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4 Public Speaking Lessons from the European Referendum

4 Public Speaking Lessons from the European Referendum

As we all know, last week the UK voted to leave the European Union in a historic referendum.

From political leaders at home and abroad, singers, actors and sports personalities, it seems that just about everyone was ready to share their views on the matter in public. Given the significance of the decision and that fact that the majority of voters made their decision based on the myriad of contradictory speeches it is worth reflecting for a moment on what we can learn from those who presented their views to the public.

Here are 4 big public speaking lessons we can learn from the campaign on both sides

Lesson 1 – Craft a Message That Sticks

Anyone can present and idea or share information, albeit with varying levels of confidence, charm and success. Whether you are the Prime Minister of the UK or a parent representing to your PTA the one thing you need above all else is a clear and powerful message.

That message also has to be totally relevant to your audience; it has to be concise, easily understood and memorable.

Politics aside, which of the following messages would you tick as:

Clear and concise

Relevant

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Easily understood

Powerful

Memorable

LEAVE

  • The UK cannot control the number of people coming into the country while remaining in the EU
  • Leaving the EU would free up £350m a week extra to spend on the NHS
  • We need to take back control over sovereignty, democracy, trade deals and immigration

REMAIN

  • You will be worse off if we leave
  • The UK is stronger, safer and better in a reformed EU
  • We get to trade freely

Regardless of your nationality, political bias or whether you had a vote in the UK last week, which of those messages do you believe is more likely to ‘stick’ with you?

Lesson 2 – Nothing is More Potent than Passion

It’s all well and good having a clear and compelling message that is relevant to your audience and hard to challenge, but if you can’t communicate it with passion you may as well not bother.

As much as I respect David Cameron as a speaker, on this occasion it seemed to me that the one missing ingredient was his own personal passion for the need to remain. Many would argue that he appeared to be on ‘autopilot’ as he continually restated his view of the economic risks of Brexit.

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For all their eccentricity, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage on the other hand were vibrant, colourful and completely animated each time they took the platform to persuade their audience to leave.

Lesson 3 – Help your audience to see the future

I’ve never forgotten a profound pep talk that one of my very first bosses gave to me as I began to climb the ‘corporate ladder’ over 30 years ago. One day whilst discussing the ever increasingly important topic of motivation he said to me: “Maurice, the only thing you really need to know about motivation is this: the only people who need to be motivated are the people who can’t see the future and it’s your job as their leader to help them to see it.”

What has that got to do with public speaking and presenting?

Absolutely everything

Whether you are giving a quarterly update, selling widgets or calling for a historical vote, all your audience really wants from you is for you to help them to see, feel and understand the future.

In the EU referendum campaign here is how the respective speakers described the future to a nation:

LEAVE

“Just imagine that the EU had never been invented and the history of the last 60 years had been entirely different. It had been all about free trade and economic cooperation between our friends and partners in the European Union, with peace guaranteed by NATO, as indeed it has been.

“Where we take back control of £350 million per week, take back control of our borders.”

“We can see the sunlit meadows beyond. I believe we would be mad not to take this once in a lifetime chance to walk through that door because the truth is it is not we who have changed.”

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REMAIN

The central theme of the ‘remain’ campaigns argument was the economic risks of Brexit.

“Nothing is more important than the strength of our economy.

Upon it depends the jobs and livelihoods of our people, and also the strength and security of our nation.

If we stay, we know what we get – continued full access to a growing single market, including in energy, services and digital, together with the benefit of the huge trade deals in prospect between the EU and the United States and other large markets.”

Lesson 4 – Know your audience

Addressing the economic risks of leaving the European Union is of course critically important as much of our strength, security and success does depend on our economic stability and growth.

However, the gap between the richest and poorest in the UK has dramatically widened in the past decade and far more people are struggling financially than they are flourishing. The harsh reality of the financial climate that most people live in today was likely to ‘deafen’ voters to the risk of a further decline.

Given that for many it feels as though things couldn’t get much worse anyway it was perhaps easier to imagine the upside and benefits to voting to leave the EU.

It seems to me that the least wealthy amongst us who rely heavily and care passionately about services everyone uses and experience first-hand and the adverse financial impact of ever increasing immigration are issues likely to trigger greater concern.

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The ‘leave’ campaign’s empathy for so many of the British Public’s feelings of hopelessness enabled them to craft far more impactful speeches

The 4 Lessons

Whatever happens over the next few weeks and months it’s very clear to me that these are 4 very significant lessons we can take from this historic referendum. What I find even more interesting is that these aren’t new lessons; all the great speakers throughout history have taught us that:

  • Your message is absolutely critical and you must make it ‘stick’
  • Passion is beyond doubt the speakers greatest asset
  • ‘The only people who need to be motivated are those who can’t see the future’
  • If you don’t really know and understand your audience then you are likely to fail.

Is it all in the message?

Despite the value of these 4 lessons the one that stands out for me as a key one to consider which drove this campaign is the message.

Isn’t it interesting that since the results of the final vote were announced it has been alleged that a key element of the ‘Leave’ campaign’s message was a fallacy.

It’s since being suggested that it is unlikely that the £350m we would free up each week will be given to the NHS.

It has also been suggested that despite the power, relevance and clarity of the ‘leave’ campaigns message they don’t actually have a plan to see it through.

That means that the greatest lesson for public speakers in this historic campaign is that whilst it’s your message that counts above and beyond everything else, it doesn’t have to be completely true and you don’t even have to have a plan to make it happen.

That of course is where I would draw the line and insist that despite the success of the leave campaign whatever you speak on it must be true and you must have a clear plan of action.

Featured photo credit: © Pojoslaw | Dreamstime.com –

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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