07850 188620 01273 606246

Were you, like me, unable to take your eyes off the glistening suit, drips racing down the lapels, the Prime Minister’s forehead sparkling as he fumbled through his soggy announcement of the 2024 General Election? 

It was clear immediately that the chatter on the news channels later that evening, and the headlines the following morning, would not be about what the Prime Minister actually had to say.  

It would be about the rain, and the racket from a notorious protester taking delight in ruining a national moment for the country. 

Jeremy Vine, on his BBC Radio Two phone in, summed it up most brutally.  “Without wishing to be unkind” he said, “the PM’s election campaign crashed on take-off!”

The speech was a case-study in the manner of the delivery masking the message.   

And if you’re a business leader, with a lectern to face and (whisper it) a pounding heart, here are three things that you can learn from Rishi’s misfortune. 


1.  It really is all about the Optics.  When they change the story, you need to change the script.  


“Optics” is one of those words used in communications that I often try to avoid, but on this occasion it can’t be avoided.  The Prime Minister’s people will have had their head in their hands as they watched the disaster unfold — their man fighting the rain, and fighting the protester’s selfish  din.  

The answer in this situation is for the person delivering the speech to acknowledge when the ‘optics’ have taken over.   Had Mr Sunak paused, smiled, and asked for an umbrella, we would all have understood.  Had he looked askance, tilted his head, and said ‘can you hear me at the back?’, he would have gained our sympathy. 

But by simply ploughing on, Sunak created an image of a man a world apart from the rest of us, afraid to divert from the programme, lacking the courage to go off script and look the nation in the eye.  It’s not a good look for a leader.

2.   If you sound bored, how will the audience feel?


Rishi Sunak’s announcement followed a frenzy of speculation that had been mounting all day.  News crews had been frantically despatched to Downing Street, scaffolding rigged, bulletin running orders cleared.  

So when the black door of Downing Street finally swung open and the Prime Minister appeared, we were all anticipating a moment of some drama.  

But listen to the way Mr Sunak begins his speech.   Straight in — no pause for effect, no scanning of the media before him, no relishing of the moment.  He just begins to read the words printed on paper in front of him, delivering it with all the passion of an overworked Deputy Headteacher announcing the date of the next Parents’ Evening to their staff. 

There is much to be said for measured, reflective leadership.  We’ve all seen in recent years how perilous excitable leadership can be.  But when the lectern is being put into place and you’re about to share some exciting news with your people, you need to sound excited, too. 

One suggestion I make to any of my more subdued clients is that if they feel they’ve got the energy about right, they’ll need to up it by about ten percent.   They’ll feel they’re overdoing it, but their audience won’t. 

3.  Deploy our Possessive Pronouns … and we all know what they are, don’t we? 


It’s a great shame that Rishi Sunak’s speech will be remembered for the rain and the racket, because its structure revealed skilful use a device which any leader needs to have in their toolkit. 

In the first two minutes of his speech, the Prime Minister’s used the words ‘our’, ‘us’, and ‘we’, twelve times.  (And when using the word ‘we’, he was referring to the nation, not the Conservative Party.)

He used the words ‘you’ and ‘your’ eleven times. 

Sir Keir Starmer’s speech in response (delivered cozily indoors and flanked by optically pleasing Union Flags) took a similar approach.  

In the same timeframe, the Leader of the Opposition used ‘our’, ‘us’ and ‘we’ seven times, and ‘you’ and ‘your’ a further seven times. 

I used a transcript to check.  You can find it here.

It’s an early lesson for anyone developing their skills as a public speaker. 

These little words drive your message direct into the arms and mind of your audience.  They truly connect.

An early tip I learnt on this circuit is to aim to halve the number of times you say ‘I’ in your opening comments, and double the amount of times you say ‘you.’ 

Thankfully, I’ve never had to contend with driving rain or unwelcome sound pollution when I’ve taken to the lectern.  But I hope these thoughts will help you if you ever do.  

Five Newsroom Secrets - to help you feel more confident recording warm video messages!

My free to download, video illustrated guide that will give you the confidence to record more video messages — whether for your website, your staff or your clients.    Because video builds trust — and in the age of the smartphone … ‘we’re all broadcasters now!’

Subscribe to Download

Get in Touch

If you find these forms a bit annoying, just give me a call on 07850 188620 or 01273 606246 — I always like to chat about how I might be able to help.  Or just send an email to john@johnyoungmedia.co.uk — letting me know what you have in mind, and we can take it from there.  If you do like the forms, don’t forget to put something in each box marked with a *.

    My clients include ...
    I’m pleased to be part of ...