Making a mistake is easy; admitting it in public, less so.

We all make mistakes, of course. Fortunately, we don’t all have to confess them in public. Just in case you ever find yourself in that uncomfortable position, here’s a look at what we can learn from three public figures recently confronted with their errors. One stonewalled, one sniffled, one stood tall. The least edifying of … More Making a mistake is easy; admitting it in public, less so.

Want to speak like General de Gaulle? Tips for French presidential wannabes.

Earlier this month, French politicians of left and right flocked to Charles de Gaulle’s home to pay homage on the 51st anniversary of his death. The spectacle of no fewer than seven candidates for next year’s presidential election jostling to stand in the great man’s shadow lacked some of the grandeur the General was ever … More Want to speak like General de Gaulle? Tips for French presidential wannabes.

How to ask tough questions: US Congress vs Big Oil and Big Tobacco

The sharper the question, the straighter the answer. Here’s a case in point for any students of interview technique: The US Congress’s Oversight Committee tried to skewer Big Oil executives last week for “deception and delay” in acknowledging their role in climate change. The hearing failed to land a “gotcha” moment. The main reason? Too … More How to ask tough questions: US Congress vs Big Oil and Big Tobacco

Tennis & rhetoric: Raducanu’s “process & mindset”

Two feisty teenagers wowed the crowds in the weekend’s women’s US Open final. Not just tennis fans were impressed: even students of public speaking learned something. Standing together on court after a grueling match, each of the young women delivered brief but remarkably clear and well-structured remarks to the packed stadium. The winner, Emma Raducanu, … More Tennis & rhetoric: Raducanu’s “process & mindset”

The Rhetoric of defeat – Bay of Pigs, Saigon, Kabul

Many commentators have compared the current American evacuation of Kabul to the Bay of Pigs in 1961 and the Fall of Saigon in 1975. What follows is a critical look at how the three US Presidents in office at the time each addressed the nation in a time of national humiliation. In each case, I … More The Rhetoric of defeat – Bay of Pigs, Saigon, Kabul

I or We: Exxon’s Woods shows pronouns matter

ExxonMobil’s CEO Darren Woods clearly didn’t get the memo about personal pronouns. Speaking on CNBC television last week after his defeat at the hands of climate change activist shareholders, Mr Woods consistently used the collective “we”, not “I”, to describe how he intends to work with the dissident board members thrust upon him. “We’re looking … More I or We: Exxon’s Woods shows pronouns matter

Commemoration, celebration, or cancellation: Napoleon, Macron and Beethoven

Emmanuel Macron’s speech last week to mark the 200th anniversary of Napoleon Bonaparte’s death is a case study for political leaders in how to embrace the uncomfortable paradoxes of history. “We are not here for an exalted celebration… but for an enlightened commemoration, to look our own history in the face, and as a whole; … More Commemoration, celebration, or cancellation: Napoleon, Macron and Beethoven

The Contrition Cup: 10 ways to say I’m sorry (or not)

Last week’s European Super League fiasco turned into something of a championship itself. Faced with the wrath of their supporters, the 10 football clubs withdrawing from the 12-club project outdid each other in seeking their fans’ forgiveness. What follows is a ranking of their performance, rated by how effectively they scored against the essential triple-A … More The Contrition Cup: 10 ways to say I’m sorry (or not)