Monday, April 19, 2010

The Power of Speech

I've refrained from blogging on the UK Party Leaders' debate (until now). There was so much post-debate discussion it seemed churlish to add to the chatter. However, now that I've had some time to reflect, I would like to offer a perspective that I haven't seen discussed a great deal.

While we live in a digital age, with social media burgeoning, the debate was judged largely on what the leaders said, and how they performed live on stage. It was similar, though clearly not the same, as the two-handed US presidential debates between Barack Obama and John McCain. A three-way debate operates differently, but there is still no teleprompter, no editing, and no hiding place.

Great speeches have always been part of politics and both global and national events. For a while, it seemed that rhetoric was being outshone by digital noise. Maybe the tide has turned a little.

It remains to be seen how much impact the debates will have on the real ballot on May 6th. In the US, it seems that the effect of the debates was minimal, and they were more about damage limitation than establishing leadership. Here in the UK, the initial debate has boosted the ratings of the LibDems, and given Nick Clegg more airtime as a result.

Personally, as President-Elect of the Global Speakers Federation (the 7,000-strong global body of qualified professional speakers), I'm delighted that the spoken word is having an impact on political debate. Long may it continue.

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