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  • Speech writing must be one of the weirdest jobs in the world.

  • No matter how carefully the words have been prepared,

  • you are never quite sure how they are gonna be delivered.

  • Yesterday, I was in London,

  • and I was watching one of my clients, who is a big Australian businessman,

  • deliver a speech that I'd written for him.

  • I'd written for him this passage, kind of with Winston Churchill in mind,

  • about how we've got to fight for our future,

  • fight to protect our position, fight our competitors.

  • And I'd forgotten about the Australian accent.

  • And I watched from the back of the room with horror as I saw him go,

  • "We've got to 'fart' for our future, 'fart' to protect our position,

  • and I'll tell you what, folks, when I wake up every morning,

  • there is one thing I know for sure I'm gonna do that day; 'fart'!"

  • (Laughter) (Applause)

  • So today I'm gonna share with you some speechwriter secrets.

  • I don't know whether you know this,

  • but there is a secret language of leadership;

  • a secret language of leadership that we all used to be taught at school.

  • Ancient rhetoric.

  • This was a core part of the curriculum in Ancient Rome, part of the trivium.

  • In London, right the way through to the 19th century,

  • it was possible to get a free education in rhetoric, but not in mathematics,

  • reflecting the importance that was placed on the topic.

  • Today, teaching in rhetoric is restricted; restricted to a powerful, privileged few.

  • So what I'm gonna do in my speech is revive this ancient art of rhetoric

  • and share with you six techniques so that you can all speak like leaders.

  • So right, okay, stop.

  • Right, stop listen.

  • Look left, look right, look center.

  • How are you feeling?

  • Distressed? Anxious? Little bit edgy?

  • That's because I'm mimicking, hyperventilating.

  • This is the authentic sound of fear,

  • and that fear transfers to you.

  • This is an ancient Roman rhetorical device;

  • they used to call it asyndeton.

  • And it's one leaders still use today.

  • So David Cameron uses it:

  • "Broken homes,

  • failing schools,

  • sink estates."

  • Tony Blair used to use it as well:

  • "Education,

  • education.

  • education."

  • Barack Obama too:

  • "A world at war,

  • a planet in peril,

  • the worst financial crisis in a generation.

  • Why three?

  • Well, three is the magic number in rhetoric.

  • "Government of the people, by the people, for the people."

  • (In German) "One people, one empire, one leader."

  • (In Italian) "Eat well, laugh often, love much."

  • (Applause)

  • That was the hardest part of this speech to practice,

  • so thank you for the applause.

  • This is also an ancient Roman rhetorical device.

  • They used to call it tricolon,

  • which makes it sound like a peculiar part of the digestive system.

  • But it's just putting things in threes.

  • You put your argument in threes,

  • it makes it sound more compelling, more convincing, more credible.

  • Just like that.

  • And so we find the rule of three here, there, and everywhere.

  • And so indeed you can tell the history of Verona

  • through nothing more than the rule of three.

  • If you think that Caesar used to come here 2,000 years ago,

  • "Veni, vidi, vici."

  • 400 years ago,

  • Shakespeare wrote "Romeo and Juliet,"

  • which was set here.

  • "Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?"

  • But of course,

  • far and away the most momentous event in Verona's history -

  • today's TEDx;

  • "Reinvent. Rethink. Relay."

  • Right.

  • Let's move on; number two.

  • (Applause)

  • Three sentences in which the opening clause is repeated.

  • Now this is what Winston Churchill did with his,

  • "We shall fight on the beaches,

  • we shall fight on the landing grounds,

  • we shall fight on the fields and in the streets."

  • Of course, he could have said this a whole lot quicker.

  • But he wanted to communicate his emotion, so he repeated it.

  • When we are emotional about things, our perspective distorts.

  • And this then manifests in our speech.

  • And so this is the authentic sound of passion.

  • I love Verona.

  • I love Italy.

  • I love pasta.

  • I love tiramisu.

  • I love all of you.

  • I love the excitement,

  • I love the energy,

  • I love the enthusiasm here in this room;

  • Are you feeling my passion?

  • You should be because I am a speech writer and I know how to make a point.

  • It sweeps people away.

  • And this is why this technique is used by slick salesmen and by market traders.

  • "I'm not asking £20, I'm not asking £15,

  • I'm not even asking 10 pounds."

  • It sweeps people onto the next point, which is free balance in statements.

  • "Ask not what your country can do for you,

  • ask what you can do for your country."

  • "There is nothing wrong with America

  • that can't be cured by what's right with America."

  • "To be or not to be."

  • If the sentence sounds as if it's balanced,

  • we imagine that the underlying thinking is balanced,

  • and our brain is tuned to like things that are balanced.

  • Balanced minds, balanced diets, balanced lives.

  • And so we are drawn to these kinds of sentences,

  • we are attracted to them even if that balance is actually just an illusion.

  • Like, we're looking to the future, not the past.

  • We're working together, not against one another.

  • We're thinking about what we can do, not what we can't.

  • Now let's move on to number four.

  • Metaphor.

  • Metaphor is probably the most powerful piece of political communication.

  • But it's the bit no one ever talks about, the elephant in the room, so to speak,

  • which is extraordinary because we use metaphor once every 16 words on average.

  • So our conversation is littered with metaphors, scattered with metaphors.

  • We can't speak for very long without reaching for a metaphor,

  • and metaphors are very loaded.

  • See, metaphors are all over the place,

  • and they are political in that they are used by people

  • to lead people towards things, or indeed to make them recoil.

