By David Greatbatch and Timothy Clark
Published by Routledge, (156 pages)
ISBN 041530623X, £29.99
This book is a laconic, but rather devastating academic analysis of how business gurus ply their trade. Part of me thinks there may be a streak of envy in all this because academics are notoriously poor communicators. All the same the authors dissect how the gurus work their magic. They tell rather banal stories, they avoid criticising the audience directly, they make everyone laugh and they craft tales which paint themselves as being at the cutting edge.
The authors show how Atkinson’s analysis of political rhetoric is equally applicable to the spellbinding oratory of the gurus. Reading it fills you with confidence as a speechwriter, because you’re studying the flesh and bones of oral communication. What many people might find slightly disturbing is how they borrow from techniques used by charismatic preachers like John Wesley. Sure enough I watched some Tony Robbins after reading the book and saw some rather clever techniques being used.
Once you know this stuff, nobody can tell you your speech is bad. The principles are simple. Of course there are elements that come with the mystique of the speaker: style, hand gesture and projecting message completion points, but this can rarely be our concern.
The book was limited slightly by its repetition of examples and small selection of speakers analysed. You can now see them all in action on YouTube. I’ll never think of a guru in quite the same way again.