Speech of the Month, September 2021 - Rachel Reeves

Starmer and Rayner got the conference column inches, but Rachel Reeves gave the best speech

Speech of the Month, September 2021 - Rachel Reeves

Rachel Reeves’ speech was the best of the Labour conference but sadly it was overshadowed by Angela Rayner’s Tory slights and crafty fags. So if you didn’t see Reeves’ speech or if you’re thinking ‘Who's Rachel Reeves?’ then allow me to introduce you and explain why I believe she’s a great speaker. 

Check out the clip below. In it, she talks about the changes she would make to the tax system if she were chancellor. Now you might be thinking, ‘Changes to the tax system. That sounds dull,’ and I wouldn’t blame you. But actually, tax is about money and fairness, and don’t we all get hot under the collar if we suspect fairness is being flouted?

Here’s why I like her speech:

She rounds off her points with gusto

I always advise my clients to open a point by making a statement, then illustrate the statement and then round off, so that listeners know that you’ve finished making your point. The round off helps to make the point memorable and distinct, and it prevents speakers fading out, which happens too commonly in meetings. 

Here are a few round offs that she delivered:
“I will not balance the books on the backs of working people.” Nice bit of alliteration there. “That is indefensible. We would scrap it.” And, every listener’s favourite, “If you can afford to fly to the moon, then you can afford to pay your taxes here on planet earth.” Visual, sarcastic and really putting the boot in. 

Of course, how you deliver the round off is as important as crafting one in the first place. So make sure there’s energy in the voice right through to the last syllable of the round off phrase. Really spit out those last few consonant sounds.  

She taps into our emotions

Did you feel cross when Reeves informed you that private equity bosses pay a lower rate of tax than their employees? Me too. And does the fact that private schools receive charitable status make you shake your head with disbelief and annoyance? If it doesn’t, I’m assuming you went to a private school. 

The point is she made us feel. And if you can make an audience feel something be it hope, rage, excitement, shame…. then you’re better placed to make that audience agree with you. Always think about how you can make your audience feel something, even if you’re selling teasmades or crampons, in fact, especially if you’re selling teasmades or crampons! 

She gets her face involved

And she needs to. She’s addressing a conference. This is public speaking with its best bib and tucker on. But not all conference speakers do enough with their faces. Whereas when Reeves speaks, you can see that she’s really living and enjoying what she’s saying. And that makes her an appealing watch. 

There’s a nice moment, though, when she comes away from her ‘theatre face’ and beams a true smile at the audience; that comes after she receives a standing ovation following her comments on private schools. So it’s great to know that a spontaneous reaction which takes a speaker away from their orator persona for a few seconds, doesn’t diminish their presence, rather it shows that they’re in the moment which only increases it. 

If only Keir had a few more like her, eh?

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Five stars
“I considered myself a decent presenter but when I learnt I'd be giving my first speech at conference, I wanted some expert support. Emma gave me that. She helped me define my message, hone my arguments and produce laughs. I've always wanted to do a TedX, and now I feel confident enough to apply.”

Peter Sheffield, Wilmslow, Cheshire

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