videoed, documented and lampooned. The culture of the Chamber is confrontational.   Campaigns are increasingly fought on the basis of constituency mathematics. Emotion is seen as a liability. And so our politicians erect a shield around themselves. The result is public speaking homogeneity.

And so we began to see genuine people emerge only when it was too late. Which is a shame. Ed is clearly a decent, emotional bloke after all. Nick may have made a mistake four years ago, but he really cares.

Undoubtedly, a similar cycle will emerge during the next five years. Our politicians will exchange snipes and soundbites and refuse to reveal their ‘real’ selves. Yet approximately a third of registered voters stayed away from the polls, reflecting a weariness with politics and the political class. How and why will that change?

When we work with high profile speakers, our aim is always to help get their own voice out there. To ensure that whatever the subject, their insights are personal and relevant.

Perhaps these are lessons to be learned. It seems a shame to wait until after the votes have been cast to reveal the more engaging character hiding beneath the party line.

Political Speeches – David Cameron’s Manifesto Speech

Once again, we start with our usual disclaimer: we love politics, but we are non-political. We work with politicians from different parties throughout the world, so this is piece is about the speech, not the politics.

As Ed Miliband showed in his manifesto launch the previous day, there can be an advantage in low expectations. While the leader of the opposition needed to prove his critics wrong (a strong rhetorical position) David Cameron could only confirm that the presidential style comes naturally to him. Still, the craft of this speech is right up there with the best of his time as leader, and as usual the language reveals a lot about the man.

Body Language

  • Relaxation: we noted in an earlier post how Miliband used the podium to seem relaxed, leaning on it in the same way that Cameron tends to do at the dispatch box. In contrast, Cameron was much more upright during his speech, which puts the emphasis on authority rather than relaxation, illustrating that this manifesto speech is a time to get serious.
  • Hands: Cameron uses his hand to reinforce the sense of outrage and indignation, articulating the key points with a repetitive movement. This is most effective when it’s used sparingly.
  • Eyes: while Miliband seemed to be very familiar with his speech, Cameron’s delivery is more spontaneous, almost as if he’s encountering it for the first time. It works well for him, reinforcing the sense that government and leadership come naturally to him. Most importantly, he still makes clear eye contact with the camera and with his immediate audience.

Delivery and Structure

By now we are all fairly familiar with Cameron’s ability to deliver a speech. Where this one gains points is in the choice of words. Politicians always choose their words carefully (which is why we so rarely hear them being truly candid) and this speech is a great example of why.

  • Personal: in the most effective section, he moves deftly from the political to the personal. The way he repeats ‘for me…’ makes the sentiment seem more intimate and unplanned, almost as if he’s confiding in the audience. It reminds the audience that the prime minister is a person as well as a job, and simultaneously drives home his experience in the role.


  • Security: this is the great buzzword for the Tory campaign, so both the verb and the noun are deployed at every opportunity.
  • ‘The brink’: intriguingly, this is a word with negative connotations (‘OED: The edge, margin, or border of a steep place, such as one might fall over, e.g. the ‘brink’ of a precipice, chasm, pit, ditch, grave’), but Cameron uses it repeatedly to describe being on the brink of something positive. It’s subtle, as the sentiment appeals to the audience’s optimism, while the word discreetly reminds the audience of the danger of the opposite.
  • ‘And yes’: this is one of Cameron’s favourite ways of introducing a point. The combination of the conjunction and the affirmation makes the audience want to nod even before they’ve heard the point. It’s even more effective because he tends to use it when addressing a point of contention.
  • Compound adjectives: when mocking the Labour party, the list of insults mostly combine a noun and a past participle (‘debt-addicted’, ‘welfare-dependent’ ). The twin structure gives more force to the attack, and it’s no surprise that the one major theme for the Tory alternative appears in exactly the same structure: ‘property-owning’.
  • Contrast: like most of the speeches in this campaign, the key objective is to emphasise the difference between the two leaders, so Cameron is constantly using antithesis to balance ‘strong leadership’ against ‘weakness’, and ‘competence’ against ‘chaos’. We also get regular reminders that it’s ‘my cabinet table’ and ‘my team’ – the voice of secure, experienced leadership.
  • Britain: Cameron likes to personify Britain with a female pronoun, ‘back on her feet’, which seems to be aiming at unity as well as fuzzy patriotism.

Weak Points

Although this was an undeniably competent performance, there was room for improvement. Mostly, this comes down to Cameron’s script rather than his delivery.

  • Predictable: in length, structure, themes and language, this speech could have been written in advance by anyone who has heard a Cameron speech before. Would he have achieved more of an impact if he had tried to confound expectations, like his opponent?
  • Low ambition: despite his considerable skill as a speaker, Cameron always remains in his comfort zone of shrewd pragmatism and firm language. His speeches have none of the rhetorical daring or poetry that we tend to see across the Atlantic. He campaigns in prose and he governs in prose.

David Cameron: Overall

A clever but safe manifesto launch. Considering the attention the Miliband speech gained for confounding expectations, perhaps it would have been more effective for Cameron to take a risk?

Political Speeches – Ed Miliband’s Manifesto Speech

First, our usual reminder that we work with politicians from different parties, nationally and internationally, so this piece is about the craft and delivery of the speech, not the politics.

Because of the steady release of information over the last few weeks, the nominal function of the speech – to introduce the key points in the Labour manifesto – was almost irrelevant. Instead, Miliband used the speech to turn his supposed weaknesses into strengths. Many journalists and analysts gave his performance a positive review, particularly when comparing the feel of the speech to that of his most recent party conference speech. So how was this achieved?

Body Language

If you watched both the conference speech and the manifesto speech on mute, then you would notice a few immediate differences.

  • Podium: while the conference amble created the intimacy of a discussion, the podium suggests a more defiant presentation of ideas. Miliband leans on the podium in the same way that Cameron uses the dispatch box, which has the effect of making him seem both at ease and in charge.
  • Hands: he articulates the key points with his hands, but doesn’t over-do it as he did in the seven-way debate. In his conference speeches, he tends to place the tips of his fingers together at chest height, looking less like a politician and more like a monk.


This is Miliband’s most confident delivery of a speech so far. When we train people to speak in public, one of the key areas we focus on is how to convey confidence, and this speech is a good example of many of the tricks.

  • Tone: he exaggerates each tone very slightly, so the anger is more indignant, the mockery more caustic (‘Calamity Clegg’ makes a Miliband-Clegg coalition seem even less likely than it did before) and the defiance more certain. This also leads the audience – tone controls the emotional nuances of the speech, meaning you can tell when applause is coming.
  • Contrast: the changes of tone are more pronounced than they were in the conference speech, which in turn makes the structure more effective.
  • Sentence length: the sentences are much more punchy, which helps him to make the Labour plan seem simple and direct whilst making the whole speech easier to follow.
  • Eyes: after a lot of criticism following the debate, this was a much better example of how to single out individual people in the crowd to make the whole audience feel as if we were being addressed directly.


This was perhaps the strongest element of this speech. Getting the right structure in place is often the foundation for a great speech, and the framework put in place by Miliband’s team made a big difference.

  • Length: at 24 minutes it’s relatively short – certainly when compared to his conference speech. But could it have been even more effective if it had been cut again by half?
  • Sections: the introduction and list of key policies are fairly standard, but the speech really comes into its own when Miliband returns to his three Labour predecessors. Then there’s a clever switch to his own period in opposition (‘I have been tested’), which leads neatly into a closing vow.
  • There is a careful balance of the positive (proposed policies) and the negative (policies to repeal).


While the overall tone is confident, the rhetoric to deliver this is remarkably understated.

  • Questions: it’s very easy to use too many questions in a political speech, so it’s worth noting that the main questions come half way through this speech, and all address the reasons why Miliband might be stronger than Cameron in Downing Street.
  • Repetition: it’s significant that one of his only repetitions is ‘I am ready. Ready to put an end […] Ready to put into practice […]’ (this is light rhetoric; anaphora in its most simple form).
  • Balance: in a reversal from his conference speech, the key balance in the manifesto launch is between the fiscal prudence of Labour and the reckless promises of the Conservative party. This is a bold move which looks to revers the usual perceptions of the two parties.
  • Audience: ‘you, your family and our country’ is an effective way of asserting patriotism while putting the emphasis on the domestic realm. Note that the speech is clearly aimed at voters with children, rather than pensioners or young people.

Weak Points

All told, this was a strong speech. But there were still areas for improvement.

  • Clichés: Politicians often reach for the “every man” feel, but the phrases they go for to do this often don’t hit home. The lines about “the rich [having] the broadest shoulders” and the current government writing “an IOU to the NHS” therefore miss the mark.
  • Common address: Miliband still refers to his audience as ‘friends’, which is slightly too cosy and therefore feels insincere.
  • ‘Better’: Although this refers back to his recurrent phrase from the conference speech, ‘better’ is not a fantastic word for a party slogan, and not nearly as strong as the Tory use of ‘secure’.

Ed Miliband: Overall

This was a great example of how to confound expectations. A weak conference speech was turned into an advantage, and with a few tricks of the trade (and a great structure to build from) Miliband has put in his best performance to date.

#FeelNoShame Prince Harry launches campaign

Why does Prince Harry fear speaking in public?

A five minute interview from the Afternoon Show with Dan Walker and Sarah Brett marked Prince Harry’s launch of the #FeelNoShame campaign. Celebrities admit their secrets in support of children in Lesotho who feel too ashamed to tell anyone they have HIV, this World AIDS Day is a day that no one feels any shame about their secrets.

The interview covers the Prince, his phobia, other famous people with similar fears. Included are tips for getting it right and examples of great speakers in the world today.

Tweet your secret to #FeelNoShame


Twelve Tips for TED Talks


I spent Monday at ‘TEDex’ in Brussels.  It was held in a theatre holding over 2,000.  Talk followed talk.  Paddy Ashdown discussed democracy.  Jonathan Rowland discussed the consequences of nearly dying.  Some inspired, others educated, a few may still be wondering what they were trying to do.

I had written TED talks before, but never sat in the auditorium and listened.  It’s a very different experience from watching them on You Tube.  And it was clear from the very start that the ingredients for a great TED talk don’t really differ from those for any other kind of talk.

My scribbled notes became increasingly repetitive, and it was pretty easy on the train home to break them down into twelve very simple tips for preparing and delivering your own talk.


  • Start with the words ‘What I’d like to talk about’. Use hooks, quotes, questions, odd facts; but never that line. It immediately gives the impression that you are not thinking about your audience, which is a real turn-off.
  • Ask a question without waiting for an answer. Asking it and then hurrying on, without a glance or a pause just sounds what it is – that you paying lip service to the idea of asking something without paying any attention to the answer.
  • Repeat what you’ve written on a slide. Ever. You might as well stand silently and let the audience read it for themselves. Slides should illustrate your point or offer a punchline. Not a repetition.
  • Talk with your hands in your pockets. Or sway. Walking around the stage is fine. Standing still is fine. Moving your arms is to be positively encouraged. But swaying just makes your audience feel seasick.
  • Assume that you’ll come in on time. Speaking in front of a huge clock ticking-down in your line of sight is intimidating. It’s a lot worse when it has ticked down to 4:00 and you’re only half way through. You should have rehearsed your timings to the second and left some time for audience reaction. That’s approximately 120 words per minute and no more.


