No, we’re not out to destroy you

The Australian prime minister and the New South Wales premier share a singular speaking style in front of the media. It amounts to this:

Talk fast, don’t pause, snatch your breaths, keep going for exactly ten minutes, and when you’ve finished, abruptly turn away from the microphone and leave.

Where on earth did this habit come from, Scott Morrison and Gladys Berejiklian? Surely the parliamentary debating chambers.

SQUASH THE OPPOSITION

Rattling on non-stop means that opposition members have no opportunity to interject, and if they try, their voices are drowned out by the speaker.

But listen, leaders. The media won’t heckle or interrupt while you’re speaking. They’ll pay respectful attention. Given the opportunity (which they often aren’t), they’ll ask their questions when you’ve finished.

Please, Scott and Gladys, don’t talk to us as if we’re out to destroy your ten minutes in the sun. Ease up. Smile occasionally. And when you’ve finished, thank us for listening.

We’ll end up thanking you.

Boris sets a rumpled example

What’s Boris Johnson’s main appeal? Anti-slickness.

The new British prime minister is notorious for his undignified stunts and sloppy personal appearance. But in an age of presentation coaches and instant feedback, this isn’t necessarily a liability.

Marketing guru Don Peppers in Life’s A Pitch calls it de-slicking your production. The idea is that a sharp and faultless presentation can intimidate people and work against you. Don recommends injecting a note of humanity, for example by giving some of your pitchtime to an unpolished junior who will likely make a few harmless slip-ups.

SCRATCHING IT

A handsome and imposing manager I met early in my career recommended rubbing your backside on the way out of the room to show you’re just a person.

Boris Johnson metaphorically scratches his ass in public. It’s both funny and deplorable. But slick it ain’t, and that should work in his favor.

When your writing won’t work

Stuck with your content writing? If an article won’t flow, chances are that you’re suffering from a common problem, which is that you don’t have a clear picture in your head of whom you’re writing for.

The result is that you can’t think what to say or how to say it.

Stop and consider. Work out who your audience is and try to envisage a typical member of that audience. Start writing again.

This trick is usually effective. Vague sentences are replaced by precise, targeted phrases and everything seems to flow.

You can’t write for everybody. Try instead to write for somebody. The likely outcome is that it will be read with pleasure by many.