The Message Is Getting Lost In The Way It's Delivered

Our leaders will be judged on their performance as well as their policies.

12/05/2016 2:58 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:52 PM AEST
Alex Ellinghausen via Fairfax

If the upcoming election is to be decided, at least in part, by the communication performance of the leaders as they work the electorate, there are issues that must be addressed quickly. In his daily interviews, the Prime Minister presents as a man who enjoys his own voice. His messages would resonate more if he didn't bury them in words.

Malcolm Turnbull is not cutting through because he delivers a glib patter. Instead of setting up his prepared statement, saying it once, well, then pausing to let it sink in, he keeps talking as if intuitively he thinks people will be happy to listen to him regardless of how long it takes him to say it well.

Gestures fly incessantly, distracting rather than emphasising. He should rest his hands between points.

Former PM Tony Abbott was not a polished communicator, but he was clear. When he made a point, he made it. It may have been a bit clumsy, and perhaps you didn't always like what he said, but you heard what he said. He spoke to those in and around him and to those through the camera, and he connected with them whether they wanted him to or not.

Mr Morrison presents like a man who needs to be somewhere else. He is the March Hare -- late for another appointment. He seems to think that the more he can say the quicker, the better it will be. His job is to provide the evidence, explain the detail, to help the voter understand the big picture. Say it once slowly and clearly so we get it. Then pause so it sinks in. Then provide evidence to back your statement.

Mr Shorten has a different set of problems. Among them, he has fallen for the simplistic and incorrect advice that when in a door-stop or media conference he should only look at, and talk to, a point near or in between the cameras, rather than address the individuals in the room. He will even look straight at the cameras while listening to a question from a journalist to his left or right, then, without acknowledging the journalist or moving his head, he will deliver his answer to the cameras. At no time does he recognise the questioner or anyone in the room. It appears unnatural. The result is that he appears stilted, like Thunderbird Jeff Tracy without the nice uniform.

All the above issues can be addressed by changing the physical.

The PM needs to speak more in headlines (a technique done rather too obviously by Messrs Rudd and Shorten). He needs to speak less, pause, and gesture for emphasis only. The Treasurer needs to slow down 10 or 15 percent and emphasise key words and phrases. The Leader of the Opposition needs to speak to the bigger audience as if he is talking one-to-one and see beyond the cameras to the people watching.

More On This Topic