UK stars missing the mark when speaking in public

Gordon Brown might be receiving rave reviews in the US, but he’s finding the audience at home somewhat trickier. This is according to a report published today naming the Prime Minister as the UK’s most boring public speaker.

The report, from speech-to-text company SpinVox, reveals the PM has topped the list of public figures that people least enjoy listening to. One in five people (20%) selected the PM, ahead of David Beckham (14%) and Oscar winner Kate Winslet, who famously fluffed her acceptance speech at the Golden Globe awards (11%).

The research also revealed the public figures that Brits would most like to hear oratorical musings from, with silver-tongued Stephen Fry (31%) surprisingly beating newly-elected US president Barack Obama (28%) into second place.

SpinVox is sponsoring this year’s ICA Figures of Speech fundraising gala where cultural luminaries, including Bob Geldof and Rory Bremner, will be delivering five minute speeches about their most treasured object.

SpinVox has also revealed the nation’s favourite public speaking gaffes, led by former US President George W. Bush but featuring Delia Smith’s famous 2005 half time “Let’s Be Avin’ You” at Norwich City FC, Judy Finnigan’s famous 2000 ‘wardrobe malfunction’ at the National Television Awards and Boris Johnson’s 2008 Olympic handover speech.

It’s not just people in the public eye that are struggling when it comes to speaking up, the rest of us admit to problems too. Altogether, 88% of us admit to feeling uncomfortable in front of an audience, with one in six (16%) describing giving a speech as their worst nightmare.

The biggest difficulties Brits have when it comes to public speaking include nerves (54%), fear of embarrassment (36%), not having anything worth saying (19%) and not knowing how to start writing one (14%).

Spinvox has teamed up with speechwriting and presentation expert, Alan Stevens, Past President of the Professional Speakers Association, to develop five handy tips designed to improve Brits’ speech delivery: Start strongly – make an irresistible promise to your audience, for example, ‘What I am going to tell you will change your life!’; Have only one core message – people only recall one to two sentences of every life experience, so make your message clear; Tell a personal story – if you can relate your topic to your audience’s personal memories they are more likely to recall it; Show your passion – if you don’t show passion for your topic neither will your audience, don’t be afraid to show emotion; End with enthusiasm, energy and power – before they leave give your audience a call to action, give them a task to complete.

Stevens said: “Dire speeches don’t inspire people, but well crafted words, delivered with skill and passion, can transform the mood of a nation. Churchill knew this, Obama knows it, and our public figures should take note.”