Speech of the Month, May 2022 - Chris Mason

Chris Mason - an extraordinary presenter because he's so happily ordinary

Speech of the Month, May 2022 - Chris Mason

I was really pleased when it was announced that Chris Mason would be replacing Laura Kuenssberg as the BBC’s Political Editor. Not because I disliked Kuenssberg, far from it; I loved her fab jackets and the drama she brought as she divulged the latest Westminster carry-ons. Chris Mason is, by contrast, less visually arresting, but he’s equally watchable. I’m thrilled he exists - and here are the presentation lessons we can learn from one of Yorkshire’s broadcasting finest:

He’s so unaffected

When Mason opens his mouth, you don’t have to be Henry Higgins to know where he’s from - unless you’re my mother who thinks everyone with an accent is from Ireland. His Yorkshire vowel sounds are unmistakeable and he’s never tried to erase them which, given the industry he’s in and the snobbery around accent from educated people (educated people aren’t necessarily bright) in decision-making positions, this is both remarkable and admirable. He demonstrates that accent isn’t a barrier to clear, intelligent speech. 

Accent aside, he’s never looked up the services of an image consultant. He doesn’t try to look cool or sharp; his suits are more M&S than D&G. Has he had any cosmetic dentistry to make himself more camera-friendly? Has he ‘eck as like! And although his crowning glory is thinning, can you think of anyone less likely to flirt with hair implants? Ok, John Sergeant perhaps. Point is, he keeps his appearance neat and appropriate so that the story, not himself, is the star. 

He loves his job

Another reason that Mason’s story is always the star is because of his keenness to tell it. He is bursting to inform. He says he was given a little, white radio when he was seven and became obsessed with it and its broadcasting abilities; how one tiny box of plastic could offer so many aural treats. This passion for broadcasting is clear in his reporting.  

'But Emma,’ I hear you groan, ‘It’s easy to be passionate when you’re speaking about ‘hot off the press’ news stories. You try and work up passion when you’re running through a technical demo you’ve given a hundred times.’ And I get that. But remember that your audience is hearing your much-used demo for the first time. The First Time. I bet Elaine Paige’s performance of Evita was as intense on the 100th night as it was on the opening night. Respect your audience and resist going through the motions. 

He varies his lingo

If we don’t make the effort then language can become dull and predictable. Our vocab can shrink and we can end up spouting out the same old phrases and clichés. And once listeners think they know what we’re going to say, they stop hearing us. So adding surprising, inclusive language holds the audience’s attention and makes the message easier on the ear. In the clip above, Mason doesn’t just use the word ‘party’; he also refers to the said parties as shindigs, bashes, booze-ups and do’s. 

Like Mason, be your own thesaurus. Think before you speak and try to find fresh nouns and adjectives. Don’t show off, though; ‘deleterious’ might be a more unexpected adjective than ‘damaging’, but how many members of your audience will know what it means. 

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“Emma delivered a bespoke, engaging presentation skills training event for our complex and diverse cryptocurrency training team. The whole day was thoroughly enjoyable, filled with laughter and huge amounts of learning. The exercises built up throughout the day and culminated with our team presenting to the group using their new techniques. Everyone left the session brimming with ideas for their next events.”

Paul Taylor, Training Manager, Chainalysis Inc

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