TV explores speech-making: the ‘art of persuasion’

Speech-making is the art of persuasion, says poet Simon Armitage in his one off-documentary on Speeches that Shook the World.

For internal communications professionals and public relations practitioners alike the rhetorical principles used to persuade are as relevant today as they ever were.

Aired on BBC 4 last week, Simon purports to dissect “what makes the perfect speech” and give us the “inside story”. Of course there is no such thing as the ‘perfect speech’, nor an ‘inside story’ on speech-making.

However, if you can see past the fallacious TV teasers then what you have here is a one hour crash course in public speaking, covering many of the basic elements.

The programme is a little predictable in its choice of case studies ie. Martin Luther King, Sir Winston Churchill and Emily Pankhurst. But it redeems itself with my favourite speech of all: the woman from Hackney caught on YouTube giving the rioters a piece of her mind:

It shows that you don’t need to be a rhetorician to produce great rhetoric, and that powers of persuasion are available to those that speak from the heart. See: ‘Walk up to a man and knock him down’

Speeches that Shook the World is well worth watching and available on BBC i-player until Tuesday: or watch a preview:

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