The Analogy: a particularly strong rhetorical device

The analogy is a particularly powerful rhetorical tool. It often allows you to present a situation much more clearly than when you speak directly about it. It sometimes takes a little effort to find a good analogy. But if you take your time, you often have an advantage. Here is an example.

Imagine: You go to the doctor, no, better, you go to 100 doctors and 99 of them diagnose “diabetes”. 99 doctors tell you that you have diabetes and should therefore not eat bacon or donuts. Then what do they say? They say,”This is a conspiracy! 99 doctors have sat down with Obama and want to keep me from eating bacon and donuts!”[Break] You’d never say that! That’s exactly how it is with climate change …”

The words come from the former US President, Barack Obama, who in his speech criticized the position of some Republicans on climate change and the Treaty of Paris. The analogy is convincing and presented with humor. You have to look at it in the original.

Click here for the video. (It takes less than 2 minutes.)

As always: Practice makes perfect. Only if you take the trouble to implement the tips, you have the chance to make a good speech.

If you like the tip, why not share it in the social media such as Facebook, XING and others?

Gunter Pauli

Move your listeners, if necessary right at the beginning of your presentation

The number one rule of public speaking is,”Don’t bore your audience.” Because that many times leads to the audience falling asleep.

Some situations are easier than others to keep the listeners awake. Especially with rising temperatures – at the moment it’s about 30 degrees Celsius in my office – and with meetings that feel as long as a marathon it can be very difficult to keep the listeners and participants attention. Karem Albash, a colleague from the GSA, has brought to my attention a video on YouTube, in which this problem is masterfully solved. It is a video excerpt from the Entrepreneurship Summit 2014 in Berlin. Even if this occasion is a while back, I think everyone can learn something from it.

In the video we see Gunter Pauli, entrepreneur and designer and co-founder of The Blue Economy. He’s one of many speakers. What does Gunter Pauli do to wake up the audience?

  1. Gunter Pauli is in a good mood.
  2. He’s brimming with energy.
  3. He sets the audience in motion.

In particular, I think the third point is worth mentioning. Even though the first two points are a prerequisite for the third point to be successful. Namely: He makes the audience get up. At first glance, he doesn’t seem to be able to do it with all spectators. But he doesn’t give up: He insists. The audience seems to follow him. Especially as he has to ask the audience to sit down again at a later date. Acoustically, we hear that the audience has fun to participate. Yes, often this is the case: the audience wants to have fun or at least be entertained. Don’t be boring. As mentioned at the beginning, this is the highest rule of public speaking.

In addition, the third point is interesting because it helps the audience to take a different viewpoint. This contributes to the audience’s willingness to take new ways of thinking.

Why not also invite your audience to stand up, stretch out and move in a meeting or conference?

Click here for the video of and with Gunter Pauli

The sequence takes only 40 seconds (00:07 – 00:47). Look at it.

As always: Practice makes perfect. Only if you take the trouble to implement the tips, you have the chance to make a good speech.

If you like the tip, why not share it in the social media such as Facebook, XING and others?

The British Exit - and the European Future

John Major on The Brexit

John Major on The British Exit – and the European Future; University of Zurich, KOH-B-10, October 17, 2016, 18:40 – 19:26 h. Organised by the Schweizerisches InstitutJohn Major on the Brexit - and the European Future für Auslandforschung SIAF.

It was an honor and a privilege to have the former British prime minister visit the University of Zurich.  It was great to be able to experience the Rt Hon Sir John Major KG CH at first hand. The presentation was even more relevant because of the recent vote of the UK to exit the European Union. Therefore it was no wonder that the lecture hall was filled to almost the last seat available, i.e. about 440 attendees.

Former prime minister John Major argued that the exit came as a surprise to many. According to him there were going to be many negative consequences. Subsequently he praised the overall achievements of the European Union, acknowledging some difficulties. In particular the key achievement being peace in Europe after the first and second world war. On the other hand, one of the mistakes the EU in his opinion did, was to let too many countries  adopt the Euro too early. As a result, Sir John argued that the vote in favor of the Brexit had to do with the fact, that many British citizens hadn’t seen a raise in their living standard for the past 10 years.

Now to the topic of this blog: How good a public speaker is John Major?

On the positive side:

  • Use of humor: He opened and ended his speech with a joke. First with a joke about Gorbachev, then with one about Jelzin. John Major also deflected some potentially difficult questions with humor during the Q&A session.
  • Declaring his standpoint: He clearly said what his personal opinion was about the Brexit: He thinks it was a mistake. Comment: This puts things into perspective and let’s the audience understand more easily that he leans to one or the other side of the argument.
  • Relate to the audience: Sir John related to a large part of the audience when he (sarcastically) asked the students in the audience: “Are 65 million British citizens going to get the same deal as 500 million citizens of the EU? Discuss!” He earned a big laugh from that (, assuming that that will not be the case).

Areas for improvement:

  • Voice: John Major’s voice was not constantly audible. His voice tended to soften at the end of sentences to the point that he could no longer be understood. Suggestion: Articulate clearly and loudly until the end of every sentence.
  • One sided: Many arguments were unbalanced. E.g. NATO is good, Russia is bad. (No mention of the promise that NATO gave to Russia: We will not expand NATO if you let us reunite Germany.) Suggestion: When preaching to the converted that works fine, probably less so when speaking to a large number of (most likely) critical university students.

Conclusion:

Most noteworthy is Sir John Major’s humor. Unfortunately he could not always be acoustically well understood. In addition, in a school paper (and, in my humble opinion, hopefully by the press) he would have been asked to give a more balanced view.

This was a worthwhile event to go to, if only to experience first hand how a former and current leader speaks.

On a scale of 1 (stay home) to 10 (world champion): 7