Public speaking advice from the Govenor General

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speechmaking advice

You try telling the GG that her speech needs toning down.

If you didn’t switch off during the botched post-race horseback interview you may have seen Her Excellency the Govenor General’s speech at the Melbourne Cup.

We have watched these speeches grow in both length and verve in recent years. In short, we give top marks to Quentin Bryce for attempting to inject some poetry into a staid presentation.

She is as stylish in her speech as she is in her couture and she really took a chance talking about “gallons of rum, two up and our troops in Afghanistan.” It wasn’t a speech it was a bush ballad. See if we’re wrong

It had the hallmarks of a new speechwriter trying to make his or her mark with the boss.

However it was too long, too indulgent and plain inappropriate for a mass audience, with low fidelity speakers and high blood alcohol content. It was wasted on an inattentive audience in the midst of an anti-climax. It was also a speech that may have read smoothly enough to the author in private but was a true challenge to read aloud.

Lessons for speechmakers everywhere:

  • keep it short as possible;
  • consider if the audience is there to hear you or if you are a necessary evil;
  • make sure that what flows well in your head can be read aloud equally smoothly.

It is harder and harder to assume common knowledge among large mainstream audiences. How many of the 100,000 revellers knew (or cared) about “expatriation for poaching” or the battle of Beersheba? To many in attendance, a Beersheba sounds alluringly like a drink. “Dumb bogans, the lot of them.” commented Squiggle. We concur.

Communications Commandment #2: Know they audience. Communications Commandment #4: Know thy medium.


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