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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Clear diction at the G20 conference helps Cameron and Merkel.

A little reported comment by Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor at the Canadian G20 conference is worth noting. She observed how David Cameron's clear diction and careful delivery helped her understanding of his English and what he was saying. Here is a powerful message for the politician seeking to influence or the entrepreneur pitching for the next opportunity in Britain. Not many of us like the sound of our voices and even fewer do anything about it. Speaking well gives you authority, influence and status. Have you noticed that how you speak can get you better or poorer service? We are not talking of the strangulated sounds from the Royal family or the extravagences of regional accents, rather a delivery that is clear, free of jargon and colloquialisms, not distracting and makes for interested listening. In a competitive business world we tend to underplay one of the most valuable assets we have - well-spoken English. Foreigners are appreciative and we downplay it. Our exports, tourism and diplomacy would all benefit from Merkel's experience. One thing is for certain in their future meetings, Merkel will approach them knowing that a major communication hurdle has been overcome and the content of debate has a chance of being heard.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Restaurant reviews and conversation.

Another weekend and another Sunday supplement to scan. I am always drawn to the restaurant critiques, not that I am ever going to be a customer. An SW1 postcode for most reviews, an elevated bill for two and living in the provinces all put a stop to that.

No, what tantalises my voyeuristic reading, is the statutory photograph of the centre of attraction for that week. Not a setting out of place, a regimented layout, not a customer to be seen and interior design that seems to sap the vibrancy out of a place. It is as if you are looking at a furniture shop out of hours.

However good the cuisine, the ambience must surely have an impact on the social interaction of customers as they tuck in. Not an issue until one realises that, as most of the reviews are of West End eateries, their clients will cover media, politics and business - positions of influence. One wonders what impact the atmosphere of a place has on the quality of communication that takes place across the tables. Does the ambience drain both the food and conversation?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Getting the best from World Cup teams- communication at its best and worst.

So how did the Algerian manager prepare his players for the English match? He knew he had a tough game ahead. What was called for was not a trip to a safari park or more practice passes - something headier was needed. Yes, he showed his team the famous 1966 film "The Battle of Algiers." Admittedly, the enemy were the French and not us, but the call to arms was a force-multiplier which served its purpose- A George Patton factor!

Capello may not have the everyday language skills to give our team the fillip it needs so he must seek other motivational strategies. Even if you know the team is underperforming, Capello would be wise to hide his body language a bit - it only helps the opposition and confirms for your team what it already knows.

And finally, the Terry press interview and later failed attempt to "air" viewpoints at a meeting. The political and business worlds are littered with failed coups through misreading support or poor tactics. Such was the case here but Capello's moral authority is shot to pieces. To coin a phrase " he remains in office but not in power."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

"Words to be spoken are not the same as words to be read" Helpful tools for the novice scriptwriter.

Every Parliamentary intern or staffer's rite of passage comes when asked to craft a speech for the first time. Assume you have read "Lend me your ears" whilst "I have a dream", has been well thumbed. You know something about oratory and rhetoric. You know rules of three, contrasting and puzzle-solution devices. But how do you create something which is memorable for the audience, enhances your employer's reputation and builds your own professionalism? You want practical tips about how to approach the whole endeavour. Help is at hand!

  • Your aim is to create rhythm in the speech which accords with the delivery style of the speaker. Get that right and the audience gets moved along as well. Remember, words to be spoken are not the same as words to be read. Many budding speechwriters move to the keyboard and start banging out some prose. Not surprisingly, when it comes to delivery, these words come out as a reading - after all that is how they were created. Far better to think of words which you conjure up whilst driving, cutting the grass or having a shower. Create your script away from the pad. Phrases may have emerged in an anarchic manner, but when honed, they will maintain their vibrancy in the chamber or elsewhere. "Communication is what we do best and the best is what we communicate" sounds contrived - you would not use it at a dinner party. It has a ring and in the right place exudes energy and drives audience dynamics.
  • Talk and tape with your client, so as to gain a feel of his/her speech patterns. Obama is ace at delivering cryptic lists and his pace of delivery adds to the energy in the performance. Check out the rhetorical devices your client seems most happy with.
  • Let the speech have one key point culminating in the punchline or call to action. The audience may be hearing but not listening. A colloquial style and logical structure helps them along.
  • Least is best. Your speech may not become iconic but at least it deserves a chance. A memorable strap line allows easier recall to be picked up by the media. Keep sentences short, allow for the pause and place opportunities for co-ordinated gesture clusters.
  • We are not expecting the power of a Malcolm Gladwell. The recent election debates have told us that communication abilities can be a tipping point in harnessing opinion. Don't allow the speech to get bogged down in policies, personalities and process. Instead work on a passion about people and their predicaments - a key reason for entering the profession in the first place.
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