Have we lost the art of wit in modern rhetoric?

13th February 2017 Where’s the wit? Public speaking in this blustering age of New Populism all too often appears to be dominated by bombast from one side and equally loud satirical jeering from the other; all of them “full of passionate intensity” as Irish poet WB Yeats once scathingly wrote. But don’t lose heart. The … More Have we lost the art of wit in modern rhetoric?

Theresa May’s foreign policy speeches: speaking to, not at, your audience.

30th January 2017   UK Prime Minister Theresa May has made two major foreign policy speeches to audiences abroad this month. Each speech was met by a very different reception: chilly in Davos; warm in Philadelphia. Given the state of the world today, and the nature of the people she was talking to, that doesn’t … More Theresa May’s foreign policy speeches: speaking to, not at, your audience.

Public speakers as entertainers: speaking vs singing

Charles Fleming, 16nd January 2017 Public speaking is all about performing. So why shouldn’t public speakers act like entertainers from time to time? If you’re going to make such a bold point, Davos is as good a place as any. That, at least, appears to be the position of one of China’s richest businessmen, Wang … More Public speakers as entertainers: speaking vs singing

New Year’s messages: looking backwards and forwards at the same time.

Paris, 2nd January 2017 Any New Year’s message is a tricky exercise in public speaking terms because it inevitably requires a “gear change” in tone as you shift from assessing the year that was, to anticipating the year to come. I watched the weekend broadcasts from the four national leaders closest to my personal bailiwick … More New Year’s messages: looking backwards and forwards at the same time.

Acceptance Speeches: Monsieur Fillon’s rather peculiar manner

The French national presidential campaign got off to a rather dull start this weekend, rhetorically speaking. Former Prime Minister François Fillon won a convincing landslide victory in the centre-right primaries, but chose to mark the occasion with a curiously muted, somewhat off-key victory speech. To be fair, his somber oratory could be seen as something … More Acceptance Speeches: Monsieur Fillon’s rather peculiar manner

“What do I do with my hands?” – Lessons from the geeks

Newcomers to public speaking often ask what they should do with their hands. The easy answer is: “Just be natural”. But that’s not so easy if you’re feeling awkwardly self-conscious because everyone is looking at you. It’s especially difficult if you’re wired up without a microphone to hold, or stranded out on the open stage … More “What do I do with my hands?” – Lessons from the geeks

Moderating a Panel: Stagecraft lessons from the IMF

Charles Fleming, 13th October 2016 Last week, the IMF’s Christine Lagarde led an interesting panel session: Four exceptionally bright people, each from a different walk of life, joined Mme Lagarde in the IMF auditorium to share their visions of technology’s role in future economic growth and social justice. The discussion itself was thoughtful, stimulating and … More Moderating a Panel: Stagecraft lessons from the IMF

Beliefs and Facts

Beware of stating facts as beliefs. People often think they can make their speech more compelling by saying how firmly, honestly, sincerely, genuinely they believe something. Big mistake! Let’s call it the First Rhetorical Law Of Conviction: The more intensely you express your conviction something is true, the less convincing you will be. To make the … More Beliefs and Facts