17 May 22 / Blog

The Art of Public Speaking: Lord Alderdice on the 6 Golden Rules of Mastering a Speech

Today, in the final part of our four-part series on ‘The Art of Public Speaking’, we meet one of Northern Ireland’s most recognisable and influential public speakers, Lord Alderdice.

Northern Ireland has a wide range of individuals who have mastered the art of public speaking.

From politicians to sports stars and entrepreneurs, these are people who thrive on national and international stages by working hard to master their craft.

And today, Lord Alderdice shares his secrets on how to become a great speaker.

Who is Lord Alderdice?

John Thomas Alderdice is a Northern Irish politician, and from 1998-2004, he was Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

He was also the leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland from 1987-1998.

And from 1996, Lord Alderdice has sat in the House of Lords as a Liberal Democrat.

For three decades Alderdice has honed the art of public speaking to influence and persuade those around him.

How does the art of public speaking influence a career in public service?

As a politician, Lord Alderdice has been involved in some of the most historic discussions in UK and Irish politics, including a significant role in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

He has been recognised internationally for his work, including an award from the Global Thinkers Forum Award (for Excellence in Promoting Peace and Collaboration) and the Liberal International Prize for Freedom. 

Lord Alderdice also played a crucial role in the Independent Monitoring Commission. The British and Irish Governments tasked him with closing down terrorist operations and overseeing the normalisation of Northern Ireland’s security activity.

He also established and chaired the Belfast Centre for Democracy and Peace Building for some years, where he continues to be Emeritus Chairman of the centre.

From peace-building to public speaking.

And with three decades of speaking with audiences that include Presidents, Prime Ministers and First Ministers, it’s fair to say that Lord Alderdice has mastered the art of public speaking.

He is widely recognised as one of the UK’s most impressive public speakers.

Lord Alderdice on mastering the art of public speaking.

This video was a speech Lord Alderdice gave in March 2020 in the House of Lords at the Second Reading of the Coronavirus Bill.

As it was an ever-evolving and escalating situation, Lord Alderdice did not have much time to prepare.

He explains, “It needed to be passed quickly, and parliament was going into Recess, so there was a short ‘advisory’ time for the length of speeches in the debate. 

“I had to decide what points to get across to the Minister to make him think about things differently,” he adds.

But contrary to popular belief, he says he had to work hard to hone his craft.

Here are Lord Alderdice’s six golden rules to master the art of public speaking.

1. Practice and work hard to hone your craft.

“I’ve worked at perfecting the art of public speaking for a very long time,” Lord Alderdice points out.

He says that includes training in voice production and reading and practising the production and delivery of various speech types.

 “Anyone who is starting with any seriousness into the world of speech-making should not expect to be able to speak successfully without working at it for some time,” he adds.  

2. “There are no shortcuts to success in mastering the art of public speaking.”

Lord Alderdice says that like any skill, results only come from a dedication to self-improvement.

He continues, “There is no shortcut to success in athletics; you have to put time and effort into training.

“Learn the rules of the discipline you aspire to conquer, and compete in races that you do not win, but still keep going. 

“It’s the same with being a public speaker,” he insists.

3. Prepare methodically and rehearse your speech.

Before he speaks, Lord Alderdice says he goes through a preparation checklist.

“First, I clarify in my mind what the key message is that I want to get across.  

“If I have five minutes, one message is enough.

“Or if I have twenty-five minutes, I can take people through a long line of argument and convey perhaps three powerful messages. 

“Then I arrange it in my mind and make some written or digital notes of the key stages in my argument, with phrases or lines that convey critical messages or elements of the argument.

“Then I rehearse it as I am driving in the car, lying in bed in the morning, when I have a shower, or go for a walk.  

“The best extempore speeches are those that you have rehearsed well,” he maintains.

4. Reflect on your body language and delivery.

Lord Alderdice says there are several core things any public speaker can do to make an impactful public speech.

“Believe in what you are going to say,” he reveals. “Try not to be captured by a script.

“If possible, look into the eyes of your audience and respond to them.

“You have to take them with you, and this may mean injecting in some humour or cutting out some points that are not crucial.”

He adds, “You need to be sensitive to how they’re feeling and respond to what you pick up.”

5. Use a strong argument.

Lord Alderdice says it’s essential to focus on using a solid argument.

“If you have two arguments, just use the strong one,” he explains.

He says it’s vital to resist the urge to add other arguments.

“Don’t be tempted to use the weaker one as well.

“A weak argument always undermines a strong one,” Lord Alderdice insists.

 6. Start your speech slowly and build up.

Lord Alderdice says it’s best to build up to your primary messaging.

“Don’t try to go full tilt the whole time,” he explains.

“Both you and your audience will be exhausted. 

“You need to vary the tone and tempo.”

He adds, “Remember the old rule of three; three points that build up the argument.”

Conclusion: Mastering the art of public speaking.

Mastering the art of public speaking means committing yourself to constantly improving and honing your delivery.

Like Lord Alderdice, once you become present with your audience and give each speech or talk the focus it deserves, you’ll find yourself developing your powers of influence and persuasion to achieve the impact you want.

Bespoke Communications offers public speaking courses in Northern Ireland, Ireland and the UK. Hybrid and blended learning options are available for all of our training courses. If you’d liek to find out more,  book a virtual coffee with us here.

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