  • Introduce your theme early on. Hook your audience in, but then explain what’s going to be in it for them if they keep listening. Holding your core message back for minute 16 is difficult to carry off.
  • Use an autocue. Holding a sheaf of paper is preferable to forgetting your lines, but an autocue enables you to look like you’re speaking from the heart rather than the script
  • Believe in what you are doing and do it with conviction”. That’s a quote from a speaker’s story, but its equally true of anyone’s approach to public speaking. If you believe it, you will deliver it with more passion and conviction.
  • Begin well. One speaker started by taking us to a bed where he was dying. He then made a joke about things being even worse than that. He was dying next to a girl he shouldn’t have been with. You could sense the audience’s uncertainty about a suitable reaction. But they were hooked from that point on.
  • Be self-deprecating.
  • Ensure that your speech ends with a clear, memorable message rather than a list of interesting points. That message should always link back to the theme you introduced at the start. Tomorrow morning, the audience will never recall the list, but they might just talk about that single message.

David Cameron in Birmingham. A good speech.

This is solely an analysis of the conference speech made by David Cameron. And, in a nutshell, it was presidential. I should begin, as previously, with a health and safety warning. This isn’t political analysis. I write without baggage.

His context is a fast-changing political scene. His weakness is a party appearing not to be ‘in it together’. His strength is to be considered more prime-ministerial than any rival.

And his speech did two very simple things:

He stressed the Tory ability to be inclusive, and he spoke like a leader.

David Cameron: Being Prime Ministerial

This was demonstrated in a number of ways. Some subtle. Some less so.
– Starting by gushing that he was proud to be prime minister of four nations
– Best moment of his year was celebrating the anniversary of D-Day
– The Union Jack stands for freedom and justice.
– The warm but jocular references to colleagues (particularly William Hague)
– Standing behind a White-House style lectern. It may not be as flash as striding around the arena with no notes (as he has done successfully in the past), but it looks and feels like a leader who is too busy to learn his speech by heart.
– The venue worked in his favour. An audience banked on three sides. A hall with some history and character. Not so easy to see on the TV, but a great speech can be augmented by a great venue.

As importantly, his speech was built around a vision. We may or may not believe in it, but he stuck to it.


It was based around a vision of people working hard, and being rewarded for it. And his polices were presented as a means to that end.
In the process, he was able to hit a number of important policy areas and details on Labour ground.
These included the minimum wage, zero hours contracts and the lowest rates of tax – all of which were included on the Union agenda at the TUC conference.
Again, not rocket science, but whereas Ed Miliband’s speech was based around ‘Together’ (an approach), Cameron’s was based around a target. From a speech perspective, it creates an end to work towards and that’s a winner.


Finally, the speech worked because it was well structured. It ticked all five of my suggestions to take a speech to the next level. The various parts linked smoothly from one point to the next. Sections were clear – with the exception of foreign policy which was split with EU at the end
Cameron also spoke with conviction …
… with pauses …
… and with PASSION at appropriate moments.
And he finished by reminding us of the key points – with an appropriate level of detail. And a half decent joke about Farage and Miliband.


Politics aside, it wasn’t flawless.
It was too long. By at least 15 minutes.
He started by refusing to mention the opposition by name. This was Prime Ministerial and mature. But as the speech progressed, he jumped into personal attacks on Ed Balls, Ed Miliband and Tristram Hunt. He was clearly targeting the audience within the room, but the speech suddenly became more parochial.
The references to 140 characters on Twitter and Channel 4 property shows sounded contrived.

In short, my immediate reaction contains nothing new. David Cameron is a polished and powerful public speaker. This was a well-written, well-constructed and well-delivered speech. But it won’t win an election on its own.

Ed. How to write a great speech. Together.


Dear Ed,

I sat in the auditorium today to listen to you. I’m politically neutral, so I wasn’t there to cheer or snipe. But I was able to be objective.

You have had a lot of stick. Much of it is unfair. You are clearly hugely intelligent and thoughtful. It’s clear that you are desperate to succeed. It’s also clear that you have been coached. A lot.

But despite all the advice, the help and the analysis, you aren’t quite hitting the sweet spot. On the podium, you may never be Nye Bevan, or even Neil Kinnock, but there are a few very simple principles of speech writing that could take you to a different level.

They are principles we use every day here, and they work. I promise.

1. BE STRATEGIC. What do you want your audience to remember tomorrow? What’s the one key message? Start from there and work backwards. I’m not sure if it’s ‘together’, the ten year vision, the 6 policy points or the fact that you chat to a lot of strangers in public places and remember their names. If you want your speech to be remembered, work out which is the key message. Use it as a theme. Lead with it, and use the rest of your points as evidence to tie the argument together.

2. BE ORIGINAL. Using an individual’s story to make your point is a simple rhetorical tool. It can be powerful. But it has been done to death. I’m still recovering from David Cameron claiming to have met a black man in Plymouth in 2010. Using the same trick again and again in the same speech is not inspiring. Or original.

3 BE CONSISTENT. It wasn’t long ago that you were preaching the ‘One Nation’ of Disraeli. If there is a natural link from there to ‘together’ then make it. Show that you are not conjuring-up new buzzwords for the sake of it. You looked ten years forward, but we need to know that you are not abandoning your last’ vision’.

4. BE POSITIVE. Audiences respond to constructive thinking. You were quite right that there’s cynicism about parliamentary politics. That hit a nerve. So did your comments about PMQs. But you followed-up with a series of PMQ-style one-liners about Cameron, Clegg et al. If you are going to rise above Punch and Judy politics then it’s vital you practise what you preach.

5 BE STRUCTURED. Your foreign policy points included an endorsement of the bombing of ISIL, a plea for a two state solution in Israel / Palestine, a Euro-love-in, a rousing mention of our military and a desire to export our LBGT achievements around the world. All very admirable. But not so easy for your audience to follow when they popped-up at five different places within your speech.

6. BE BRIEF. This is the age of instant communication. Attention spans are short. Obama was speaking at 3pm. 65 minutes was much too long. There was too much repetition. You could have doubled the impact by saying the same amount in half the time.

7. BE BELIEVABLE. You obviously care. But the constant repetition of key phrases, the forced body language (pointing in ‘man of the people’ style at a ‘friend’and glancing furtively at your wife when referring to loved ones etc) just looked contrived. It’s hard to be natural when your natural style has attracted so much stick, but you now look almost robotic – the hand gestures of Blair mixed with the affected dropping of consonants of Osborne. It’s hard under pressure – but you need to relax.

I repeat that I’m not here to criticise your policies. But your speeches could be SO much better. Give us a vision. Great. Then tell us how you’ll achieve it. Explain how this philosophy will work – economically, socially and politically. Sprinkle in some magic – original magic. Then finish. Shorter, sharper, clearer.

Hope that helps, Lawrence

PS. USE YOUR NOTES. We’re always being asked whether it’s worth learning a speech by heart. And unless it’s very short, or unless you are VERY good, we always suggest you keep something for reference. It’s great looking like you’re making it up on the spot. I’ve heard a groom forget his Mum on his wedding day – something he still rues. He’d left his notes in his jacket pocket. Immigration and the deficit were your very own Mother-of-the-Groom moments. All for trying to look like you were ad libbing.

How to take your speech to the next level: 5 tips

Writing a speech is easy. Writing a great speech is a little trickier.  But it isn’t rocket science. So often, speeches fail to reach their potential because five very simple points have been overlooked.  These five points sit at the heart of everything we do at Great Speech Writing, whether it’s for a President, an MP, a CEO, or even the best man at a wedding.  They all refer to the speech writing process (rather than delivery) but if you can cover them all, delivery will instantly become that much more powerful and convincing.

1. Think about your audience, not your subject

We all know too much about what we do and things we are passionate about.  Given the opportunity we can just keep talking about them.  Which is fine if we happen to be chatting to someone who genuinely cares.  Unfortunately, most speeches are given to groups whose levels of interest and enthusiasm are not guaranteed.

So we start not by asking what the speaker wants to say, but what the audience will want to hear.  Do they want a high-level strategic view or a series of details?  Do they want to be motivated or reassured?  Do they know much about the subject already or are they starting from scratch?  Is it appropriate to try to make them laugh?

If, as is typically the case, there are different groups with different profiles in the room, what are their common interests?  How can we appeal to some without patronising others? When push comes to shove, who matters most?

The answers aren’t always straightforward, but by starting with the audience rather than the subject matter, you are on the road to becoming relevant.  And that’s they key to great speechwriting.

2. Work backwards – what do you want them to remember?

So once we know our audience (inside and, potentially, outside the room) we’re thinking the right way.  And it means we are ready for step two.  Which is deciding what we want them to remember.

I’ve asked hundreds of clients what they want the typical member of their audience to wake-up remembering the next day.  Their first answer is usually “all of it” or “all my main points”.

Sadly, this is about as likely as remembering all the ingredients on the back of a crisp packet.  We spend our lives listening, reading and absorbing.  And our brains have a remarkably effective way of filtering out the vast majority.  Take something you truly love: watching a football match; reading a novel; listening to the Archers.  Then try to recall each minute or page.  It’s just not possible.  But you will remember a few key details and a very high-level summary (we played well and won; Heathcliff isn’t such a bad guy after all; the pub burned down but no-one was killed).

Your speech is no different.  Your audience won’t possible remember it all.  You will have succeeded if they remember one key message to take home and wake-up with tomorrow.  It could be ‘this business is going places’ or ‘that lawnmower doesn’t need petrol OR a wire’ or ‘they really ARE going to cut my basic rate of tax’.  Once you know what you want it to be, you then start to plot your speech backwards from that point.

3. Think structure, not detail

I ended the last point by referring to ‘plotting’ your speech rather than ‘writing’ it. This is also fundamental. Too many speech writers decide on the theme and start typing, often when time is tight. That’s not the best route to a punchy, seamless speech.

The interim stage that is so often ignored, involves creating a structure. It’s simple. Your speech will, in effect, be an argument. For something. All that matters is that it leads to your key memorable message, and that you get there in an engaging, relevant way. Your speech structure is an essay plan or, perhaps, 8-10 stages to help you get there.

So, having put the key message at the top of your page, I’d then suggest writing those key headings, and playing around with their order to maximise their impact and the flow from one to the next. Once you’ve got it right, the speech should make sense just by reading down the sub-headings. Ultimately, you may only need to use them (rather than the full script) when delivering the speech. Which isn’t to say that you shouldn’t fill in the gaps between them. That comes next.

At this stage, if your key message is “Cycling is good for you, buy a bike”, your sub-headings could read:

a) The hook – someone is killed by a bike every day. So it may surprise you that the life expectancy of a cyclist is six years longer than average

b) Stats – not many cyclists are involved in accidents

c) The keys to longevity – regular exercise, non-impact bearing, aerobic

d) How cycling ticks all the boxes

e) Why other forms of exercise don’t

f) Why the right bike matters

g) How we’ve created the right bike

h) And you can buy it at a discount this week!

You’ll notice, that the summary doesn’t, at any stage, include the addresses of our global offices, the number of our staff, or the contact details of 23 salespeople.

4. Only use ‘evidence’ that supports your argument

This is all about relevance (again). With a plan in place, you can now decide what detail to include (and despite my constant reminder to keep a speech ‘high level’ you can’t avoid the nitty gritty altogether). The key is that you ONLY select ‘evidence’ that supports the key argument. And that you never forget that the audience won’t remember it all – they just need to be convinced that your key message is validated. This often means that of that 20 pages of notes you may have on the subject, you’ll just pick a page or two of additional detail. You can save the rest for next time!

5. Write for the SPOKEN word

This process should leave all the right bits in the right place on your page. But it isn’t a speech. This is when to remember that you are writing for the spoken word.

That means writing in a very different way to an email, article or memo.

For a start …

… it means including pauses …

… to slow you down …

… making it easier to deliver …

… which will enable your audience to follow you.

You can then highlight the words that require particular emphasis …

… to bring the speech to life …

… and to stop you sounding monotone.

When a speech is written this way …

… it can have an incredible impact on delivery.
Read at the right pace, you should speak around 120 words per minute. So your 15 minute timeslot at a conference shouldn’t push past 1750 words.

