BRAIN FOOD: Matters for the mind to chew on - Speaking out - Bill Emmott, Editor-in-chief, The Economist

BRAIN FOOD: Matters for the mind to chew on - Speaking out - Bill Emmott, Editor-in-chief, The Economist - Bald, bearded and sporting a roundish pair of horn-rimmed specs, Bill Emmott looks every inch a classic economist. But would he command the respect

by KHALID AZIZ, chairman of spoken communications specialist theAziz Corporation - www.azizcorp.com
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Bald, bearded and sporting a roundish pair of horn-rimmed specs, Bill Emmott looks every inch a classic economist. But would he command the respect of the members of the London School of Economics Business Club? Judging by the reverential tone of the questions that followed his 30-minute talk, he did. He did not, however, do quite the same for me.

He had a good title - 'Making Sense of a Puzzling World'. Sadly, by the end I was just as puzzled. Emmott tended to talk at us rather than to us. He insisted on always using the word 'you' in the plural. The golden rule of speaking is: treat people as individuals and you will engage them every time. He quoted Henry Kissinger: 'The great thing about being famous is that you can bore them and they think it's their fault.' Emmott isn't that famous, he did bore me and I didn't feel it was my fault.

There was some vaguely interesting stuff about the underlying philosophy of The Economist. Its job, as he saw it, is to help the world understand the connections between events. A laudable aim, but it didn't translate to his speech. Instead we had a stream of high-level but unsubstantiated opinion masquerading as fact, with a bit of homespun statement of the bleeding obvious thrown in for good measure- such as: 'The nature of change means that there will be winners and losers'.

Key moment: His declaration that America had been 'brought out of its shell' by 11 September. Some shell!

Key lesson: Even the great speakers must substantiate assertions with facts.

Silver tongue or foot in mouth?

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