Thursday, 26 January 2012

3 public speaking lessons after Sir Robert Smith's stumble at PMQs

Sir Robert Smith, Lib Dem MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, experienced one of those awful moments when his mind went blank as he was asking David Cameron a question at PMQs. The House, which can be brutal at times, were mercifully kind to him as he struggled to remember the final part of his question about safety regulation in the North Sea oil industry.

The moment can be seen in the video below at minute 14:57:

There are three simple lessons that can be learnt from Sir Robert's unfortunate mind block:

1. Keep calm and take a pause. Those moments when the mind goes blank can seem like an eternity but to those listening it isn't ever quite as bad. Sir Robert did well to keep calm, pause, and remember the final part of his question while apologising to Mr Speaker gained him additional time. It is very easy to become flustered in these situations but if you do your mind may fail you even further.

2. Always have notes to hand. It is Parliamentary convention that speeches and questions should not be read verbatim, although increasingly this seems to be ignored by more and more MPs. Sir Robert, to his credit, attempted to ask a question without the use of notes. Unfortunately he would have been better off having his question to hand as a safety net for moments just like this one.

3. Practice.  In all forms of successful communication those who have prepared and practised perform the best. Sir Robert clearly knew the point he wanted to make but his question was poorly focused. This wouldn't have been the case if he had practised his question aloud helping him to focus the content as well as drilling it into his consciousness.

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