So those are five very simple tips. I can only stress that we use them every day. There is a sixth though. Which is to sprinkle a little speech writing magic to take it to entirely new level. But I’m afraid you have to pay for that one!

For more tips please just drop us your email address; it doesn’t cost anything to chat to a speech writer so please give us a call or drop us a line to discuss your next speech or presentation.

A testimonial with tips


Ben Scanlan works for Network Rail. We’ve spent time together on his corporate messaging and presentations. He kindly sent through these thoughts. They include some useful tips that Ben is happy to share. Here they are:

“So over the past three months I’ve been using Lawrence once every couple of weeks for an afternoon at a time. Here’s what I’ve learnt.

He’s incredibly candid. Somehow he manages to marry that with an understated manner through his humbleness which means I’ve always felt honoured to have my work torn apart.

So lesson one is be humble.

Starting at the beginning was a recurring theme. This may sound obvious. It’s not. At our first session I presented Lawrence with a board pack that I was working on, with the intention that we improve it. First question off his lips? ‘What’s the key message?’

I laughed. I didn’t have an answer. I knew the sections of the presentation. I knew the charts. I knew the different things I was supposed to be highlighting. Despite, or possibly because of, all this, I didn’t know the key message. And this is the fundamental principle from which all else falls. When I eventually figured out what the key message was, trying to layer the presentation presented the next fundamental challenge. Trying to go from big picture to detail in a controlled way like an inverted pyramid.

As I write that now, it sounds so simple, and it did when Lawrence first explained it to me. Except that it requires a discipline that I’ve not had before. Nor have I been expected to have. He calls it an upside down key-hole. You have your big message and then gradually become more concise as the presentation goes on. This way means that there is a logical flow, which makes things easier for the audience. And making things easier for the audience frees up their mental capacity to run with ideas and be inspired.

Too often I was bringing ideas in from all angles, and that was limiting what the audience could reasonably be expected to do.  

Finally, trying to be the audience was a key consideration. I had the problem that my brief was to cater to all 16 members of a panel and their individual desires. Some wanted detailed pre-read to pore over while others didn’t prepare and wanted to be presented to. Through discussion it was clear this was a hindrance to getting a core message as I couldn’t put myself in the audience’s shoes; they were too varied. So I had to go back and really nail down my brief. A secure brief lends itself to a good presentation, as the key message can be seen.

There’s a significant culture change that needs to happen in my organisation for all of these points to be taken on board and not railroaded by the paradigm that exists. However, to really bring about that sort of change, there’s a certain responsibility on those of us not at the top to really shape the paradigm and not just go along with it.

Working with Lawrence has been a huge eye opener; the lessons are startling in their simplicity. While our work has been primarily on presentations, its applications have altered the way I do business. Emails, briefing notes, conversations, even the way I structure my thoughts. I’ve found it rippling into my personal life as well.”

Speech nerves? Luckily, you’re not George


Preparing a speech for a business event or a forthcoming wedding?

Worried about standing up in front of an expectant audience?  Scared of a heckle or a nasty quip?

It’s at times like this we need to draw breath and create some perspective.

Let’s just feel relieved that we’re not George Osborne delivering a speech of the magnitude of the budget.  Or, even worse, Ed Miliband, having to reply without any time to prepare, and with huge swathes of the country already sniggering about your public speaking ability.

Heaven forbid.

Even now, twitter feeds abound with the news that health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, could hardly keep his eyes open whilst waiting for the more exciting bits.  And it wasn’t even a dull budget.  As for the reaction to the Leader of the Opposition’s speech, boredom would have been preferable to much of the criticism he received.

Now, imagine that was the reaction to your best man speech!

The very good news is that your speech making abilities will never be subject to the intense scrutiny that George Osborne is experiencing this week.

That’s worth remembering.

The other thing worth remembering by anyone delivering a social or business speech – is that your audience wants you to be a success.  We may see a lot of parliamentary speeches, but parliamentarians are not a typical audience.  Heckling is effectively part of their job description!

Understanding that is a key part of delivering any successful speech. Most audiences (unless you find yourself being interviewed by the serious fraud office) are onside and willing the speech maker to be as poignant, moving and entertaining as they can be.

It’s very rare to be up in front of an entirely hostile audience (although Mr Osborne’s experience at the Olympic Games is another exception to the rule!).

In a setting where the audience is made up of colleagues, friends or family, gathered for an event or celebration: for the speaker about to make their tentative way to the microphone, the crowd will be friendly, sympathetic and supportive. They want you to succeed.

If you remember that, and you have taken the time to prepare a thoughtful, balanced speech, you’ll be in an infinitely stronger position to stand up and start speaking.

And if the thought of a heckle really does turn your knees to jelly, and you don’t really fancy the press listening to your words whilst analysing your haircut, then we have one very important piece of advice:

Don’t go into politics!

How to ruin a great business pitch


I had a meeting with a long-standing client yesterday.

He is a great guy, a formidable presenter, and a very successful professional in the world of finance.  But he arrived at the meeting looking unusually downbeat.  His first words were that: “My confidence is shot“.

He emphasised how he had made a name for himself in the City by bringing pitches and presentations to life using stories, anecdotes and ‘hooks’ far removed from the industry norm.  He was renowned for his ability to paint a picture within which specific and technical products made sense.  My work with him had only ever emphasised that he should keep doing what he was good at as it had stood him in such good stead.

However, he had recently moved jobs to promote a huge new idea in the world of banking.  For the purpose of this article, let’s call it ‘New Money’.

‘New Money’ is complex beyond belief.  But it could transform the world of banking for the better.  It has succeeded elsewhere in the world and is now about to hit Europe.  The biggest danger is that people won’t understand it.  It requires context, clarity and relevance before the inner-workings of the product itself are described.

My client had been called in to his new boss to explain how he planned to pitch the big idea in a series of  upcoming meetings with institutional investors.  And so he set-out the big picture and started to explain the context when the boss cut him short with the words:

“Don’t be ridiculous.  They don’t want a story.  They just need stats and facts.  Go away and create some slides.”

Rarely in my professional life have I heard such bad advice, or, for that matter, such poor man management.  In one sentence, he had undermined the basis of my client’s entire career and the prospects of his succeeding with the ‘New Money’ venture.

I hope our meeting helped to steady the ship, and to remind the client why he is good at what he does.  It also reminded me of the eight key rules of any business presentation on a technical subject:

  1. Define the key message.  Without it your pitch will lack a core meaning and purpose.  It will usually be a benefit.
  2. Create a structure for the presentation that never veers too far from the key message
  3. Try to find a ‘hook’ to draw your audience in.  It needs to be relevant and appropriate, but if it is original it will inspire them to want to know more
  4. Define the next step you want from your audience at the end of the pitch
  5. Write a simple script to show how your argument will progress and how you will draw your audience towards that next step
  6. Highlight those areas where an illustration may help bring your points to life.  They will be your slides
  7. Don’t use slides for anything other than illustrative purposes – slides should not repeat what you are saying
  8. Rehearse it out loud until you know what you are saying so well that you can argue the case without notes

Having been through this process, my client has altered his approach again to focus on his strengths, but with a little more factual evidence than I’d usually recommend.  Importantly though, those ‘facts and stats’ are simply evidence in an argument, rather than the argument itself.  As a result, his pitch is still a story rather than a haphazard list of details.

The key for anyone preparing a presentation (or any speech for that matter) is never to forget your audience.  A day after you have spoken they will rarely remember one of your facts.  Which is fine.  Because if they remember the key message – and understand how it will benefit them – then your job as a presenter is done.

The greatest speeches and speakers

The list of speeches is endless, the candidates limitless and the answer completely and utterly subjective.  But we thought we’d give it a go anyway.

This isn’t just a cut-and-paste of every other ‘Best Speeches Ever’ compilation.  It breaks public speaking down into its five key constituent parts, and  picks an example to demonstrate each.  Which means we’re not saying that Neil Kinnock is the world’s greatest public speaker, or that Barack Obama gets by solely on the back of a winning smile.  We’re simply suggesting that if you could combine the strengths of this lot, you’d have the public speaking equivalent of Pele, Don Bradman and Nijinski rolled into one.

The Pause: Mastered by JFK, in Berlin June 26, 1963

JFK masters the pause - Great Speech WritingIn many ways he gets it all wrong.  Gripping the lectern as if he’s worried he might fall-off, swaying from side-to-side, great phrases garbled too quickly.  From that perspective, it’s a study in sea-sickness.   However, he’s rescued by the words themselves and, as demonstrated here, by the power of the pause.  Extraordinarily, he has the confidence to stay silent even when the crowd don’t respond.  It doesn’t take long before they do.  Pausetastic!

Click here: JFK Masters the Pause

Body language: Mastered by David Cameron, Global Investment Conference, 9th May 2013

body language - Great Speech WritingWatch this one with the sound muted and ignore the content (along with your political views).  This is body language at its very best – energetic, great arm movement and eye contact, but in no way over-the-top.  From the moment Cameron leaps onto the stage, he is in control, exuding positive energy and creating impact.  The key to getting people to listen is to get the body language sorted first (they say that 90% of a speaker’s personal impact is created visually).  In this speech, it’s hard to look away.

Click here: David Cameron masters great body language

Facial expressions: Mastered by Barack Obama, White House Correspondent’s Dinner, 2011

expressions - Great Speech WritingWhen he’s on form he’s the contemporary master of public speaking.  This is Obama at his best.  The pauses and comic timing are worthy of a professional entertainer, but focus particularly on his face.  The smile lightens the mood; the frown is quizzical but unthreatening.  The speaker’s job is, in many ways, to use delivery to signpost to the audience how they should react to the words.  To say he nails it would be one of the great understatements. And the jokes aren’t bad either.

Click here: Barack Obama masters the use of facial expressions

The voice: Mastered by Neil Kinnock, Labour Party Conference 2005

emphasis - Great Speech WritingLampooned by Spitting Image, mugged by the English Channel, and forever associated with the infamous “We’re orriitte” in Sheffield, Kinnock may be an odd choice.  But the man remains a fine orator.  This isn’t a long clip, but it demonstrates how the emphasis given to certain parts of a sentence can bring a speech to life.  Listen out for the words “outdated”, “misplaced”, “irrelevant” and “chaos”.  Passionate, heartfelt but not OTT.  Delivery at its finest.

Click here: Neil Kinnock masters emphasis

The content: Mastered by Martin Luther King, August 26th 1963

content - Great Speech WritingNot a controversial choice, but hard to look beyond this.  It passes every test: memorable, significant, powerful, poetic and full of pathos.

Every schoolboy can quote ‘I have a dream’ but when you listen to the speech in its entirety it’s incredible how many other sound bites and phrases you will be aware of.  You’ll also appreciate just how many other speeches have taken elements of this one as a template.  On top of everything, MLK pretty much sings it. The word “Alabama” lingers for ever.  The rhythm is extraordinary.  When he talks about ‘rising’ his voice rises with it.  Simply the best.

Click here: Martin Luther King masters his content (amongst other things)

On the other hand: Not mastered by Robert Mugabe, United Nations 2011

agh - Great Speech WritingFed-up of inspirational, talented, impactful speakers?  Watch this for a bucketful of wet water to dampen your love of public speaking.  Eyes down, voice monotone, hands still.  You’d feel more engaged  listening to him on the radio.  As for the content – it’s irrelevant.  I challenge you to sit this clip through without falling asleep.

Click here: Mugabe fails horribly across the board


There is, of course, an element of self-interest in pulling these together.  We help politicians, business people and private clients around the world write and deliver speeches that are remembered for all the right reasons.  If you enjoyed this, please spread the word.

