Wise Words – can Churchill teach us anything about public speaking in the modern world?

Newletter photoI have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears & sweat (Sir Winston Churchill)

Ask most people to name a famous Great British orator and they will say Sir Winston Churchill.  Look through any list of famous quotes in the last couple of centuries and they will come up with some from Churchill without a doubt. (And probably try to do the accent and tone as well!) Is he a product of his time and place though? In the age of short attention spans, desire for fast moving images and quick fixes, is Churchill’s rhetoric now outdated and replaced?  He certainly knew what to say and how to say it in a way that matched the mood and the needs of a nation at war – do the techniques and approaches he used still have relevance today? What would happen if we started to sound like Churchill in our presentations?

Whilst there are many aspects of Churchill’s speeches that are so powerful, here are three delivery techniques I think still make an impact on any presentation:

  1. The power of the pause.  He doesn’t rush, he doesn’t race.  He uses pauses to add pace and emphasis to his message.  Even listening now to recordings, you can hear the build up of energy, the moment of reflection, the highlighting of significance – all through the pause.  We can and should all do this when we are speaking in public.
  2. The power of narrative. He builds a story and a narrative.  Yes the speeches are logical and the content carefully chosen.  But there is more to it than that.  The sequencing of the information, the pace of the delivery all means that the listener is drawn into and held by the narrative.  When we choose our content and when we decide what order to put what and how, we also need to be aware of the whole presentation – the narrative thread as it were.
  3. The power of the words. Churchill uses repetition, alliteration and the ‘rule of three’ in his speeches.  These three techniques still work today and carefully place and used can work magic on your listeners.  In a presentation we are not just speaking (presenting content), we are delivering a message through our dance (body language) and our music ( words) Choose your words, shape them, sound them out to hear the ‘music’ – and you will speak not just to the minds of your audiences but also at a deep emotional level too.

If you would like to chat about how you can develop your presentation skills, then email Catherine or call her on 07946604859.

This blog was originally part of a competition run by White Hart Training.  Entrants to the competition had to guess the originator of six quotes.  Each of the six quotes exemplifies six key factors about speaking in public.  Please browse the blog for the remaining five quotes or search using the category Quotation Competition

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