THIS morning, I took a call from the BBC. As both a business coach and speaker trainer, they wanted me to go live on air to provide some public speaking tips for Boris Johnson.

Of course, I was delighted to do so.

The thing is, having listened to the much-reported CBI speech in full, I reckon Peppa Pig World was one of the best parts.

Why? Because, when he started speaking about something that actually meant something to him, his delivery changed.

Boris went from rapidly throwing out stats, with little to no emotion, to slowing his pace, leaning towards his audience, and adopting a more conversational style.

The topic might have been the cause of much hilarity, but the delivery was better.

It was a similar story when he spoke about his hedonistic glory days as a motoring correspondent for GQ magazine. We saw a different side to Boris. A more human side.

If you haven’t yet seen the full speech, I’m sharing it here, courtesy of the Confederation Of Business Industry. If you’re interested, I’d encourage you to watch the entire 24-minute dialogue, for context, rather than the beautiful blooper reel our friends in the media have blasted across the world wide web.

Are the topics that clearly light him up desirable in a PM? That’s not for me to decide. Perhaps it doesn’t matter. Or, at least, it might not if he was equally as engaged with the core topics of the event.

For me, what’s more concerning than car engine impressions or theme park segues is the rote manner in which he spits out the all-important details he was — arguably — there to address.

Write and wrong

Boris delivers the written word as he writes it… and that just doesn’t translate well.

At worst, his delivery suggests he does not care about the details of our country’s economic future; he seemed to be ploughing through, as rapidly as possible, in order to tick the boxes. Either that, or he’d hugely overwritten and was splurge-gunning his way through in order to squeeze a much longer speech into a much shorter segment.

The relief, when he finally reached his ‘fun’ Peppa Pig World segment, was palpable.

When I wrote about this on social media, one commentator made this observation — which, I reckon, might just sum up public feeling: “From what I saw, the subjects BJ lost his way on appeared to be those most important to his audience. To me that indicates a big disconnect with, and lack of respect for, his audience.

“The signal I got was that those subjects were either (i) of less importance to him than going to a theme park or (ii) beyond his comprehension.

“Business people are required to prepare and deliver presentations as part of their work — at times on subjects they are not expert in — so to scramble this way in front of such an audience is even more unfortunate.”

It’s hard to argue with those points, isn’t it? He’s excited about fast cars (to the point of making engine impressions), Peppa Pig World and comparing himself to Moses with his ‘ten business commandments’, but displays far less enthusiasm when referring to green energy, business development and the economy at large.

Perhaps his enthusiasm was lost on an audience desperately trying to keep up with all the information he was spitting out like a pressure cooker trying to release steam.

Or, perhaps his enthusiasm was lost on an audience desperately trying to keep up with all the information he was spitting out like a pressure cooker trying to release steam.

Journalism

With his background in journalism, it’s no wonder Boris crams his speeches with so many states and numbers attempts at humour and ‘clever’ twists and turns. That kind of writing works well on the page, but isn’t so great spoken out loud.

It’s simple really — the way in which we write and the way in which we speak are very different.

And that’s why, when Boris goes off-script, his delivery seems so much more natural, almost likeable — even if the topic draws ridicule from the media.

It’s not an attractive quality, in a speaker, to be finger reading out loud… and it’s ridiculously easy to end up in knots with the tiniest lapse of concentration.

Incidentally, the amount of information he tries to include is also the reason he gets lost and panics if he loses his place. It’s not an attractive quality, in a speaker, to be finger reading out loud… and it’s ridiculously easy to end up in knots with the tiniest lapse of concentration.

Were he reading this — as I said on the Beeb this morning — I’d encourage Boris to keep the stats on a piece of paper, and make no secret of referring to them, but stop trying to script the entire speech.

Show you care, man!

Show you care, Boris — speak from the heart, from experience, from knowledge. Give yourself some bullet points, maybe a beginning, ending and middle section, plus an idea of how you want your audience to react, to engage, the impact you want your speech to have, instead of trying to pre-craft a word-for-word dialogue to be recited straight from the page.

Ironically, if Boris had been willing to read the room a little more, step down from that giant pedestal he’s built for himself, and shown a little bit humility when he lost his place, the audience might have been with him, rather than chuckling whilst already dreaming up derogatory headlines.

If you’d just asked them to bear with you, made a light-hearted comment about losing your place, Boris, instead of bumbling through your embarrassment and bruised ego, you might have won them over.

Let’s face it, when it comes to pubic speeches, “Forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me.” has nowhere near the impact of “Education. Education. Education.”

Let’s face it, when it comes to pubic speeches, “Forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me.” has nowhere near the impact of “Education. Education. Education.”

Out of touch?

If our politicians are to be more relatable — if we’re to believe they’re even remotely in touch with us, the voters — they need to improve their public speaking skills.

A lot.

And this isn’t just about Boris.

Keir Starmer, I’m looking at you, too! Scripted Keir and off-the-cuff Keir are like two different people… and that should never be the case.

Not sure what I mean? Watch this, and try to park your political allegiances for a moment and just observe as someone trying to hear the connection. There’s a time and place for pauses in speeches, for instance, but sometimes they’re just too obvious and the scripted delivery hits us in the face, rather than genuine compassion and caring hitting us in the feels.

Still not sure? Watch the below clip — it’s probably still quite pre-planned, but far more off-the-cuff delivery. It’s interesting when we watch with the intention of dissecting their vibe as communicators, isn’t it?

What do you think about Boris’ speech? What about Keir’s delivery?

Which politicians have you found to be the most relatable orators? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Until next time,

#UnleashYourAwesome

Taz

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PS: If anyone reading this has links into Keir, Boris or any of the other politicians who need to really crack their communication, please do send them my way. I would LOVE to help them relate to their audience in a far more authentic, connected, way. Thanks.

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