5 Tips to Quash Business Presentation Nerves


I’ve written elsewhere about how to write original, punchy content for your business presentations. Having great content is often the key to feeling confident about standing up and speaking. But you may still be apprehensive. Here are five tried and trusted tips that form the basis of our one-to-one coaching with nervous presenters. You’ll notice that they don’t include imagining your audience naked. Or visiting the pub on your way to the pitch.

1) Prepare

Preparation is king. There’s an apocryphal story about a successful after dinner speaker explaining how he managed to deliver such well-received speeches time after time. His secret?

“For every minute that I speak, I spend an hour preparing.”

Which means not just finishing your final slide and forgetting all about the delivery until you break out in a cold sweat the night before the presentation. When it comes to winning over your boss, impressing investors, or getting your team on board with your vision, your delivery is just as important as your content.

Practice early, practice often, and don’t become that bane of business meetings across the globe: the person who stands at the front of a room and reads off a series of Powerpoint slides. Your colleagues can read, there’s no need to do it for them! Of course, if you read our article on slide building there won’t be any words on them to read!

Knowing your material well will also go a long way to easing the tension you feel before addressing the room. Don’t be afraid to read a script in full so often that you start to complete your own sentences. Read it slowly, so you can glance at your script and then look up to deliver each line. Rehearse it as you intend to deliver it on the day. Putting on the clothes you’ll be wearing on the day will give you yet another reassuring feeling of familiarity when the time comes.

When you stand up to speak you’ll feel much more relaxed, because you’ll have done it all before!

2) Deep breath, shoulders back

First of all, take a deep breath in. Now hold it.

And exhale.

Don’t you feel better already?

Chances are that if you’re nervous you’re also carrying a lot of tension in your shoulders and neck. Take a minute and consciously push your shoulders down. Not only will you feel more relaxed, but your posture will convey that confidence to your audience.

3) Smile

There’s a very simple trick you can play on your brain to help banish those public speaking nerves. Even though you might feel more like frowning, smile! The mere act of smiling can make you feel happier and more contented, even if you have to force yourself to do it. Think of it as fooling your body into a state of relaxation.

It will also help communicate to your audience that you’re at ease and comfortable with your material. After the famous 1960 presidential debate between Kennedy and Nixon, people who listened on the radio thought that Nixon had given a stronger performance, but viewers who watched the debate on TV favoured Kennedy.

Appearances matter, so smile!

4) Ease into it

There’s no need for you to launch right into your presentation. If you’re worried about your voice playing up when you first open your mouth, clear your throat before starting and have a sip (just a sip!) of water. Taking a moment before you address the room might feel strange, but it shouldn’t look that way. Your audience is likely to take it as a sign that you feel at ease.

If you’re still worried about your voice sounding squeaky when you begin, ask the room if they can hear you at the back. That gives you an easy opening that isn’t the first line of your speech. Once you’ve warmed yourself up in this way, you’re likely to find it much easier to carry on with confidence.

Of course, make sure that you’re presenting to a large enough room before you try this trick. It would be odd to ask your five colleagues squeezed around a tiny table if they can hear you. If the setting is too small, try thanking everybody for coming instead, or asking if anyone has any questions before you begin.

5) Enjoy it!

When giving a business presentation, all eyes are on you. You could look at this as a terrifying prospect, but there is a more positive way to view the situation: you have an opportunity to make the best impression you know how to make, and your audience’s undivided attention while you do it!

If you can show that you’re confident, that you know what you’re talking about, and you know how to communicate an idea, then you’re already doing better than the majority who absolutely dread talking about their business! Your audience is guaranteed to be impressed.

If you still feel like your heart is going to leap out of your throat at the mere prospect of having to talk in a professional environment, then don’t hesitate to get in touch! Whether it’s prepping your delivery or even writing the speech itself, I have years of experience putting speech worries to rest!

If you want bespoke, one-to-one sessions to help improve your delivery on a specific speech, or indeed want a speech written by us, please call any time.


Football Managers and Public Speaking


Politicians must be so jealous of football managers.

Our leaders have to fight for publicity. New policy ideas or funding programmes have to be pushed, leaked and spun relentlessly to gain any significant media coverage.

But if Sir Alex Ferguson suggests a referee is slightly overweight … it instantly becomes headline news! (By the way, Google “Ferguson criticises referee” and you get 342,000 hits!)

Like it or not, football managers are among the most reported public speakers of the modern age. The media (and presumably the football public) hang like seagulls (see below) on their every word. They are the philosopher princes of the 21st century.

Once Plato warned us that “ignorance is the root of all evil”; now Mourinho postulates “no eggs, no omelette…it depends on the quality of the eggs” and his profound words are immediately beamed around the world, analysed by experts and repeated reverentially by Sir Trevor MacDonald on News at Ten.

However, some football managers are extremely effective public speakers. What techniques can we learn from them?

Decoding reality
One key responsibility of those in leadership positions is to explain reality. This is often harder than it sounds and it takes a skilled communicator to do so effectively.

Here is an example. Arsene Wenger is constantly criticised for under-investing in his Arsenal team. The expectation of fans and the media is for high profile transfers and bank-busting player contracts. Wenger resists this and is frequently attacked for being “conservative” and even “tight”. But read his clever reaction to the criticisms: “What is unbelievable is that, I am in a position where people reproach me for making a profit. The people who lose money – nobody says a word. Reproach the people who lose money. I do business by managing in a safe way…in a healthy way, and on top of that you reproach me for making money. It looks like we are in a business where the desired quality is to lose money.” The language is simple and powerful. The logic is impeccable. Put like that, it is hard to argue with Wenger’s approach.

Make complex ideas simple
This is a vital skill for effective public speakers, especially in business contexts. Many football managers are actually excellent at doing the opposite: they make simple ideas complex! Take this example from Brendan Rogers: “I use a quote with the players -“Per aspera ad astra” – which is Latin for ‘through adversity to the stars’.” It is hard to imagine that this had a massive impact in the Liverpool dressing room. But I can imagine Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard exchanging a worried look at that point in Rodgers’ pre-match talk! He could just have easily have said “never, ever give up”.

Contrast Rodgers’ unnecessary complexity with the beautifully simple description of football from his illustrious predecessor Bill Shankly: “Football is a simple game based on the giving and taking of passes, of controlling the ball and of making yourself available to receive a pass. It is terribly simple.” Or Brian Clough, who famously walked into the Nottingham Forest changing room, placed a ball on the table and said: “God gave us grass to play on – go and play on it.” All of the talk, analysis and tactical variations of football boil down to those simple truths, intelligently and clearly expressed.

Use effective imagery
What is the most memorable image used in British football over the last thirty years? Parking the bus? Sick as a parrot? Over the Moon? How about? “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they hope sardines will be thrown into the sea”?

Eric Cantona (not strictly a manager – I know – but indulge me) deserves some credit for this image. He was widely ridiculed for it at the time. But it works and it has stuck. He was criticising the press (the seagulls) for pestering him (the trawler) in the hope of receiving small, morsels of gossip and information (the sardines). Pompous and high blown it might be, but it is vivid, memorable and it just about holds together as an analogy. Using natural imagery like this is a powerful, universally accessible oratorical technique.

Contrast Cantona’s ambitious poetic vision with, say, Kevin Keegan’s notorious and unimaginative mixed metaphor “the tide is very much in our court now”. Which is more likely to stay in your mind? Cantona made his point, actually a fairly profound one about media scrutiny. It was comprehensively reported at the time and has since passed into the common memory. Job done. Smart man.

Be inspirational
Accomplished public speakers have the ability to inspire their audiences: to make them believe in an idea or the possibility of positive change. Pep Guardiola, manager of Bayern Munich, and previously of Barcelona is a master of this. He does not make inflated promises but with simple, loaded language he has the ability to inspire and bring people with him. When appointed as Barcelona manger in 2008, he said simply: “I can’t promise titles but I am convinced that the fans will be proud of us.” Three years later, after unprecedented success as Barcelona manager, Guardiola was awarded a Medal of Honour from the Parliament of Catalonia. His message, delivered in the Parliament itself, was similarly understated, humorous but also pointed, inspirational and politically loaded: “If we get up early and have a think, believe me, we are an unstoppable country. Thank you and Long Live Catalonia“. Odds on Guardiola running for office in Catalonia one day?

Rationalise failure
Sorry to pick on Keegan again. But you must remember the legendary Sky TV interview in 1996. As Newcastle United’s title lead slipped away, Keegan famously lost it. Wearing a pair of enormous headphones, that made him look like a deranged cyberman, and clutching a monstrous microphone, Keegan ranted at the camera finally exclaiming “We’re still fighting for this title, and he’s got to go to Middlesbrough and get something, and…I tell you honestly…I would love it if we beat them…love it.” Brilliant theatre and I suppose, in its own way inspirational for die-hard “Toon” fans, but in reality Keegan’s tirade was counter-productive. He had snapped under pressure, revealed his inner turmoil and damaged his professional reputation irreparably.

It is a responsibility of any leader to contextualise, explain and manage failure. It can be one of the toughest tasks for a public speaker in business, politics or any professional environment. Football managers have to do this regularly (some much more so than others!). The best example I can remember comes from Bill Nicholson, manager of Tottenham Hotspur at the peak of their powers from 1958-74. He once memorably said: “It is better to fail aiming high than to succeed aiming low. And we at Spurs have set our sights very high, so high in fact that even failure will have in it an echo of glory.” What a brilliant way of rationalizing failure, turning the ignominy of defeat into part of a noble aspiration.

So who are the most effective public speakers among the modern managers? If you wanted originality of expression and humour you might go for Ian Holloway. If you wanted wisdom born of experience and some controversial insights, Sir Alex Ferguson is the obvious choice. If you wanted someone to address a business or political audience, perhaps you might pick Wenger or Guardiola. There is a lesson in this. Effective public speaking depends very much on the nature of the audience. Adjust your own style accordingly.

And who is the worst public speaker among modern managers? Of course, it would be invidious of me to name a particular person. So I will adopt the approach that Ron Atkinson used for referees: “I never comment on them…and I’m not breaking the habit of a lifetime for that prat!”

Managing your voice to conquer the nerves

The majority of our blog posts focus on your content and how to structure, write and edit speeches and presentations.

From time-to-time we cover delivery, but rarely from the perspective of a public speaking phobia.

When nerves take over completely then our value as speech writers is limited, and we refer clients to people who deal exclusively with this common issue.

In the past we have asked a hypnotherapist and life coach to share their thoughts about conquering nerves. Today, I’m delighted to add insights from Clare Davidson, who works with clients across the world on managing the WAY they speak to enable them to relax themselves and find a new voice.

Clare suggests that:

“The fear of speaking aloud to a group is a common theme for those hosting an event, whatever the nature of the occasion.

People’s nerves can dominate to the point where their body feels tense, they cannot concentrate on conversations, their mouth becomes dry and their throat contracts. This general discomfort can make their communication less effective. The delivery of their speech will not be clear and can easily become inaudible.

When delivering a speech people can speak too fast, or too slowly, to cope with their nervousness. Their diction and articulation will suffer greatly, and they lose the thought behind the words.

By learning to focus on breathing, tense muscles will relax and a person can quickly regain their poise when in a public situation. The tone of their voice will improve and become an attractive feature reflecting their personality, while exercises practiced to promote vocal dexterity will immediately help articulation. A person can then look forward to approaching public speaking with relaxation and confidence, knowing that their diction will be clear and their voice easily audible for all to hear.”

Please let me know if you would like to speak directly with Clare. I would be delighted to set-up an introduction.


+44 (0)207 118 1600

Weaning yourself off slide addiction

The Addiction
Slides. They are a corporate drug. Prescribed correctly and in small doses they can work miracles. Abused and, at best, they induce narcolepsy. They are also addictive (usually in the lethal PowerPoint form), and over-used by businesses, institutions and presenters across the world.

