Tuesday 27 September 2011

Ed Miliband must improve

Ahead of the Labour leader's speech later today I thought it would be worth looking at the critique I wrote last year of his first conference speech. My basic summary was that both his content and delivery was not of sufficient quality. At the time he had been leader for only a matter of hours so it was a very tough speech to give well. There can be no excuses today.

Below are the fundamentals of what makes a successfil speech followed by my critique. There was a lot of room for improvement, now lets see if those changes have been made.... 

Know the message you want to deliver before you start speaking

The key message was 'New Generation Must Change Country'. This partly came through but was lost due to the poor structure of the speech and necessity to cover so much ground. The speech was book-ended with references to the 'new generation' but got lost in other material that may have been necessary but perhaps could have been finessed better.

Speeches, and the drafting of them, must never be rushed

There was solid material here, there was very good material here, but there was also a lot of unnecessary material that diverted attention away from the message. The structure was poor and the speech only found a real rhythm in the final few passages. This has all the hallmarks of a speech that has been badly rushed - even cobbled together - and not practiced. In future don't be afraid to use a stock speech or stock phrases to give you an air of confidence and help with your delivery if time is short.

Know why your audience is there

This is a major plus point in one respect that your audience wanted you to do well and were on your side. They also wanted to hear certain key points from you which can somewhat excuse the range of material used. In future don't try to keep everyone happy as this means people go away feeling unfulfilled or neutral observers asking 'what was the key message?'


A structure of a speech, particularly to a large audience, is crucial. You need to grab the audience and take them on a journey. To do this you need to tell them where you are going, let them know what your solution is to any problems you may raise, then summarise with where your speech has just been. It felt as if you just sat down and wrote this speech without thinking of how to keep the audience interested.


You included clap lines but failed to deliver them all too often. A lack of rhythm in your delivery meant it was a long time before you had won over the audience to an acceptable degree. Too often the delivery was plodding. In future mix stuccato with legato and take your audience with you by keeping them interested. 


Much more practice needed. If you are going to tell a few jokes then learn them in advance. Watch as many Bill Clinton clips on Youtube as you can. Try and let your personality out from behind the autocue.

Gestures and delivery

How you perform a speech like this can be as important as the actual content to many. Use voice inflection - you're not a robot. Try in future to project enthusiasm or show empathy. Use the pause to add drama to your delivery or flag key points. Don't go as far as your brother might but do pause to help your audience reflect on what you are telling them.

You also need to look the part. That may come in time. You need to reduce the stare and try to bring some life to your features. Public speaking can be nerve inducing but if you smile you'll find it will help you to relax. You need to learn some new gestures. The thumb on fore-finger point is seen to be over-used by politicians. Perhaps try and look at the audience a little - it might help you to connect with them quicker next time.


Content and delivery was too inconsitent to say this was a good performance. Some glimmers of quality but a lot of work to do in order to be classed among the best.

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