L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

04 October 2007 Blog Home : October 2007 : Permalink

No Autocue. So What?

Various people have been impressed that the boy Dave (c) managed to make an entire speech without a script or autocue. Other people (e.g. Melanie Phillips) think that, while impressive, it is irrelevant and that we should pay more attention to the content.

For the most part I agree with the latter group. But not completely. I find it amazing that politicians these days cannot speak without a script. Come to think of it I find it astonishing that most public speakers seem to have trouble with this concept. I'm not picking on British pols here; in fact it seems to me that the British pols are better at public speaking than many others and far far superior to US Senators - all of whom seem to be incapable of making a speech that is interesting to listen too.

I note that when business people have meetings, when scientists and scholars have conferences etc. it is common for speakers to talk for hours with little more than a few powerpoint cues. This is not difficult, all it takes is training and practice. The first time I stood up in front of a bunch of strangers and made a pitch for something I was embarrassingly bad. But then I was a student then and it wasn't exactly unexpected. That was about 20 years ago and in the time since that moment where I wished I could sink into the floor I've given numerous presentations and got better and better at it. You would think that a politician could do the same. Mind you this would probably annoy the journalists because they'd actually have to listen instead of read the scripts but it might help shorten political bloviating by forcing the pols to concentrate on the big message and not get bogged down in tedious details when they don't need to. It would also help them learn what they are talking about because if you speek ex tempore you have to have some understanding of your subject matter.

It is worth noting that famous 19th century orators such as WE Gladstone or Benjamin Disraeli were quite capable of doing so as did Sir Winston Churchill. Indeed I believe that most British MPs (until recently?) have been used to speaking with no more than a few scribbled notes in the House of Commons.