SA politicians need remedial classes in public speaking
HAT a pleasure it is to listen to a good public speaker! I attended the annual Nederburg Wine Auction last week and had the pleasure of hearing American author Mike Veseth giving the keynote address.
Veseth is a professor of political economics and an authority on wine marketing. He recently published a book called TheWine Wars.
He spoke without using any notes (our politicians could take lessons) and he was informative, animated and very funny.
Without ever being ponderous or pompous he gave his audience an insight into the history of global wine marketing. He certainly gave us food for thought and opened our eyes to some of the problems and pitfalls of marketing South African products on the international market.
Afterwards I couldn’t help wondering about the general standard of our own public speakers. Goodness knows, we have more than enough of them. I sometimes think all our public holidays are just an excuse for politicians to stand up and produce hot air.
And their speeches seem to come in two categories – either they bellow slogans and sing aggressive songs, for which they later apologise, or they stand reading long, waffly speeches prepared by somebody else and written in a language that is not their own.
If they do happen to say anything meaningful, they retract it the next day and claim the press quoted it out of context.
Can you remember the contents of a single South African politician’s speech in the past year?
WMe neither. Isn’t it time our education system placed more emphasis on the importance of public speaking? Almost every decision that affects our lives is the result of a discussion. And the winner in any discussion is the person who speaks most convincingly.
Our parliamentary system is all about public speaking. Board meetings decide the direction in which companies move.
Words drive the world. I heard a Formula One word driver last Saturday and I couldn’t help comparing him to our own dilapidated jalopy jockeys. Pathetic. The old rule about good public speaking is quite simple: Have something to say. Get up and say it, then shut up and sit down.
In far too many cases speakers have nothing to say, but they get up and say it anyway – at great length – and are then very reluctant to sit down or shut up. A woman went into a cinema and found herself seated behind a man with a large dog perched in the seat next to him.
She couldn’t help noticing the dog’s response to the movie. It seemed to react to every scene in the story.
When there was a funny part the dog grinned and wagged its tail. When there was a sad part the dog hung its head miserably. When the villain threatened the hero the dog growled softly. At the end the dog gave a couple of appreciative little barks and stood up and stretched, ready to leave.
After the show the woman approached the dog’s owner outside.
“I couldn’t help noticing your dog’s reaction to the film,” she said. “It was amazing. He really seemed to enjoy it.”
“Yes,” said the dog’s owner. “I must say I was rather amazed at his reaction too.
“He absolutely hated the book.”
ONLY WORDS President Jacob Zuma in action