The Symptoms
Slide addiction has a number of easy-to-spot symptoms. The first is to respond to a request for a ‘presentation’ by instantly opening PowerPoint.

Addicts forget that slides are only a means to an end. They have been asked to ‘present’, not to reveal their PowerPoint prowess. In their desperation to accumulate slides, they forget that their audience is likely to remember almost nothing within them. They forget the power of brevity. Which leads to these secondary symptoms:

  • Pages of text summarising numerous points the speaker is making.
  • Illustrative graphs or tables sitting above five explanatory sentences. (In my view those sentences should be part of the speaker’s script, and the table used to illustrate his or her point).
  • Slides that are packed full of high-tech graphics and detailed information creating the impression of complexity and depth, but with no memorable message to pull them together.

The Cause
1. There’s no point bashing out bullet points and illustrations without a STRATEGY. And an effective presentation strategy requires two things:

Understanding that an audience CAN’T multi-task
Most of us are incapable of doing two things at once. When asked to listen to a speaker and simultaneously read words on a screen behind him or her, the default position is to read the slides as quickly as possible. We lose touch with the speaker, and once that link is broken, it is hard to repair. The damage can be done with as few as ten words on a single slide. More than that and you might as well email your ‘presentation’ through and await responses.

2. Asking one vital question: Why are you presenting in the first place?

As a general rule, you are probably aiming to do one of two things:

Present a MESSAGE: Deliver a core, high-level message that will be powerful and memorable (a new strategy, a sales pitch, a motivational piece etc)


Communicate DETAIL: Exchange large amounts of detail (training, educational programme, compliance updates etc)

Each requires a completely different approach.

The Best Approach

If you are presenting a MESSAGE:

To get the MESSAGE across, slides should only illustrate the points made in a speech. The script setting out the MESSAGE needs to stand alone, captivating the audience through spoken words. Slides can bring it to life through careful use of images, charts and video, but they should not summarise or repeat it. Ideally these slides should include NO WORDS AT ALL.

If you are communicating DETAIL:

To communicate the DETAIL, visual notes and information may be necessary. But the sad truth remains: the moment you have bullet points up on a slide, your audience will start reading and stop listening. And so TIMING becomes everything. You will still need to speak with impact, ensuring that your slideshow contains only images or blank slides while you do so. When you have made a point, or explained a detail, you can then click to reveal it. But you then need to stop speaking and let your audience read it for themselves. Once they have had time to do so, you should either ask if there are any questions before you move on, or simply click to a blank slide to re-focus their attention.

The Prescription
There are some fabulous uses of slides, and many of my clients have travelled the world armed with a simple, helpful and stimulating slide-show. Those presentations have all resulted directly from this strict prescription:

1. Start by deciding on your core message. Write it down.
2. Structure your argument in a way that ensures that message is its focal point.
3. Write your script before you create your slides. That way they will always illustrate your key points rather than repeat them.
4. Aim to have minimal words on the slide (a single image/graph or table is usually ample).
5. Remember that the typical member of your typical audience will only remember the high level subject matter of the presentation and ONE key message the morning after you have spoken. Therefore take every opportunity to keep it light and hone in on that message as regularly as possible.
6. If you have been asked to present or circulate your presentation in advance of the event, then I strongly recommend that you don’t re-present the written document at the event. Instead, summarise it briefly and impactfully, referring back to the longer version, and then open it up to a question and answer session on the details.
7. Don’t be afraid to involve your audience by opening the floor to questions where appropriate.
8. Never forget to be relevant. Irrelevance is a clear sign that you have a slide dependency (or that you have forgotten your audience entirely).

If communicating DETAIL, you need to:

1. Keep text-heavy slides visible ONLY when the presenter is not speaking
2. Use ‘break’ slides enabling the presenter to take control of the room
3. Include plenty of time for questions
4. Use exciting visuals. Even if they convey vital information, slides should still be interesting to look at.

And remember: If a DETAIL presentation has simply become a barrage of detailed, text heavy slides, then the presentation is no longer a presentation. It’s actually a written document on a wall and it should either be read in silence and followed by questions OR the presentation should be cancelled and the document circulated by email.

Health Warning
I hope this helps you on your way to a safe use of slides. But please speak to a professional for advice specific to your audience and objectives. If you are struggling, I’d love to help.

Introducing your business presentation

It is no secret that your audience will judge you during the first minute of your business presentation. If you appear convincing and impactful at the beginning, the audience will listen to you throughout.

It is worth spending as much time on that minute as the next five combined.

Here are three ways to make the perfect start:

–          Surprise them: You don’t need a song and dance routine but any opportunity to break free from the typical corporate opening is to be encouraged. An impactful quote or slide can work well, but make sure it is relevant to your core message.

–          Build up the benefits: Try to focus on the end benefit of your presentation at the start. If you’re selling software then surprise them in minute one by demonstrating concisely and memorably how it will change their businesses and lives for the better.

–          Make it word perfect: Know your introduction off by heart – this is not the time to be glancing at your notes, or wondering what comes next. You have one chance to create an impression and should not appear uncertain or unprepared.

And five things to avoid:

–          Long introductions about yourself and your business: This serves little purpose to an audience who’ve already read your biography in the seminar handout or delegate list.

–          False compliments or sentiments: They don’t need to know how happy you are to be there and how kind they are to take the time to listen to you.

–          Apologies: Unless you are late, never begin with an apology. They don’t want to know you’re nervous, are new to the job, or that you have a sore throat.

–          Complaints: You’re wasting time and irritating your audience if you complain about the temperature of the room, the AV set up or the noise outside the room.

–          Weak jokes: A natural reaction for a nervous speaker is to try to ‘befriend’ the audience by beginning with a joke. But humour is hard to pull off and can easily offend people if done poorly.

Remember, everything you put into your introduction will help keep the rest of the presentation and speech on track. If you’re still unsure where to start or how to get your speech or presentation off the ground, please give me a call on +44 (0)207 118 1600.

Confidence in the Boardroom

Sheelagh McNamara is a RADA Tutor (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) and a highly trained voice, speech & presentation skills professional with extensive experience in executive level coaching in England, Germany, Switzerland, Canada and the US.

With over 30 years experience Sheelagh’s clients include Oscar Nominees, Politicians, Lawyers, and Senior Executives together with the CEOs and Presidents ofInternational Companies.

As an increasing number of women occupying senior corporate roles, Sheelagh gives her advice on how women can enhance their speech and presentation skills as their careers develop.

What’s Holding You Back?

Historically few women have occupied the most senior roles in business, politics and the law but things are changing rapidly. By 2015 the Government recommendation is that 25% of FTSE 100 boardroom places be held by women. And there are more young, talented and dedicated women in politics.

Research shows that diverse boards make better decisions and are more effective as well as promoting equal opportunities for talented women.

Did you know that …

• Only 18 FTSE 100 companies and just less than half of all FTSE 250 companies have any female directors.

• Female executive and non-executive directors earn 22% less than their male peers.

• Only 19% of partners in top law firms are women (despite that fact that there are more women in law than men).

Over the past 4 years there has been a surge in the number of female executives who are looking to enhance their personal impact, confidence and credibility in the boardroom.

But research conducted by Heather Jackson, Founder and Chief Executive of The Women’s Business Forum, states that 92 per cent of women regard lack of confidence rather than concrete obstacles as the greatest impediment to their promotion.

So with this in mind here are a few top tips to help you enhance your authority and credibility as you move up the corporate ladder.

To maximize your credibility, minimize your movements

A certain amount of movement adds meaning and passion to your message but too much can be distracting. Keep a stable stance and when you do move make sure there’s a reason for it – not just because it busts your adrenaline.

• Eliminate pacifying gestures.

Under stress women often display pacifying gestures such as touching their neck, fiddling with their hair and playing with jewellery. I’ve even seen highly regarded women inspecting their nails!

• Avoid head tilts.

Head tilts are a particularly female gesture which can be interpreted as a gesture of submission. Look around and notice how rarely men speak with their heads tilted to one side. Women often use it to show that they are listening or empathetic. Women who want to project power and authority should keep the head straight.

• And nodding.

Women tend to nod their heads frequently which can make them appear too easy to please. When a man nods it means he agrees with you. When a woman nods it may mean she agrees; she may be encouraging you to continue speaking or she may be being empathetic. Keep your nodding under control.

• Learn to interrupt!

When Madeleine Albright, former United States Secretary, was asked at a conference of up and coming female executives what was the single most useful thing they could do to get to the top she said, “Learn to interrupt!”. Women tend to wait their turn in negotiation and talk less than their male counterparts. You don’t need to be aggressive but you do need to have a strong and confident voice to make your message clear.

And just one more thing…. VOICE IS KEY!

• Never apologise. In a male dominated world it will seen as a sign of weakness.

• Speak confidently and firmly.

• Speak logically, not emotionally.

• Make statements rather than ask questions.

• Address tough issues up front.


Sheelagh can be contacted through her website:

Wisdom or Waffle? Yes, Political Speech Season is Here Again

Speeches to be given on both sides of the Atlantic over the next six weeks will not only make or break political careers, but shape the political landscape of the future. The major UK party conferences begin later this month, and the US presidential election campaign is already underway. The speeches given at those conferences, and on the US campaign trail, will go a long way to deciding which politicians will succeed, and which will fail.

At Great Speechwriting, we are watching intently to see what the men and women who would shape our futures will make of their moments in the limelight. A well-crafted speech can play to a politician’s strengths, in terms of intellect, experience or likeability, while diminishing any weaknesses. They key is original and memorable phrases that get across the speaker’s key ideas with apparent ease. In reality of course, the politicians and their speechwriters will be hard at work already.

The party conference season actually began early in September with the Green Party. Their new leader Natalie Bennett made a nervous debut, but took aim at Labour as the originators of many coalition policies, presenting the Greens as the only real alternative. But Bennett’s party is still on the margins of UK politics, and it is the big three party conferences that will really make headlines. David Cameron and Nick Clegg both face the challenge of pleasing their own parties without alienating their coalition partners. Cameron still has to convince the country that behind his easy charm he has the resolve, and the ideas, to deal with the dire ongoing economic situation. And Clegg is still struggling to get anywhere near his pre-election popularity, and to convince his party that the coalition compromises were worth it. Meanwhile, Ed Miliband needs to position himself as a credible alternative prime minister.

And in October, the Scottish National Party conference will take on a UK-wide significance, setting the scene for the party’s independence referendum campaign. Alex Salmond is an accomplished speaker and easily the most popular politician in Scotland, but he still has to convince voters not only that he has what it takes to lead an independent Scotland, but that independence is desirable in any case.

In the US, Obama and Romney are more or less neck and neck in the polls, and every speech is an opportunity to win over doubters, or to turn them off completely. (The winner will then have to get to work on his all-important inaugural address, in a bid to get the whole country behind his presidency). Obama is generally seen as the better speaker, but many who lapped up his ‘Yes, we can’ optimism last time around now suspect there was little of substance behind it. How he deals with such suspicions, while promising ‘new hope’ for the next four years, will be crucial. Romney was not the choice of the Tea Party activists who dominated the Republican primaries – and who favour bombastic oratory – but he will have to reassure ‘values voters’ that he is their man while presenting himself as a great business leader who makes a credible candidate. His running mate Paul Ryan, dubbed the ‘Tea Party intellectual’ will definitely be worth watching too.

Political oratory is often seen as a lost art, and perhaps it’s true that the days of great speakers like Gladstone or Bevan addressing vast crowds belong to another era. But the likes of Blair and Obama have emerged as powerful and effective speakers in the modern television age. And while party conferences are often derided today as stage-managed showpieces rather than meaningful political events, YouTube and Twitter mean every gaffe or moment of brilliance can go viral in seconds. The most successful speakers today are those best able to get the balance right between winning over the room and getting a message across to a wider and more diverse audience.

