'Now he is in power, Blair is not able to speak from the heart, but he still finds a way to relate. Even though he is now more separate from the concerns of the people, he is a more effective public speaker than William Hague, who is not remotely telegenic and has a voice which some find incredibly irritating. To become great, Blair needs to focus on the points the general public agree on. He must avoid the temptation to be too grand - only Churchill could get away with that. The cares of office have taken their toll on him but he can still speak well in public despite not being as good as he was five years ago.'
The Aziz Corporation
'Love her or hate her, Baroness Thatcher is still a class act. Fun has been poked at her high-fee appearances on the US speaking circuit, but she wouldn't be doing it if she wasn't hitting the mark. She is a classic example of how those with average speaking skills can hone them so they really excel. We tend to show clients the before and after tape of the then Mrs Thatcher. Her acceptance speech on winning the Tory leadership in 1975 was wooden, delivered in a monotonous whine, but there was no trace of that at her performance at the Lord Mayor's banquet a few years later. She had lowered her voice and measured her delivery, and used an extensive cricketing metaphor to gain the support of the middle-class English audience she was addressing.'
'The best I have seen in corporate life is John Makinson, the finance director of Pearson, who gave one of the most amusing and controversial addresses at the annual Investor Relations Society dinner a couple of years back. The audience was made up of pretty cynical investors and sell-side analysts, and financial and IR types, who perhaps take themselves fairly seriously. We got a hilarious dissection of the absurdities of the profession. Having knocked us down, he concluded by saying he couldn't have done his job at Pearson without the insights he had picked up in a decade in investor relations. The house was his. The key asset he had was credibility with his audience. Having been successful in IR and run the finances of a major company, he gave a speech which implied this was all a wonderful accident. You can't beat that sort of self-effacement.'
'There are no Churchills today, but the person I think comes closest is Nelson Mandela. He tells a good story with charisma, a sense of humour and humility. He explains things well and is so descriptive that he keeps your attention. His humility helps a great deal because we can naturally connect with that. If he communicates what you are thinking, it feels like you are thinking it, so you don't get bored. He steers clear of the voice-raising and whispering of classical oratory but you don't need that to be a good public speaker. You need energy, but ranting and raving is often counter-productive. Getting the pauses right and the emphasis right is vital and in that respect Mandela comes into his own.'