  • And so we use beautiful images, images of people, images of love,

  • images of family, of sunshine, in order to draw people towards things,

  • and we use disgusting images- vermin, scary monsters, disease, sickness,

  • in order to make people recoil.

  • And they're all lies, and they are never challenged.

  • And yet they have an enormous impact on the way that people behave and respond.

  • There's been research showing changing nothing more than the metaphor

  • in a piece of text

  • can lead to fundamentally different reactions from people

  • on questions ranging from

  • whether or not they'll invest in a company,

  • whether or not they will back particular crime policies

  • to even whether or not they'll support a foreign war.

  • And so this is really important stuff. and it's all around us.

  • So let me just take three of the big metaphors -

  • three is the magic number -

  • three of the big metaphors that are around at the moment.

  • "The Arab Spring".

  • You've all heard of The Arab Spring.

  • You can't talk about

  • what's going on in the Middle East without calling it an Arab Spring.

  • "The Arab Spring".

  • Sun's shining, flowers blooming.

  • This is a time of regrowth, rebirth, rejuvenation.

  • And yet it's a big lie, isn't it?

  • Even the most optimistic, geopolitical experts

  • look at the Middle East and say

  • this is going to take two generations to recover.

  • It's not an Arab Spring; it's an Arab Inferno.

  • Take another one; "The Calais Jungle".

  • Now this a phrase that has really taken root,

  • metaphorically speaking, in the last year or so.

  • If you Google "Calais" and "jungle," you get 70 million results.

  • If you google "Calais" and "croissant," you get just half a million results.

  • And what's the image this is planting in your mind?

  • It's planting in your mind the idea that migrants are like wild animals,

  • to be afraid of, they are dangerous, they represent a threat to you.

  • And this is a very dangerous metaphor because this is the language of genocide,

  • it's the language of hate.

  • It's the same metaphor that Hitler used against the Jews depicting them as snakes.

  • It's the same language which was used in Rwandan genocide

  • by the Hutu against the Tutsi; they were described as cockroaches.

  • And so it should be of intense concern to us

  • that this is a phrase that is being used now by the mainstream media

  • to talk about some of the most vulnerable people on our planet.

  • Let's take one more; "The financial storm".

  • The financial storm for the financial crisis.

  • Was the financial crisis really an act of nature

  • as the storm metaphor suggests?

  • So it has nothing to do with greedy bankers?

  • Or timid politicians?

  • Or ineffective regulators?

  • The storm plants a phoney image in our minds

  • that this is something that just swept in, naturally

  • and equally, will just sweep away with no need for action on our parts.

  • It's a big lie.

  • Pope Francis knows that it's a big lie.

  • And so he doesn't speak using the financial storm metaphor.

  • He has a different metaphor.

  • He talks about the dung heap of capitalism.

  • And so there he is using the metaphor of shit,

  • which is wonderful because what he is calling for,

  • he is demanding a clean-up of the whole system.

  • And this is a metaphor that every human being on the planet

  • can instantly understand, will be instantly disgusted by,

  • and this is a metaphor that can get a giggle from time to time.

  • So falling into this metaphorical space is one that

  • some of our funnier politicians do from time to time.

  • Boris Johnson, back in the UK,

  • he's talked about how the labor leader

  • emanated from the bowels of the trade union movement.

  • In my time working in government

  • we had Tony Blair and Gordon Brown described as two cheeks of the same arse.

  • And Ronald Reagan once talked about government as a baby

  • with a huge appetite at one end,

  • no sense of responsibility at the other.

  • So let's move on to number five.

  • Exaggeration.

  • When we're emotional, our perspective distorts.

  • This manifests in our speech.

  • And people who are emotional about something

  • will therefore go over the top.

  • So, "My god, I've been waiting to give this talk my whole life.

  • I didn't sleep at all last night,

  • and I am going to give my heart and soul to you."

  • Okay, these are all exaggerative statements.

  • Leaders do this kind of stuff all the time.

  • You might think it's out of order, but in actual fact,

  • exaggeration is just part and parcel of ordinary conversation.

  • So they're just replicated in the kind of things that we do naturally

  • when we do that.

  • Let's move on to number six; rhyme.

  • There is research showing people are more likely

  • to believe something is true if it rhymes than if it does not rhyme,

  • which feels absurd but it's down to what linguists talk about

  • as the processing fluency of language; how easy is language to swallow?

  • If you speak using long words and long sentences,

  • it's like giving someone a steak and asking them to swallow it.

  • Whereas if you give them something pithy, like a rhyme,

  • it's like asking them to just sip on some Prosecco.

  • And we learn things through rhymes from the moment that we're toddlers.

  • "One, two, buckle my shoe."

  • And so rhymes are signifiers of truth in our society,

  • so they can often be used therefore to conceal fallacies.

  • I don't know if any of you remember the OJ Simpson case.

  • "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit."

  • Yeah?

  • "An apple a day keeps the doctor away."

  • It sounds simple, it sounds true,

  • but my god we could save some healthcare spending

  • if that really was up to it, wasn't it?

  • Another one in the UK;

  • we all learn spelling through this line "I before E, except after C,"

  • which would be great if only it were true.

  • But it's complete nonsense.

  • There's just 44 examples of words in which that's true.

  • There's 900 examples of words in which it is not true.

  • I once presented this to a room full of people who worked in the city,

  • and they said, "Oh yeah, we've got one; you've got to speculate to accumulate."