Tips and Analysis
Thu 04 Oct 2012

Miliband, Liberation, and Structure Subscribe Email Print

Written by Richard Matthews. Categories: Presentation analysis Tags: Miliband, Political presentations

A speech is like a presentation - it's a performance. And Ed Miliband certainly delivered that at the 2012 Labour Conference.

Ed Miliband

First impressions are key, and I was struck by the confidence in Miliband's walk onto the stage and his apparent ease. He seemed almost liberated. Much has been written in praise of his delivery, but let us trumpet the fact that he did not hide behind a podium. Hugely impressive - as well as the sheer memory feat, and an example to millions of us.

So, what was there to like in his delivery? Vocally, he could be conversational. He made good use of inflections. He made eye contact with every part of the audience. His energy level was varied - but heightened at the key points, the start and close. Physically, there were no outward displays of tension. And he used humour - and just about handled it right.

Not all plain sailing though. A really good speaker must ensure they adopt the appropriate body language to match their words. Miliband's team was plain wrong to advise him to have his hand in his pocket whilst delivering key points of the speech. This diluted the impact of his words, giving them an unintended casualness which undermined their impact. Great for the jokes - not the serious stuff! Like so many politicians, Miliband needed to explore his vocal range too. There were too many chunks of his speech delivered on the same note, which became tiring and lost him impact.

But any speech or presentation is content as well as communication - both have got to be great. So in this instance, much more could have been made of the structure of the content. And that didn't mean being policy-heavy. Miliband had a great line: "this is where I stand, this is who I am, this is what I believe, this is my faith", which he could have used to properly structure the speech. But one third of the way through, he borrowed from Disraeli the idea of "one nation", which then became the speech. It seemed highly cynical, especially as he could not properly justify why his was the only party that could create just such a nation. It lost the speech authenticity at a critical stage. I think Miliband would have gained much more by using his "stand, believe, faith" idea as the framework for his speech, allowing us the audience to understand him and his party through that lens, Repeating those key words - stand, believe, faith - throughout the speech would have been extremely powerful. And politically powerful too, if his conclusion was that everything that has shaped him and inspires him, makes him the leader of a one nation party.

Success for a public speaker and presenter is when the audience goes away and remembers at least one thing you said. So, Miliband succeeded - because everyone was talking about "one nation". But he missed a trick. Yes, the rehearsing paid off hugely. But he could have gained much from a clearer, tighter structure. More impact? Definitely. Less cynicism - quite possibly!