For more information or for help with your political speech, please or call +44 (0)207 118 1600

How to write a great speech: BREVITY

Having read my previous articles, you should now have a relevant and original message in mind and are ready to put pen to paper.

Things are looking good, but the pitfalls aren’t all out the way.

Because there is nothing worse than a speaker who takes two minutes to introduce himself and then uses long, winding sentences like this one to make a point that could have been made much more clearly in far less time and using far fewer words.

The secret is brevity.  Not terseness.  Just the use of short, sharp punchy sound bites to make your point in a crisp, memorable way.

There are tricks to achieve this.  For a start, break long sentences up into shorter ones.  Then try and split those up wherever possible.  These breaks should be created at a convenient place to breathe (and pause for effect) when you are speaking.

Like this …

… and this …

… and, most importantly …

… like this.

Secondly, try to avoid convoluted ways of explaining something simple.  For example:

“The problem with playing three centre forwards is that each forward is based in the attacking third of the pitch which can leave a massive gap in midfield to be filled by less players, meaning that the defence gets pulled out of shape.”

Could be changed to:

“Selecting three forwards can leave holes behind them in midfield …

… that defenders are forced to cover.”

Thirdly, read your sentence out loud after you have written them.  You may find that what looks good on the page, doesn’t sound so good when you hear it.

Finally, remember this sad fact (it’s actually an estimate):

A day after you have spoken, few of your audience will remember your key message, fewer still will have remembered your second message, and only a handful will remember more than one example you highlighted.

So see if you can compact a twenty minute speech into fifteen, and don’t worry about being too brief.

How to write a great speech: ORIGINALITY

My previous blog piece focused on relevance.

But although being relevant will help you convince your audience to listen for a while, it isn’t enough on its own to hook them in.   And so once you have decided what your key message is going to be, you need to wrap it in an original way.

Don’t worry.  This doesn’t mean you need to wear a bizarre costume, Morris dance  or sing.  But whatever the event at which you are speaking, you need to convince your audience that they are going to learn something new from you.  And the best way to do that is to communicate a little differently.

There’s obviously a catch here.  If I give you an original idea then it will immediately cease to be original.  But I can give three examples of people who have managed to present relevant ideas in ways that have really made an impact on the audiences concerned.

Like the energy consultant who flew off to a meeting in Cape Town last April and linked the various elements of a new technology his firm had launched to the preparations for the Royal Wedding.  This enabled the less technical members of the audience to enjoy the speech and understand his role.  He was congratulated the following day on being the most impressive speaker at that year’s conference.

Then there’s the example of the accountant given fifteen minutes to speak on the difference between tax evasion and avoidance.  This is obviously a technical issues with major consequences.  Avoidance leaves more money sitting in your personal account.  Evasion gains you a stretch behind bars.  And so she started by telling a story about life in Ford Open prison.  Her audience were captivated.  And their interest grew when she explained that was exactly what they could be facing if they failed to listen to some of the finer details that were to follow.

Finally, there was a father-of-the-bride at a wedding.  His speech was relevant enough, but it just lacked a little bite.  Until he mentioned that his daughter had spent the first twenty years of her life obsessed with the musical Grease.  As a result, he wove together the key stories and characters from her life using song titles and lyrics sung by John Travolta and Olivia Newton John.  The following week he and his wife started receiving thank you letters for the wedding.  And the vast majority referred to his speech as being the best they had ever heard.

These examples are obviously pretty random.  There is, sadly, no formula for originality.  It disappears the minute you try to adhere to a template.  And that’s why every speech we write at Great Speech Writing begins on a blank piece of paper.

But if you can combine a relevant approach with an original way of communicating the message then you are on well on track.

How to write a great speech: RELEVANCE

Emperors in the Coliseum would signal the fate of a gladiator with the lifting of a thumb.  And not much has changed.  Because this is the age of mobile technology.  And there is nothing worse than looking up after a minute of your pivotal speech or presentation to see the key decision-maker in the room looking down, Blackberry in-hand, and a scrolling thumb providing its own telling feedback on the impact of your big moment.

In the age of Twitter, I’m often asked to help clients avoid this fate in 140 characters.  Fortunately, I can often cut that to nine:


Whether a client is speaking at a wedding, a business conference or in Parliament, the same principle applies.  Because a speech, any speech, needs to create an impact if people are going to enjoy and remember it.  And there is no better way to make that impact than by making it one hundred percent relevant to your audience.

Relevance comes in different shapes and sizes.  From a strategic perspective it means focusing on benefits rather than features.  This is a fundamental rule of any form of communication, but when it comes to speeches, and particularly speeches on a technical subject, there is a tendency to push common-sense to one side and tell people an awful lot about what you know, at the expense of what they really want and need to hear.

As a result, many business speeches and presentations begin with a hugely detailed section ‘about us’ which incorporates ‘who we are’, ‘what we do’, and ‘what our latest great product or service is all about’.

This may be all true.  And it may also be incredibly interesting to you.  But an audience is likely to be stifling the yawns and reaching for its emails before you have even got going.

Relevance means approaching things back-to-front.  It means engaging their interest from the start; demonstrating that it is really worth giving you their complete and undivided attention before you even start to explain the technical aspect of what you do.

And so if you are explaining to an audience why your new product is going to transform the way they work, please don’t start by telling them how long you’ve been working on it, what its ingredients are, or where your offices are based.  Think about how they will use it, the problems it will solve, and the frustrations it will alleviate.

Similarly, if you are Best Man at a wedding, the worst possible way to start your speech is by talking about yourself for too long, and by regaling the guests with long and detailed stories that demonstrate why you and the Groom are such good mates.  By all means introduce yourself, but then imagine you are in the audience before you start writing.  This isn’t about you, it’s about them and him.  And you are simply a conduit for sharing relevant, interesting and amusing information about him.

In short, if a speech isn’t relevant, it is highly likely to fail.  Audiences have short attention spans.  The twitching of a thumb may no longer spell the end of a life, but it can provide a clear indication that your speech or presentation is facing an early death.

Conference Speeches 2011 – Who won?

Great Speech Writing has watched, scribbled and squirmed throughout the 2011 Party Conference season with a particularly keen eye on the peformance of the three party leaders.
Here’s the post mortem.

Content – The good, the bad and the ugly

Good – A speech that flowed well, linked seamlessly from topic to topic, and led with the clear message that this is a time for Liberals, not extremists.
Bad – The constant bleating that ‘We’re doing a lot really well. But we keep forgetting to tell anyone about it. So we keep losing.’ sounded a little too much like a schoolboy explaining his duff end-of-term report to his parents.
Ugly – the lurking fear that style is defeating substance

Good – A simple narrative written in compelling sound-bites, many of which read better on paper than they actually sounded. Clear on being pro-business, and drew clear line between Tory and Labour economic policy.
Bad – 60 words didn’t seem quite enough to cover the party’s entire foreign policy (and over 50 of those were targeted at our troops).
Ugly – At Great Speech Writing we write many Groom speeches, and there was a horrible moment when we worried that Ed had picked up the wrong script. Surely the time had passed to tell Mrs M in public that he adored her. Even more worrying was when he seemed to be admitting to a serious crush on Harriet Harman.

Good – Seamless links from subject to subject and a running theme of leadership that worked from a speech perspective. Cleverly briefed the media 24 hours earlier than usual to ensure that Boris’ speech was overshadowed.
Bad – Never a great idea to back-track on the content you’ve leaked on the morning of the speech.
Ugly: “I lead to unleash your leadership”. Not quite Disraeli. Or even Ian Duncan Smith.


The key to any great speech is to decide who it is targeted at and to pitch right at them.
Cameron spoke to the outside world via the hall – and appeared Prime Ministerial in the process. Clegg addressed the hall, talked directly to his audience and even thanked them for listening. It worked.
Milliband got very confused. At times he was speaking to the conference. At others to the country when his style was more party political broadcast. And at one stage he just got completely confused by looking at the audience and saying: “I believe in my conversations with you the British people I am determined we restore your trust in us on the economy”. Agghhh!

Those mixed-metaphors in a nutshell (with no armbands)

Nick Clegg – “Don’t apologise because we’ve all opened a door to enable our stick of rock to punch above its weight. But it’s not a walk in the environmentally friendly park full of predators.”
Ed Milliband – “I’m not interested in consolation prizes so we’re going to rip up the old set of rules, which were built on sand under a safety net full of holes, to create a new bargain and write a new chapter.
David Cameron – “The world’s a mess but under my leadership we’ll turn the British ship round by laying strong foundations to bail out the last Labour government with armbands off.”


Cameron wasn’t. Milliband tried to be. At times Clegg actually was. He managed to sound honest, regretful and upbeat all at once. And which other party leader has ever talked for so long about being disliked? He may also be the first to re-package a quote from a footballer (Roy Keane’s prawn sandwiches).

The love-in

Cameron was obviously keen not to antagonise his friend Nick, and even used the phrase “Nick Clegg and I” which harked back to the golden days of the Leadership Debate and Gordon’s plaintive “I agree with Nick”.
In fact, Cameron fell so solidly into line with Nick that he didn’t just cut and paste his attack on Labour’s economic policy, but also used some very similar adjectives to describe British values.
And to top it all, he even borrowed Nick’s tie.
There wasn’t much love for Ed – but he gave it out in bucket-loads to his wife, Ed Balls, Harriet Harman and the NHS.

Memorable sound-bites

Clegg – From the good: “We are in nobody’s pocket” and “From the easy promises of opposition to the invidious choices of government” to the meaningless: “Our home, our children, our future” to the Partridge-esque: “Masters of the universe became masters of destruction” (the latter met by a notable dearth of applause).
Milliband – The speech was one rolling-sound-bite including: “I’m my own man”, “He betrayed your trust”, “You can’t trust the Tories on the National Health Service” and “Producers versus the predators”. The latter was one of many examples of EM trying to create a distinct ‘good and evil’ feel to the political landscape. And that worked.
Cameron – Light, airy and safe phrases including: “We can turn this ship around”, “We’re going to get Britain back to work” and “our new economy”. “Leadership” was obviously his key theme and word. One half expected him to raise a glove Gary Glitter style, chanting that he was the leader of the gang. Cameron was also keen to appear as international as possible, bouncing from continent to continent in a way that’s only really possible during the draw for the World Cup Finals.

Balance between humour and sincerity

It is vital to create the right balance, but only if the humour works. And most of it was lame.
Clegg was the best, realising that this was a party conference and not an audition for the Comedy Store. His persecution complex lines were good (inspired by Woody Allen?) but he undermined them slightly with one-too-many sycophantic references to conference darling Paddy Ashdown (fast becoming the Liberal Lady T).
Milliband began with a stand-up routine that moved swiftly from brother jokes to “Ed nose day”. But things got even worse with the inevitable Blair-esque popular culture reference: ”The computer says no”. Only a few years too late there Ed. He did make a good quip about Clegg not keeping his promises, but all-in-all there were many too many weak jokes.
Cameron was a disappointment here. Rather than settling for a couple of sharp one-liners, he tried the scatter-gun approach which left him a gap of less than twenty seconds between joking about Boris and “The Joy of … Cycling” (ho ho) to Colonel Gadaffi providing the IRA with semtex (which wasn’t a joke at all but threatened to be). The low-point was the crack about diabetics in the EU. Nope, still not funny.


Clegg dropped-in Gladstone after 5 mins and Ashdown wherever possible. But didn’t mention Ming Campbell. Funny that.
Milliband mentioned Kinnock before he’d drawn breath, and Blair and Brown soon afterwards . To a mixed reaction.
Cameron waited 37 minutess before reeling off a list including Lady T. And that pleased the conference so much, he mentioned her again thirty seconds later.


