Want blog updates?
With the recent round of party conferences bringing politicians to the fore, I thought I'd add an article here by Ron Aldridge - his response to a BBC programme broadcast on BB2 in April this year.
I don't know how many of you caught the fascinating documentary last week called 'Yes We Can! - The Lost Art of Oratory'*, but I thought I'd just pass on a few thoughts I had after watching it.
The programme focused around the inauguration ceremony of Barack Obama. Dianne Abbot, MP, recognised that with President Obama, 'oratory had been re-introduced to politics.'
Here was a highly intelligent man who spoke with clarity, purpose and conviction. It may not be enough to save the world, we'll have to wait and see, but this ability to speak so well and so convincingly has truly captured the world's imagination.
I think this is because most of the political 'speaking' of the last few years has had a depressing preoccupation with 'spin', and as we know, 'spin', by its very nature, is not authentic.
We associate oratory with authenticity. We need to believe in the speaker.
Gore Vidal likened the preparations of great orators to the preparations of great actors.
'Churchill's commitment to his speech was like Olivier tackling Hamlet.'
Great orators, like great actors, are great 'performers'
Like great actors, great leaders create and sell us on an alternative vision of the world a better world of which we are an essential part.
They suspend us, to paraphrase Max Weber, in webs of significance.
Churchill idealised his countrymen with such intensity that in the end they approached his ideal.
Ghandi, it has been said, made India proud of itself.
Abraham Lincoln also had that great leader's gift of making people believe they could be part that they were part of a great nation.
Martin Luther King, a rhetorician of rare power, had that same genius.
When you consider such towering and theatrical leaders, you come to realise that leadership is not just a performing art, it may well be the greatest performing art of all the only one that creates institutions of lasting value, institutions that can endure long after the stars who envisioned them have left the theatre.
And oratory great oratory is the externalising and expressing of these leadership qualities the presence of presence.
Presence comes from within. It begins with an inner state, which leads to a series of external behaviours. You can put on the behaviours, but by themselves they'll lack something essential. They'll be hollow noise and nothing else.
We've all heard politicians say, "I feel your pain," when we know they're simply saying what they think we want to hear.
Compare that to Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech, which obviously sprang from his deeply held beliefs and motivated a generation to overturn four hundred years of assumptions and behaviours.
Think about the last time you were really moved by an actor in a live theatrical performance, or in a T.V. drama, or in a film. Really moved to feel something deeply, to understand something more completely, to think about something from a new perspective, or even, perhaps, to change your mind about something.
Now think about the last time you were truly moved in the same way by a presentation made by a leader in your organisation or business circle. I'm not saying moved to tears, but moved to understand a different point of view, be excited about a new possibility, or to be motivated to adapt and grow with changing times.
Of course the goal of the actor or the leader in these instances is the same to connect with the audience in some fundamental way. Unfortunately most people will say that this experience is much more rare in the office than it is at the cinema.
Which is exactly the point. The skills of oratory that actors use to move, convince, inspire or entertain have direct and powerful applications in the worlds of business, politics, education and organisations in general.
They are not only useful for leadership, they are essential.
Great leaders, like great actors, must be confident, energetic, empathetic, inspirational, credible and authentic.
That leaders and actors share some skills and characteristics should come as no surprise. Actors and leaders face a common challenge. They must form connections, communicate effectively, and work with others as a team. They must be prepared to play different roles, as the situation requires. They must be prepared to influence and move people every day.
Just as actors play a variety of roles, we all play roles, as people and as leaders.
How many roles do you play each day of your life? Manager, parent, spouse, whatever your profession is, scout leader, church-goer, citizen, nurse, counsellor. Do you behave differently in each role? And does that mean you are faking things?
Beneath all these roles is the same person.
And in all these roles there must be 'truth' there must be 'authenticity'.
It is a paradox in the theatre that, in order to pretend, the actor must be real. That need requires the actor to delve inside himself, because the only way an emotion can be authentic is if it comes from within the actor. Actors, consequently, are probably more aware of authenticity than anyone else, because they've studied it, and themselves, so carefully.
Again, great oratory is the externalising and expressing of this 'truth' - this 'authenticity'.
We believe great orators because they believe we see that they 'care'.
Ex President Clinton confirmed what we in the theatre are fully aware of people remember very little of what you say, they won't remember your exact words, but what they will never, ever forget, is the way that you made them feel.
And if you want your audience to feel something, then you must 'feel' it too.
Thoughts to take away:
Speak your truth:
We are all expert at body-language and non-verbal communication. If you are not 'authentic', if you are not telling your 'truth', it will be detected by your audience - maybe not consciously, but certainly subconsciously. If lack of authenticity is detected, the response will not be totally positive.
Understand your passionate purpose:
Why are you speaking? What are you hoping to achieve? Are you there to motivate, educate, inspire, entertain maybe a bit of each? Knowing your passionate purpose will help to determine the content of your speech, and will also help to keep your intentions 'focused'.
Now that you know your passionate purpose, it is vital you express this purpose with clarity, and let your audience know exactly how you feel. We will be left with a 'feeling' when you finish speaking, and what we feel will be determined by our experience of 'your feelings.' Even if we don't agree with you, we know where you stand. This openness is an essential part of true communication, and is vital for great oratory.
Actors wouldn't dream of going on stage without rehearsing this is where all the work is done. You cannot be over-rehearsed, but you can very easily be under-rehearsed. And remember, people rehearse until they get it right - professionals rehearse until they can't get it wrong. You need to be able to walk on stage knowing that you can't get it wrong. Imagine what that does for your levels of 'inner-confidence'.
Ron Aldridge, 9th April 2009
What's your breakthrough goal? A new approach to the new year ...
Many people I've been seeing recently are beating themselves up about what they’ve failed
12 coaching questions to help you move forward in your business
I’ve had several conversations this week with people who are reviewing various aspects of their
Act in the moment to unleash the power of your intuition - 6 easy ways to get started
We hear a lot about the power of acting on our intuition – those little nudges that come seemingly