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)

Space Race rhetoric: from confrontation to cooperation

Sixty years ago today, 12th April 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the earth for the first time, another humiliation for the United States in the Cold War space race.   The speeches and interviews of the period provide a clear timeline of how the Soviets made the most of their early upper hand in … More Space Race rhetoric: from confrontation to cooperation

Yes or No: Zuckerberg, Pichai and Dorsey grapple with polar questions

Yes/No questions may delight aggressive interviewers playing to the gallery, but they are a minefield for any public speaker with a sense of nuance. Last Thursday, US Congressman Mike Doyle confronted the CEOs of Facebook, Google and Twitter at a hearing, insisting on a one-word answer to his long and complex question. “I want to start … More Yes or No: Zuckerberg, Pichai and Dorsey grapple with polar questions

“Friends, Romans, countrymen…” Rhetorical tricks to turn a crowd

Exactly 2,065 years ago today, on 15th March 44BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated at the Roman Senate. Shakespeare’s 1599 version of the story showed how Caesar’s friend Mark Antony used his rhetorical skill to swing the plebian crowd against the assassins. That funeral oration still stands as a paragon of the power of public speaking. … More “Friends, Romans, countrymen…” Rhetorical tricks to turn a crowd

Bill Gates’ climate change PR blitz: three takeaways on his interview technique

It’s worthwhile watching at least one of Bill Gates’ recent TV and webcast appearances for his new book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster. His ideas on the “Green Premium” are insightful and constructive, certainly; but more pertinently for this forum, you can also pick up some useful communications tips from a well-seasoned pro. Three … More Bill Gates’ climate change PR blitz: three takeaways on his interview technique

Master Class, Disaster Class: What we learn from Bruce Castor

Bruce Castor’s opening statement last week in defence of Donald Trump was a valuable lesson from an outstandingly bad public speaker in how not to make a speech. A Master Class? More like a Disaster Class! To be sure, Mr Castor and his team members won the hearing, but even Mr Castor’s own supporters – … More Master Class, Disaster Class: What we learn from Bruce Castor

Making a statement with your vaccine jab: Gutteres, McKellen, AOC & Elvis

Depending on how well-known a figure you are, I suggest you prepare for your Covid vaccine shot as if it were a public engagement. No joke. The stakes for society are high, and this could be the best opportunity you’ll ever have to leverage your reputation (be it global, national, regional, local or just plain … More Making a statement with your vaccine jab: Gutteres, McKellen, AOC & Elvis