Rhetorical Devices to Incite Timely Applause

Any delay between the end of a speech and the audi­ence’s applause can send strong neg­at­ive sig­nals to those watch­ing and listen­ing. In order to pre­vent this awk­ward­ness, there are rhet­or­ic­al tricks we can imple­ment that trig­ger applause or laughter at appro­pri­ate moments.

Speech­writer and polit­ic­al speech advisor Max Atkin­son, in a cri­tique of UK Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Nick Cleg­g’s speak­ing style, offers some rhet­or­ic­al devices for pre­vent­ing delayed applause.

The point about delayed applause is that, when the script and deliv­ery are work­ing well togeth­er, it should hap­pen with­in a split second of the speak­er fin­ish­ing a sen­tence.

That’s why con­trasts and three-part lists are so effect­ive, because they pro­ject a clear com­ple­tion point where every­one knows in advance where the fin­ish line is and that it’s now their turn to respond […]

Bet­ter still is to get the audi­ence to start applaud­ing early, because it gives the impres­sion that they’re so enthu­si­ast­ic and eager to show their agree­ment that they can­’t wait – and the speak­er ends up hav­ing to com­pete to make him­self heard above the rising tide of pop­u­lar acclaim.

One way to do that is to use a three part list, in which the third item is longer than the first two.

via @TimHarford

Back in 2004, a Max Atkin­son-inspired BBC art­icle offers some more per­suas­ive devices.