As clients of Great Speech Writing are well aware, great content is useless without great delivery.
Great delivery means a well paced speech, demonstrating appropriate levels of energy and emotion, and ongoing eye contact with the audience.

Clegg – was the only leader who sounded passionate and appeared to mean it. His body language was a throw back to that first leadership debate – with good movement of the arms helped by a transparent podium that opened him up to the audience.
His long pause for a sip of water after five minutes energised him (was it vodka?), and stepping away from the podium was something only he did – and something that served the dual purpose of making him look relaxed whilst breaking up the monotony of a forty five minute speech.
Interestingly, he spent much time looking to those ahead of him and to his left – but rarely glanced right. Read into that what you will. Perhaps he had cricked his neck?

Milliband – is, sadly, not a born communicator. He has been well trained and spoke slowly and methodically, but he still seems unable to emphasise the right words. This can ruin potentially bold and passionate remarks. Take, for example, his confusing execution of the punch-line “Don’t mess with Rupert Murdoch”, after which we feared that he was about to burst out crying.
Despite his claims that the nose op’ was a success, the nasal whine is still an issue, making his cries for action sound akin to a schoolboy pleading with his teacher for more homework.
Unlike Clegg, his sips of water leave much room for improvement, looking as they do like he is auditioning for a future role playing Mr Bean.

Cameron remains the master of delivery. He decided to present himself as a leader and carried it off. Great eye contact despite the layers of make-up, great movement of the hands and effortless gravitas. His comic pauses were all well-timed despite some appalling material, and he appeared to be in complete command of his material and his audience.


Ten years have passed since Tony Blair’s ‘kaleidoscope’ speech after 9/11 – the greatest conference speech of the past twenty years.
In that time, a new generation of party leaders has emerged. And they share many similarities – from their age and worrying lack of stubble, to their centralist messages and carefully stage-managed performances.
In practise there was not a huge amount to choose between them, but Nick Clegg exceeded expectations and it is always hard for Cameron to live up to his. Milliband’s public speaking record means that he can easily outperform his benchmark, but his delivery still sits far behind the other two.
None of these speeches was exceptional. None will be remembered in ten years time. But casting the politics aside, we have Clegg’s content and delivery ahead of Cameron by a short head.

But if the leaders’ failed to shine particularly brightly, then who did?
Balls versus Osbourne remains the most fascinating duel in British politics. Both value substance over style, and both are genuine heavyweights. Balls will never charm a crowd like any of the party leaders, but his speech was well-written, clear and powerful.
Boris entertained in his unique style, and remains alone in his willingness to be original and break the rules.
Of the younger generation, Labour’s Rory Weal stole the show, winning a gold star for his passion and bravery, and a detention for hackneyed content.
Perhaps he is destined to be the next William Hague – a party conference veteran who is undoubtedly the most devastatingly effective and accomplished public speaker in Westminster. The way he brought to life the graveyard slot at the start of the conference was a lesson to us all.
He may well take us back to the future by becoming the next leader of the party. Other prospective candidates for centre stage include the effective Yvette Cooper and two outside hopefuls in Jeremy Hunt and Jim Murphy- both tall men prowling the stage without notes. Where can they have got that idea from?
Finally, let’s not forget that George Osbourne gave a strong speech that was overshadowed by the freeing of Amanda Knox. And the Prime Minister was knocked-off the front pages by Steve Jobs. There’s no cure for bad timing.
Whilst Theresa May remembered the importance of getting your facts right.

To conclude, it isn’t only politics converging into the centre ground. Speechwriters and coaches are too. We all yearn for the conference speeches of yore, given by politicians with the conviction, imagination and passion to step away from the consultancy template and daring to be original.

Beating the Psychology of Nervousness

There are nerves and then there are NERVES.  The quaking, shaking kind, born of a complete fear of public speaking that borders on a phobia.

In some cases, even the best content and coaching on delivery are not enough.  Because the speaker needs to get to the root of their concerns before starting to work on the speech itself.  Which is why I am delighted to include this Guest Post from someone who can get to the real heart of a public speaking phobia.

Jacky Lewis runs 'Training Matters London'Jacky Lewis is a trainer, coach and existential psychotherapist who runs Training Matters London.  Jacky works with clients to conquer many of the issues that can undermine their professional lives.  In the following article she explains a possible way to adapt your mindset when the nerves kick-in.

Please let me know if you would like me to introduce you to Jacky.

Guest Post: Overcoming the Psychology of Nervousness

Many people feel a high level of anxiety when confronted with delivering a speech or presentation.  They feel their legs have turned to jelly, they develop a dry mouth, feel sweaty, shaky, their hearts beat faster…they are experiencing classic stress symptoms.  But have you ever stopped to think why this should be?  Why don’t they just sail through it, deliver their message and feel proud of what they’ve said?  The answer may be in the hidden unchallenged assumptions that we all carry inside and that we allow to ‘disable’ our thinking.
There’s no reason why should perform below par once we understand how to master these thoughts.  Here are a few unhelpful and limiting assumptions I’ve come across over the years; can you identify with any of these…?

  • I’m afraid I’ll feel vulnerable / exposed when I stand up to make a speech.
  • I’ll look stupid.
  • Everyone in the audience could do this better than me.
  • They won’t be interested in what I have to say.
  • I’m not interesting; they’ll find me boring.
  • I am no expert on this subject.
  • People will ‘find me out’.
  • I hate operating outside my comfort zone.

When we are training people to present with confidence, it is interesting to find out that most of us share some of these same misgivings.  The problem is that your audience is ‘attuned’ to picking up these signals of insecurity in the speaker; they may well switch off if she or he presents in an under confident or unconvincing manner.  So you need to start your presentation as you mean to go on; with a high level of assurance and transmitting a ‘can-do’ mind-set.  Convince your audience that they’re lucky to be hearing you!

So what can you do…?

Begin by making a list of your own personal unchallenged assumptions and then start to challenge them. Ask yourself ‘what is the evidence that people won’t be interested in my message?’.  Then ask what makes you think you’ll be boring, and so on. Work through your personal negative points; try discussing them with a friend.  Your unchallenged assumptions will be less powerful when you share them with others.
Now go on to picture yourself when you listen to a presentation; aren’t you usually open and interested in what the speaker has to say?  If he or she starts off their presentation with a strong level of confidence and self belief,  they will take you with them; you’ll be ‘on side’. People in your audience are much less judgmental that you think (or fear) they are; you just have to decide that you can inspire them.  Getting your message across and motivating your audience is largely a matter of believing you can do it and demonstrating that.  What did the author Susan Jeffers say? ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’……  Good luck!

5 PowerPoint Crimes

Powerpoint has been used for years as a tool for business presentations. However, it’s still very rare to see it utilised effectively. Here are just five common Powerpoint crimes that I see every week.


Powerpoint can be a great way bolster a presentation or to make a point clearer. But it’s important to remember that it should only provide support material for a presentation that stands on its own.   Don’t use a slide to tell the story, but to illustrate it and bring it to life.  If a slide isn’t adding value then just bin it.

Too Many Graphics

If you’re explaining to your colleagues why there are going to be redundancies in the coming year, you don’t have to do it by zipping a cartoon dog across the screen, accompanied by a faded-in speech bubble containing the words “cut-backs” and a Dog Bark SFX.
Clever graphics are no longer a ‘wow’ because everyone knows how they work, and there’s a danger that too much blinking, fading and twisting will simply make it look like you’re using style to cover up a lack of content.

Too Much Information

In any form of presentation, the most important thing to remember is that your primary job is not to convey all of the relevant information. Regardless of how well written/performed a presentation is, very little of the actual information you put across will be retained. Rather, the whole point of presenting is to make an impact. As a golden rule, if something needs a hundred words on a powerpoint slide, you may as well drop it to your audience on an email.

Too many slides

There is nothing worse than being in an audience and realising that you are about to be delivered ‘War and Peace’ in PowerPoint.  It’s all about being crisp and relevant, so don’t overdo it.  As a rule of thumb, a slide-per-minute is ample.  And that’s assuming it only contains a handful of words, one diagram, or a single picture.

Dark backgrounds

They may look clever on your laptop, but they’ll make any slide almost impossible to read when they are projected.  The projection will often change the tint, and make them blend into the words.  So that beige font on a brown background is a definite no go.

Tips for Presenting with Authority

It is not unusual to feel vulnerable about standing up to speak. The trick to delivering a successful speech or presentation is to create a perception of confidence to make your audience feel that you are in charge (irrespective of how you are actually feeling at the time).

Take your time

Think about the most powerful or influential speakers you’ve heard. As a general rule they will speak very slowly. This is actually very easy, and a great trick to earn yourself the confidence of the room. Look at this video of Barrack Obama. He speaks very slowly, and very clearly. His audience knows that he doesn’t need to rush; that he’s in control of the situation, and taking it at his own pace. Not only does it make the process of public speaking easier, it also simply sounds more controlled. And it’s easier to take-in what he’s saying.

Use your hands

Moving them doesn’t just help illustrate your point. It also helps release nervous energy, enabling you to speak more confidently.

Print your speech or presentation onto cue cards

Partly, this is useful for the simple reason that a cue card is smaller than a sheet of A4. However, actually the biggest thing you gain from having cue cards is the confidence they inspire in both you and your audience. From the audience’s perspective, you have clearly prepared for the speech you are giving; you have approached it in a professional way, and seemingly have done this before. From your own perspective, having the cards there at all will remind you that you are equipped to deliver this speech. Psychologically, this puts the ball in your court.

Hold your cue cards at about chest level and about half a foot in front of you

This way, when you look up at the audience, your speech will still be in your eye-line. You should not be presenting something purely by looking down at a piece of paper. Look up. Make sure the audience know that they’re your focal point; that they’re what’s important to you. When you watch a speech by somebody doing nothing more than looking down and reading from their notes, you can’t help but think they may as well just hand the piece of paper out and request half an hour’s silence for everybody to get up to speed. The reason they are watching a person, rather than reading a sheet of paper, is because they want someone to talk to them, to engage with them; someone in whom they can have confidence.

Glance, don’t read

You don’t have to know it word for word, but you certainly should only be presenting something to a room full of people, if you’ve practiced it beforehand. Speaking slowly enough to give you time to glance down at your notes between sound-bites will make a huge difference.


You may be shaking during the speech; you may even be terrified. However, what you must not be is miserable. Or, at least, you mustn’t look it. A frowning speaker is a reluctant speaker; someone out of their depths, perhaps. Nothing gets you the respect of a room like standing in front of 50, 60, 100 people and simply smiling back at them. Socially, it shows the audience that they’re in for a good time. Professionally, it shows you’ve got all the answers. Put it this way, if you were looking to buy a fridge-freezer from two men; one of whom was smiling and the other of whom was crying, who would get your business?

Perform a little

Pick relevant people to look in the eyes. If you’re talking about the company director, and he’s in the room, then look at him! You don’t need to bound round the stage, yelping, to get people’s attention. But you also won’t be interesting to watch simply standing still. These little touches can make the difference between a good presentation and a great one.

I hope you find these tips useful. Please let me know if you would like help preparing for your next speech or presentation.

Delivery: Practise makes perfect

Effortless delivery can turn a good speech into a great one. Far too many people spend 100% of their preparation time writing their speech or presentation, forgetting that it’s the delivery that will make or break it.

If you’re preparing to give a presentation or a pitch, this is even more essential. An under-practised script can sound hollow and unconvincing to any client or colleague.

So how do you go about practising for the big moment?

Let’s start with defining ‘practice’.
‘Practice’ doesn’t mean silently reading the speech or Power-Point notes to yourself on the train, or in bed each evening. Nor does it mean running through it until you can recall the key headings and a few words here and there.

