Late last month, Aotearoa's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern went the USA to give the commencement speech at Harvard. It was much reported here and overseas and. as part of this month's speechwriting session, I included a few highlights from the address which you can watch in full on YouTube.
Prime Minister Ardern has always delivered good speeches. They are engaging, directed to the people in the room, carry a point, include anecdotes - all the relevant ingredients that make a speech work. The difference with PM Ardern - perhaps even her secret ingredient - is her tone. Sadly we have become used to the shrill and shrieking speeches of Donald Trump these past years with other leaders emulating his delivery (goodness knows why). The constant conflict and aggression central to his delivery is deliberate - designed to suggest power and control. It doesn't demonstrate leadership or suggest any dignity at all. Prime Minister Ardern is, thankfully, the polar opposite and her delivery is such that nobody feels 'left behind' by her words or forced into conflict or anger. That doesn't mean that her speeches don't invite change, or a different perspective. Instead, they support her leadership, vision and care for those she encounters.
And that's the secret of a good speech. The tone and delivery are as important as the spoken words. They highlight the ideas, frame the concepts - invite people to listen, stay listening and remember what was said.
A good speechwriter will write for those who will listen - and those who will speak. It takes practice, planning and care and a genuine concern for both people and place.
About Think Forward
Think Forward is written by Catherine Arrow. It answers PR questions, highlights practice trends - good and bad - and suggests ways forward for professional public relations and communication practitioners.