“Are you wrong, or are you lying?” Hotheads vs Adam Schiff

With Democratic primaries and an impeachment process underway, the stakes are very high in American politics right now. The tension is clearly getting to some: look at how many of the big names there have lost their cool when speaking in public recently by lashing out with allegations of lying. Calling someone a liar, or … More “Are you wrong, or are you lying?” Hotheads vs Adam Schiff

Fielding questions at press conferences in Beirut, Paris, London and Taipei

One of Carlos Ghosn’s main themes at last week’s press conference in Beirut, following his escape from Japanese justice, was that he is no “cold, greedy dictator”. No dictator, perhaps, but to judge by the way he ran the rowdy international press gang gathered for the occasion, he is not too strong on delegating. For … More Fielding questions at press conferences in Beirut, Paris, London and Taipei

Best & worst of 2019: a masterclass by Jacinda Ardern with counterpoint by Prince Andrew

Here’s the idea for today’s article: let’s convene the best and worst public speakers of 2019 to see what they can teach us. As in any masterclass, we learn by listening to the best. In this case, it would be New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. She delivered an exceptionally well-considered and effective speech in … More Best & worst of 2019: a masterclass by Jacinda Ardern with counterpoint by Prince Andrew

How to start a speech: lessons from Greta and Boris

 Greta Thunberg and Boris Johnson are an unlikely pair of mentors for students of rhetoric, but last week each of them provided an interesting example of how to start a speech effectively. Greta, who in previous set-piece speeches such as at Davos or the UN has sought to shock her audience into listening to her, … More How to start a speech: lessons from Greta and Boris

Personal credibility in rhetoric: Yovanovitch & Hill

President Trump’s televised impeachment hearings have been a showcase for powerful public speaking. There have been many excellent testimonials, answers and summaries, delivered with dignity, poise and precision. For the sake of this forum, I’d like to focus on one specific point of rhetorical principle illustrated most vividly by the hearings: any public speaker must … More Personal credibility in rhetoric: Yovanovitch & Hill

Campaign kick-off speeches – Johnson, Corbyn, Swinson and Sturgeon

Any leadership speech – be it in politics, business or sport – needs to project a vision, and give some idea how to achieve it. A vision without a plan is pie-in-the-sky, tempting but unattainable. A plan without vision is like parade ground maneuvers, impressive but no clear destination. So how well did the leaders … More Campaign kick-off speeches – Johnson, Corbyn, Swinson and Sturgeon

Speaking in the round: Kushner and Gowing get it wrong

For anyone at all diffident about appearing in public, delivering a speech in the middle of your audience can seem very daunting. Take US presidential son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, an awkward public speaker at the best of times. When he announced his Middle East peace plan in Bahrain last June, the conference organizers made … More Speaking in the round: Kushner and Gowing get it wrong

Jessye Norman: an opera singer’s lessons for public speakers

Jessye Norman, who died two weeks ago, was a dominant presence on the world’s opera stage. The diva knew a thing or two about public speaking too. It makes sense: oratory and opera have more than a few points in common in terms of stagecraft. What follows is a selection of just three tips for … More Jessye Norman: an opera singer’s lessons for public speakers

The rhetoric of patriotism – shutting out vs opening up

Last week a middle-ranking French public administration official addressed a small group of us in a narrow room in central Paris, on the île de la Cité, a stone’s throw from Notre Dame cathedral. His words, spoken in rather pedestrian fashion from a prepared text, nevertheless soared high. His theme was what it means to … More The rhetoric of patriotism – shutting out vs opening up

Boris’s rambling rhetoric falls short of his heroes on every score

Boris Johnson sets his own bar as a statesman high, frequently evoking Pericles and Winston Churchill as his heroes. Sadly, when it comes to oratory, Mr Johnson is no match for such eminent role models. Leaving aside here the political substance of what he has to say, his speeches since taking office as British Prime … More Boris’s rambling rhetoric falls short of his heroes on every score