Public Affairs: Soap Box - Brian Jenner, founder, UK Speechwriters' Guild

I was commissioned to write an analysis of the speeches at the party conferences by Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Miliband, but I've got a confession to make. I didn't watch them.

Instead I've been reading Chip and Dan Heath's book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. The authors say analysing the causes of a problem rarely helps to solve it. If we want to change something, we have to study what's working and champion that.

As a speechwriter, I love listening to great speakers but I don't expect to find them at party conferences. If we want to change that, we've got to ask where they do go. Who is putting on the events that everybody wants to be at? Where can you hear about compelling new ideas?

One answer is TED (Technology Education Design) - a private non-profit organisation. It began in the States and is now a global umbrella for several conference formats.

I've watched a future prime minister, Rory Stewart MP, give an unforgettable speech about foreign policy in Afghanistan. I've heard Sir Ken Robinson talk passionately about education policy. I spotted a brilliant speech at a TEDx in Brighton about the problems creatives have in communicating with business people.

There is a huge difference between these speeches and the speeches you get at party conferences: TED talks make me want to leap out of my chair and get involved in the world.

TED has a rule that no presentation can last longer than 18 minutes. If the party leaders took only one lesson from the TED format, that would be a sensible one.

TED finds articulate people with ideas worth spreading and then gives them a platform. That's the sort of thing we'd all like to see at a 21st century party political conference.

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