Brain Food: Speaking Out:

Gordon Brown MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer

by Khalid Aziz
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

As Gordon Brown sat on the platform waiting to speak at this year's annual conference of the National Council of Voluntary Organisations, his body language added to his general air of shabbiness. Arms folded or clasped beneath his knees (when his hands weren't ruffling his tousled hair), it's clear the New Labour imagemeisters have passed him by. Endless dinners have taken their toll, too - Brown evoked shades of Chancellor Lawson in his pre-diet days.

Still, he was chirpy enough when he started his speech. Head down, he was straight into 25 minutes of fully scripted politico bland-speak. You can't go wrong if you celebrate the audience: 'I applaud you and all you are doing'. The odd joke reminding the audience of your lofty position goes down well too: 'I was talking to a European finance minister... the Chinese finance minister said to me when I met him last year...' And we were lucky to have him there: 'You may be surprised the Treasury allowed me to speak to you so close to the Budget!'

Then there are the buzzwords: everything is new or innovative, sometimes both. With his machine gun delivery, Brown stumbled over 'innovative' several times. It was passionate all right, but stuck in a rut, with every seventh word punched out. After 10 minutes you looked up and there he was, still going - like the Duracell rabbit. Surely we can expect better of a seasoned politician?

Key moment: The disclosure that AmeriCorps had recruited as many young people to volunteer at home in its first 10 years as the Peace Corps did for overseas work in 40 years.

Key lesson: The impression you give starts when you mount the platform.

Watch your body language.

Foot in mouth.

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