Three Things You Can Learn From Boris Johnson's Tribute to The Queen

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Of all the politicians to be delivering tributes to Her Majesty over the last few days, I didn't think it would be Boris Johnson's that stuck with me the most.

It was so good in fact, I wanted to share 3 simple lessons which you will be able to take into presentations of your own.

1. Start with an unexpected anecdote

"I hope the house will not mind, if I begin
with a personal confession...

A few months ago, the BBC came to see me to
talk about Her Majesty, The Queen.
And we sat down and the cameras started rolling and they requested
that I should talk about her in the past tense.
And I'm afraid I simply choked up. And I couldn't go on a
nd I'm really not easily moved to tears,
but I was so overcome with sadness
that I had to ask them to go away."

We all know that stories and anecdotes are a brilliant way to kick off any speech or presentation, but it was Boris' choice of anecdote that I think is worth drawing attention to. Over the last few days, everyone has been sharing their own special memories of meeting the Queen. The easy thing to do would have been to add to that. Instead, he chooses to share something equally personal and powerful, but crucially, different and unexpected.

Top Tip: The secret to delivering an anecdote that makes your audience stop what they are doing and give you their undivided attention is to choose one that will surprise them.

2. Make it about them (your audience), not about you.

"I know that today there are countless people
in this country and around the world who have experienced
the same sudden access of unexpected emotion.
And I think millions of us are trying to understand why
we are feeling this deep and personal and almost familial sense of loss."

What Boris' is saying here is that we are all in this together. By doing so, he creates a powerful connection with the audience. Every time you stand up to present, remember... It is not about you. This principle alone should act as a filter for what you say and how you say it. As a presenter, your job is to make everyone in the room feel included by making your presentations relevant. The mistake many thought leaders make is that they start from scratch and create a new presentation every time they present. This approach wastes your time and prevents you from building on what you've created.

Top Tip: Tailoring your content by bringing each point back to one, simple question: 'Why am I telling you this?'

3. Never be afraid to change the tone.

"She knew instinctively how to cheer up the nation,
how to lead a celebration.

I remember her innocent joy more than 10 years ago
after the opening ceremony of the London Olympics,
when I told her that the leader of a friendly middle Eastern
country seemed actually to believe that she had jumped
out of a helicopter in a pink dress and
parachuted into the stadium!"

If you watch his speech from start to finish you will likely experience several emotions. Personally, my emotional journey through the presentation went something like this...

Sadness --> admiration --> peace --> joy --> pride --> hope

That's a lot of emotions in 8 minutes. It made for a cathartic listening experience. But the point is, the speech didn't just make me feel sad. It took me somewhere. Most presentations lack emotional change. When an experience consists of one single emotion, before too long it becomes the norm, making it emotionless. Changing the tone of your presentation keeps it moving, but most importantly of all, it makes it memorable.

Top tip: Emotional contrast creates memories. In your thought leadership presentations, aim to help your audiences experience a sense of frustration, fear, confusion, excitement, hope, relief etc.


So how does this differ from his usual delivery style?

The last time I watched Boris Johnson deliver a speech was when giving his propaga... I mean final speech as PM. With there being a stark contrast in the tone and occasion, I was interested to see how his delivery style changed. So I uploaded both talks to MicDrop analytics and this is what I found.

  • He lowered his pitch. Don't take my word for it, listen to the first sentence of each speech below.

2. He slowed down. 147 words per minute vs 133 words per minute equates to a 10% drop.

3. He increased his pause length. From 1.5 seconds vs 2 seconds per pause

Simple tweaks that made a profound impact to the presentation's power.

I believe that this was the most authentic speech Boris has ever delivered and it just goes to show what can be achieved when you don't lean on enthusiasm and wit to connect with your audience.

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