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Our Masters' Voices: The Language and Body-language of Politics Paperback – 24 Sept. 1984
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- Paperback : 224 pages
- ISBN-13 : 978-0415018753
- Dimensions : 15.6 x 1.3 x 23.39 cm
- ISBN-10 : 0415018757
- Publisher : Routledge; 1st edition (24 Sept. 1984)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: 694,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Have you ever wondered why some public speakers just fail to ignite an audience and others just seem to have that "it" factor? If you can't quite put your finger on what makes an orator (like Obama or Nelson Mandela for example) so appealing or what makes an audience at a conference cheer and applaud (irrespective of what's being said sometimes), then this book will open your mind.
Through extensive research into the structuring and delivery of political speeches, Atkinson unearths answers to many of these questions. He holds a microscope over memorable speeches, and uncovers just why they are so memorable. Examining recordings from speeches and interactions ranging from the Houses of Parliament to the Oscar stage, from King to Kennedy we discover what really inspires and persuades an audience. It can be a little heavy reading in places throughout, but he really gives you an insight.
Using clear illustrations, Atkinson explains how using simple language devices such as the three-point list, the use of contrast and word repetition can move an audience. It could be described as formulaic - developing motto-like simple, short phrases, all so simple, yet so powerful.
He shares more challenging techniques such as conquering the skill of the "clap trap"(getting your audience to clap without asking them or waiting for them). You soon begin to understand just why some quotes have stood the test of time while others are instantly forgettable.
Of course it's not just language structure that makes a great speaker. Atkinson also highlights the importance of correct vocal stress and intonation, timing and pause to achieve maximum impact when delivering the key message.
There's a chance after reading this book that you may become a little cynical, maybe even feel manipulated the next time you hear a polished orator, but it could also make the experience more entertaining once you know the secrets.
What's interesting is that the examples used in this book date from the 1900's to the 1980's, yet the same devices are used time and time again in speeches today - just listen carefully! It would be interesting to re edit the book, examining present orators and successful speakers.
How do we define the skills of a charismatic speaker? Well, Atkinson believes it's a combination of a variety of verbal, non-verbal, vocal and rhythmic signals sent out to the audience.
You may contemplate, "can anyone be the next Jon Favreau"? (speech writer for Barack Obama) or can any anybody become an inspiring orator? Well this I can't answer, but I can say this book is a worthwhile read if you want to uncover the secrets that makes a charismatic speaker.
It's clearly not a light read but easy enough going and with a very pleasing style. I loved the liberal use of (very UK centric) examples - they really bring what are essentially simple messages to life, i.e.
1. You have to work at keeping the audience's attention
2. There are a few very simple devices that allow you to do this and that naturally prompt applause.
It really isn't rocket science and for public speakers or spechwriters, I would add my recommendation.