Tag Archives: max-atkinson

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.