Two speeches have been drawn to my attention recently on the Public Speaking Skills Facebook page: Charles Kennedy speaking against the Iraq war and Charlotte Church speaking against austerity. They make an interesting contrast and hold lessons for us all as public speakers.
Here is the former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy’s speech at the rally in Hyde Park in 2003:
And here is singer Charlotte Church’s speech to anti-austerity protesters in Parliament Square in 2015:
Neither of these is classically perfect but, putting aside any views about the content of either speech, would you not agree with me that the former is much more effective than the latter? If you’re thinking of addressing a crowd in similar circumstances, I recommend you –
Do write your own speech. Not a script but bullet points (as I may have mentioned in other posts…). In order for you to deliver it sincerely and with gusto, it’s got to be easy for you to say, to reflect your natural speech patterns and the authentic you.
Don’t use too much rhetoric. The point is not to show off linguistic flourishes but to connect with the people listening to you.
Do bring notes with you. I’ve often talked about how notes needn’t detract from the power of a speech and this one from Charles Kennedy is a good example. I’m guessing he didn’t have as much time as he would have liked to rehearse this but it’s still hailed as iconic. The only suggestion I would have made to him is not to look at his notes while he was speaking, to do that on the off beat, during a pause.
Don’t read your speech. Apart from Charlotte Church’s speech being overwritten, the fact that she’s got a full script means she’s reading it. In this situation, it’s no wonder she spends most of the time looking down and not at the audience. Given the task she set herself – to read aloud a difficult passage of text – she did an excellent job, but this is not really what public speaking is about.
Do remember it’s not about you. What’s important is the issue, the occasion, the crowd: you are here in their service. Convey your message with dignity and sincerity (which is incomparably easier if you’ve implemented the above recommendations). Any applause should be for the points you’re making, not to congratulate you for pulling off a feat of articulation.