Speech of the Month, September 2020 - Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband thoroughly enjoyed himself when he stepped in to speak for Keir Starmer. Here's how you can enjoy yourself when speaking in public...

Speech of the Month, September 2020 - Ed Miliband

From the kitchen I could hear that something exciting was happening in the living room. There was a raised, buoyant voice and laughter. I ran through and what did I find… Ed Miliband giving Boris Johnson an unholy stripping down. Next the camera’s on Michael Gove who’s desperately fighting to arrange his face so it shows neither admiration for Miliband’s killer arguments nor shame that his chum and party might soon break international law. And then we go to Alok Sharma who, relieved he’s not on the receiving end of Miliband’s verbal stick, can’t help but enjoy the spectacle! If you need reminding of it, then take a look at the video below. 

The whole point of ‘Speech of the Month’ is to explore the anatomy of a good speech and identify the elements that we could use to enhance our public speaking. Here’s what we can take from Red Ed’s address….

Enjoy yourself

Miliband was having a whale of a time! He was so pleased with what he was saying that he couldn’t help but get his face involved, thereby infusing his points with extra zing. Now, it’s easy to enjoy yourself in a debate if you know you have right on your side, but when you’re not debating but you’re presenting or pitching, make sure you insert elements that you’ll enjoy delivering.

Stories can really help here. Open up with a personal story, that you know people like hearing and that you enjoy telling, that carries the same message as the key message of your presentation, or use a story to illustrate a point or piece of information within the presentation. If the audience feels that you’re enjoying yourself then they also see a confident speaker, and if we sense we’re in the hands of a confident speaker, then we can sit back and enjoy ourselves too. 

Respect your own words

Interestingly, Miliband’s speech was written by Keir Starmer who, because he was self-isolating, was unable to deliver it himself. And this is something I often find – we’re far more comfortable delivering someone else’s words than our own. It’s common with actors; they’ll be far more nervous performing their own one-man show than they will taking the lead in ‘Death of a Salesman’. It’s not difficult to understand why - when we perform our own words we’re not just being judged on our delivery but on our content too. But from now on, do yourself a favour and believe that the words you’ve chosen to say are as good as those that someone you admire might write. Respect your own words and deliver them so everyone can hear them. 

Use a tricolon for emphasis

I talked about the tricolon in December’s post, the subject of which was Boris Johnson. So it was funny to see the king of the tricolon having such a devastating one launched at him. A tricolon is the grouping together of three units of speech; the most famous tricolon is Caesars’s ‘Veni, vidi, vici’ – 'I came, I saw, I conquered.' Miliband uses it in his speech when he says, “The deal he told us was a triumph, the deal that was ‘oven ready’, the deal on which he fought and won a general election, is now contradictory and ambiguous.’ Here, the tricolon helps Miliband built to his rhetorical crescendo which brings us to…

Pause before your killer phrase

After delivering “is now contradictory and ambiguous”, Miliband leaves a pause, that’s six months pregnant at the least, and helps to create anticipation and drive home his condemning assertion which is, “Madam Deputy Speaker … … what incompetence!”  

Explaining how to perform a pause in a blog post is difficult, but the more important the point, the longer the pause should be before you say it. In my experience, it’s very rare that people over pause, so dare yourself to pause for longer than feels comfortable. And while the pause is happening, look around your audience, let it know through your eye contact that what you’re going to say will be worth the wait.  

If you'd like to discover how you can use stories to enhance business presentations, then contact me about a group workshop. 

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Five stars
“Although I am a lawyer, it's been a long time since I've given a speech. So when I was asked to give a talk at a fundraising event at which other presenters, some of whom were MPs and CEOs, would speak, I knew I needed some top-notch support. Emma was just that. She looked at my first draft and, politely, let me know how overwritten and meandering it was. She 'did surgery' on it and helped me find humorous moments so that it had tonal range. She helped me with delivery too; I had no idea how wobbly I was! I was nervous before I gave the speech but seconds in I actually began to enjoy it. And so many people came up to me afterwards and commented that mine was the best of the evening! I was so surprised, but very happy. Yet I know, they wouldn't have said that if it hadn't been for Emma's input. She's excellent.”

Samira Jarvis, Hale

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