Practice means trying to get as close as possible to how you’ll deliver the speech on the day itself. Here are my top tips:

1. Stand up and read it aloud. But don’t just recite it; put some feeling into it, emphasising key words, pausing at appropriate moments and looking up at your (imaginary) audience as you would on the day.
2. Hold a tube of toothpaste or something similar to recreate the microphone.
3. Ask your other half or a good mate to listen and make suggestions if things don’t sound right.
4. Imagine that you have an audience in front of you, and create as much eye contact with them as possible.
5. Use the same cards, paper or laptop that you’ll be using on the day.
6. If you’re getting bored with the speech, then stop practising so frequently.  Just have a run through as and when you’re worried you’re beginning to forget it.
7. Perfect your posture. Good posture can make you look and feel more confident.
8. You may want to rehearse in the clothes you’ll be wearing on the day. If it’s formal clothes, it can help to become familiar with the feeling of tightness around the neck that comes from wearing a suit.

If you feel this is bordering on the obsessive, remember that stage shows never go ahead without a full dress rehearsal, so why should your speech?!

I hope that’s helpful. If you would like some help rehearsing, or on the writing part for that matter, please feel free to contact me on +44 (0)207 118 1600.

I look forward to hearing from you.


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Speech Tips for Parliamentary Candidates

As the election looms I have had a number of calls from candidates from all three major parties who are standing on May 6th.  Irrespective of their political convictions, they tend to ask many of the same questions about speaking style, format and delivery.  Here are a few of the key conclusions that we’ve come to:

Know your lines – Yes, you’ll need to write a speech, but no, you shouldn’t read it out.  You are speaking about your own convictions.  Reading from a page will instantly give the impression that you are  giving someone else’s.  By all means have a script to refer to, but know it well enough that it is obvious you are speaking from the heart rather than the page.

Relevance – People are coming to hear you speak to get to know more about you and what you will do for them locally and in Parliament.  On that basis there is no point launching straight into the party’s national agenda.  They can hear that on the BBC.

Context – Although relevance is vital, you can’t speak entirely independently of the Party line.  The key for them is to understand how the big picture promises will effect them locally.  Your role is to act as a translation service between the two.

Brevity – There is always a temptation to use a constituency hustings or set-piece speech to roll-off your life’s works and ambitions.  But think about what your audience want, which tends to be a punchy, interesting speech that moves on quickly and is easy to follow.

Positive – In any political forum there will be a temptation to knock the opposition.  But don’t let this become your sole objective.  Your audience want to understand what you will do to improve things.  By all means point out what needs to be improved, but you will make a longer-lasting impression by focusing on the positive elements you can add.

The simplicity tightrope – The best speeches are always easy to follow.  But many a constituency speech borders on being patronising.  Be clear, set out the context and your preferred solutions, but don’t talk down to your audience.  There is nothing worse than a politician who treads a roomful of voters like a primary school class.

Don’t Preach – This is an opportunity for your constituents (or potential constituents) to get to know you better, but as importantly, it’s a chance for you to get to know them.  The most fruitful parts of meetings of this sort are often the questions and answers.  And so rather than a fist-thumping sermon about the benefits of voting for you, leave as much time as possible to respond to questions and comments in a calm and intelligent way.

Eye contact – It sounds obvious, but people will like and trust you more if you look at them when you speak.  Look around the room.  Try to meet people’s gaze.  Smile where possible.  This humanises you and is more likely to win people over than if you are focused on your notes or the middle distance.

Be Relaxed – Tension is a turn-off.  You are speaking because you want to represent these people in Westminster.  On that basis it is important that you appear calm and unflustered even if the debate isn’t going your way.  If you appear to let the tension get to you then you stand to lose your audience’s confidence pretty fast.

Lessons from Brown, Cameron and Clegg

Thousands of words were spoken.
Thousands more have been written.
The analysis has been constant.
But irrespective of the politics, what can the amateur public speaker take away from the party leaders’ debate last night?

  1. Be natural. Gordon Brown wasn’t. His smiles were forced and made him look awkward. Nick Clegg was, and he became more believable as a result.
  2. Be relevant. Clegg answered his audiences’ questions directly and then referred back to them. He mentioned the names of the people who asked each question. It made him look like he cared. Cameron and Brown picked up on this later on but Brown’s reference to ‘the questioner’ was impersonal and gave the impression that he wasn’t listening.
  3. Appear relaxed. This doesn’t come easily to Brown. Cameron is a master at it. Last night he appeared to decide to look more austere and Prime Ministerial. Clegg just relaxed. Or appeared to. The hand in the left pocket was a masterstroke as it helped him look entirely at ease.
  4. Be positive. The relentless attacks on Cameron may have been well-aimed but audiences tend to respond better to ideas and suggestions than to negativity. Clegg clothed his criticism with alternative policy suggestions. Some were unworkable, but his approach was constructive.
  5. Look up. I dread to think how much time and money went into preparing the three leaders for the debate. But it paid off. They all had notes, but didn’t appear to be reading from them. They all looked at their audience. Clegg, again, went a step further and confidently looked into the camera. At us. Again, it worked.
  6. Be sincere. Whether or not your audience like what you are saying, they need to believe it. Brown didn’t help himself at all with the scripted jokes and the bizarre smirk. They actually reduced the effectiveness of many of his more impressive, factual points.
  7. Know your detail. The big picture is vital and sets the scene. But detail provides colour. All three leaders provided first hand evidence of conversations they have had in specific places with real people. Brown won on substance and this was definitely where Cameron was at his weakest.
  8. Speak slowly. Can you remember one instance of not being able to follow what any of them were saying? Nor me. They spoke at the right pace, enabling us to easily digest a series of complex issues.

As per usual, there is little rocket science here. But these are vital lessons to take into any speech or presentation you need to make, from a PowerPoint pitch to an after dinner speech.

It is pretty obvious that Clegg won last night – and from a professional perspective, he ticked all the boxes that turn a good public speaker into a great one.

Presenting to your staff?

At a time when ‘internal communications’ are becoming ever more of a business buzzword, I speak to an increasing number of clients about how best to present news and information to their colleagues.

As with any speech or presentation, there are a number of tricks to ensure that yours does not lead to ‘Death by PowerPoint’, a condition that can have the audience yawning at ‘hello’.

It isn’t PowerPoint itself that creates the problem.  Quite the opposite.  It actually the tools to help bring a subject to life.  But when you are talking to your own staff, you do not need to fall into any if these traps:

  1. Repeating ad-nauseam everything they heard at the last internal call-to-arms
  2. Showing them every line of every balance sheet and set of accounts that you can find
  3. Impressing them with an organogram showing how every individual within the team interacts
  4. Running through so many objectives and visions that even you lose sight of what matters
  5. Displaying your entire script on each slide so they have to listen to a demonstration of your reading ability

It is amazing how senior people who tend to give these sort of presentations start with the premise that they need to be formal and prosaic.

As a rule of thumb, an internal presentation should be as fun and straightforward as possible.  The idea is to engage your staff rather than alienate them.  And that is rarely achieved through a forest of facts, figures and hypotheses.

Which may sound like common sense.  But it is anathema to many business leaders, whether they work in the public or private sector.  So if I’ve covered the ‘don’ts’, here are a few tips for inspiring your colleagues:

  1. Keep it simple.  Why present for half an hour when you can say it all in ten minutes?
  2. Use your slides to illustrate and amuse, not as an autocue
  3. Decide on the key message you want to convey and stick to it
  4. Prepare by writing a synopsis of your speech or presentation in no more than one hundred words.  You can then use that paragraph as a framework for the rest of your content

This is only the start, but I hope it helps.  I would, of course, be delighted to help you work on your next one!


Making a speech on behalf of a Charity?

If you would like some help writing a fundraising speech please click here

Read more about our charity / fundraising speech writing services

Tips for making a charity speech

You represent a charity about which you care passionately. You have the opportunity to speak about it in front of a number of people who could make a real difference. People who could help you raise funds or spread the word. You want to appeal to them in a memorable and inspirational way, but you are well aware that they have heard hundreds of speeches on similar subjects in the past and are constantly being asked for help. So how do you go about convincing a room full of them that yours is a charity that needs and deserves their attention and support?

To begin with, don’t rush into detail. The big picture matters, particularly to busy and successful people. So before you start writing, check that you can summarise each of the following three points in an impactful and simple sentence:
a. What is your charity’s core purpose?
b. How does it go about reaching that goal?
c. What do you want from your audience on the night?

These sentences will already put you in a strong position to write your speech. The following tips should help develop it further:


Only use statistics in a meaningful way. They are a vital way to make important points but they risk just becoming more numbers thrown at your audience. So be selective and use appropriate comparisons. For example, 90,000 sufferers of an illness is hard to quantify. But if you imagine a concert or match at Wembley Stadium and then imagine that every member of the full-house watching it suffers from that illness, you begin to evoke meaning.


Large numbers are important to prove a point but they can be impersonal. Charities rely on empathy to make their mark. And so for every collective figure you use, try to back it up with a real example. So forty thousand homeless people become relevant when one of them is called Ronald. Who was sleeping at Charing Cross Station. And who was forced to beg for small change even though he had previously studied History to degree level.

Good News

Don’t allow the weight of problems associated with the charity to dominate. If, as a result of your help, Ronald now has his own flat and a steady job, then say so.


Never forget to set out measurable and achievable outcomes. Explain clearly and simply how your audience can help someone like Ronald. What should they do next, and how will he and people like him benefit?

Next Steps

Don’t forget that although this cause means everything to you, your audience have other calls on their time and money. If they stand to benefit from their affiliation with your cause then explain why. Show them how much (or how little) of their time and energy you require.

Ground Rules

Every Charity is underpinned by a serious cause. But don’t allow this to distract you from some of the key rules of speech making. For example:
a. Maintain a balance between sincerity and lighter content
b. Err on the side of brevity
c. Keep it simple, however highbrow your audience
d. Develop some core sound bites that will convey your key message coolly and calmly

I write speeches for a number of keynote speakers at fundraising events and charitable functions. I would be delighted to discuss how best to develop your speech to create the impact you’re striving for.

I look forward to hearing from you.


11 tips for a powerpoint presentation

There is a school of thought that ‘great’ and ‘PowerPoint’ should never be used in the same sentence, and it is true that there are many other ways to engage your audience.

However, PowerPoint is a fact of business life, and it can be an incredibly impactful tool when used in the right way.

Too often it isn’t.  So here are a few tips to help you prepare your next one.

Preparing it

  1. Create a structure that focuses around the key point you want to make.
  2. Work from a Master Slide (or slides) – this makes it a lot easier to change things later on.
  3. Aim never to have more than 10 words on one slide.
  4. Remember that a relevant image or illustration will be immeasurably more impactful than a sentence.
  5. Let slides build with your story, rather than giving away the outcome before you have delivered it.
  6. As with all speeches and presentations, check whether it is relevant to your audience, approaches the subject in an interesting and original way, and sets things out simply.

Delivering it

  1. Don’t forget that the audience are there to watch you, not your slides.  Use the presentation to back up your message, not to replace your role in delivering it.
  2. Don’t repeat the words on the slides behind you.  It is a fact of business life that most of your audience will be able to read them too.
  3. Make it clear when you are referring to a specific part of a slide rather than just gesticulating randomly into the air between you and it.
  4. Avoid handing out a printed version of the presentation beforehand.  Your impact will be nullified if your audience know what’s coming next.
  5. As with all speeches and presentations, speak clearly, interact with your audience wherever possible, and emphasise key words and messages.

Many of the keys to a successful presentation come down to common sense.  Preparation is key.  You can never think too much about original ways to entertain your audience.  Nor can you rehearse too much.  Knowing what will appear on each click through the presentation is a must.

I would be delighted to review an existing presentation you have written or to help you create something original and impactful. In the meantime, I hope this helps.


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