Sunday, 10 April 2016

Speeches for Leaders by Charles Crawford

After Thursday's seminar, the book. Speeches for Leaders - Leave Audiences Wanting More, by Charles Crawford. A book of brilliant clarity, which draws you in and leaves you more able and more skilled when you finish it. (Of course, it helps to have had the seminar first!)

On the face of it, this is yet another 'how-to' guide. How to do public speaking better. We live, we learn, we improve.

Yet it's is far more than that.

Written by a former diplomat with the hands-on experience of being at the high table as the Big Speeches were being prepared and delivered, it's also an insider's view of how leaders project power, soft power and real power. Or - if they get it wrong - their weakness.

Ultimately, this is a book about how we humans, in our biologically-ordained hierarchical structures, have evolved to use persuasion to gain power; the subtle persuasion of words, tone, mood, stories - to get others to do what we want them to do.

It's a book that portrays story-telling as the greatest art form; it's this art that's used by our leaders to shape the destiny of human affairs.

The practical nuts-and-bolts stuff is crucial, and each point is illustrated by examples from recent history of leaders doing it right (Obama - "Yes we can") and doing it wrong (Obama on the reset with Russia or David Milliband on British-Polish historical links.)

The do-nots: Don't use words like 'must' and 'need' and 'should' ("The world must take action to end..." "Europe needs to promote... "We should all..." especially if you yourself are not able to make that happen. It makes you look weak. Former Labour leader Ed Milliband did this on Twitter in the run-up to last May's General Election. Helped lose it for him. Don't whinge. It makes you look like a loser. And don't mix metaphors. "... the EU... a powerful conglomerate of various vectors and ambitions framed around a lowest common denominator, grand enough to allow it to write scenarios for others worldwide."

Vladimir Putin's technique is scrutinised and not found wanting. Using a mix of shockingly brutal language, conciliatory noises aimed at the West and coded warnings to his neighbours, Putin is an expert at sending different messages to different audiences at the same time. His speeches project strength and threat - but the latter only to those who are aware.

Speeches for Leaders is up-to-the minute. Public speaking today, to a roomful of people each with a video cameras in their phone, all Tweeting away, becomes all the more risky should things go wrong - yet all the more powerful should you succeed. More practical tips: don't forget to strip out the Properties of an MS Word document before sending it to the media, or journalists will figure out who wrote the first draft and, from Track Changes, which bits of the speech were dropped. And why. The book also explains how to use PowerPoint effectively. Use only a handful of words on a slide. Don't use bullet points or fancy effects. Use punchy photos - without words - across the entire slide. PowerPoint should be an aid to your speech, not an all-encompassing document - or worse - a crutch.

Here's the book's unique selling point. On the one hand, you are learning a craft - something that will help you in your professional (and indeed personal) life. On the other, you are taken soaring into the world of international diplomacy, high politics that have life-changing consequences for citizens globally.

Speeches for Leaders has the makings of a best-seller. If it goes into a second edition - a tip from me (and others who bought the book on Thursday): Change the typeface!

If you regularly find yourself speaking to groups of people - BUY. THIS. BOOK.

This time last year:
In Memoriam

This time three years ago:
Warszawa 1935: 3D film reconstructs lost city

This time four years ago:
Cats and awareness

This time six years ago:
Why did this happen?

This time seven years ago:
Britain's grey squirrels turning red

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