A review of Ed Milliband’s presentation skills

He may not speak with the gravitas of Obama, the grace of Clinton or the glow of Cameron but he did the right thing speaking without notes at this week’s Labour conference in Manchester. 

Had he chosen to use notes or the autocue he may well have remembered to speak about tackling the issue of reducing Britain’s deficit or raised the issue of immigration but it wouldn’t have enhanced his lackluster performance.

From a technical speaking perspective he arguably did most things ‘by the book’:

Made great eye contact 

Fabulous use of pausing 

Pace and timing were spot on

Good gesturing 

He told us stories about people he had met 

Used repetition to great effect 

Emphasized his key point 

Had a clear theme: ‘together’ 

He opened his speech by talking about someone who lived locally in Salford and how Manchester was a ‘fantastic City’, which held special memories for him. He reminded us that our country ‘nearly broke apart’ and thanked Gordon Brown, Alastair darling and Co. for playing their part in keeping us together to which he received thunderous applause. 

Then he spoke of another conversation he had recently with a lady called Josephine, and another lady who worked at a pub where he lived, then another two young women in the park, and so it went on.

He rightly complimented our ‘brilliant’ National Health Service twice and shared how he had watched nurses ‘come together’ in the A&E department of a hospital in Watford. 

He even received a couple of standing ovations when he said: 

“An NHS with time to care” 

“I know my dad loved Britain” 

In summary, it was a well structured, polished and mindful speech that most speaking coaches would commend. 

Aside from the fact that he omitted two key points he wanted to make there was nothing really wrong with it. 

For me that was just it, it was fine.

Fine, but was it memorable? 

Not really. 

It was full of the usual political platitudes we hear all the time, constituent stories we hear all the time and the same old boring slants that politicians use against each other all of the time. 

If you were to critique Ed Milliband’s performance using a best practice checklist he would have ticked most of the boxes, yet for me there was still something missing. 

In fact, I would contend there were two key ingredients missing: imagination and inspiration. 

From the outside looking in I didn’t really hear anything new, inspirational or compelling and am pretty sure I would have stifled a few yawns had I been there in person as I did when I watched the video.

If I were to give Mr Milliband any suggestions other than to be a little more creative and memorable it would be to: 

Stop repeatedly calling his audience friends, as the first couple of times were fine but then it quickly became annoying and sounded patronising. 

Stop gesturing repeatedly with his thumb and first two fingers pressed together as it’s also very distracting. 

Use the platform a little more; own it. 

Not have his back to some of the audience. 

Have a much more memorable and compelling close.

Dare to be different

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