The Master Race of Presenters.

Written by

Andrew Millar


December 1, 2007

Thinking further about the AADC debate, ‘Ideas v. Executions’ I was amused to see that the team arguing for Executions used so many ideas to get their point across as to disprove their own argument.

There was some fun spirited debate on the night… not disciplined or well directed, but spirited none the less. Some debaters were good presenters. Others we able to get their point across. Others, well, not so.

Public speaking is not easy. There is a real craft to communicating on this scale. Presentations like this need to use every possible technique to gain the trust of the audience. Your arguments will come to nothing if people don’t believe in you. It is more about who is saying it, not what is being said.

Adolf Hitler was, unfortunately for the world, a master at this.

In the massive flaming torch rallies at places like Nuremburg he would light the stadium walls from below. Washing the walls with upward lights raised the ceilings, and possibly the hopes of the audience hungry to hear instant solutions to their problems. He’d deck the stage with powerful symbols of eagles and triumphant garlands. He was surrounded by power and success. And he used flags for authority.

The rallies would begin with trumpets that would resonate around the walls commanding attention – not for the little corporal – but for his flunkey, the black hearted Goebbels – Hitler’s warm up act was a killer.

When Goebbels had spat sufficient fervent energy and came to the part “”And now I’d like to bring on the man you’ve been waiting for, direct from a successful season in Düsseldorf, Mr… Adolf… Hitler!!!””, on the cue of huge crowd reaction, Hitler began his little mind game with his worshippers.

Instead of appearing on stage to tumultuous heils, he waited in the back of the stadium. He waited until the cheers just began to taper off and then appeared to the crowd, walking alone down the centre aisle to the stage. In this way he appeared to come out of the midst of the people. In this way he firmly established himself as one of the people. He was one of us. We were part of him.

Once on the stage the cheering reached fever pitch. But instead of whipping them up further or riding that wave of energy, he’d stop and take a long time shuffling his papers. The crowd would grow quiet. He would shuffle some more and then stand back from the podium, hands gripping opposite upper arms. On reflection he looked like a gangster rapper without the lean….

And he’d wait. And wait, until the mob was absolutely quiet. He did not command silence, he expected it. And once he had obedience he began talking. Very quietly and slowly at first – as thought the microphone was a single person. It was an intimate delivery, measured and metered. Then, ever so slowly, he would ramp up his fervour. As his message became more emphatic so did his attitude. At full rant he would scream his deranged finale into the microphone – which must have been made of stern stuff not to melt or drown in fascist spittle.

Charlie Chaplin did a brilliant satire of him in ‘The Great Dictator’. Chaplin had his dictator wet himself at the end of the speech. For this portrayal, Chaplin was thrown out of America.

All this causes me to recall a television commercial I saw on an awards reel. It opened in silence showing a faded photo of an elderly Germanic coupe from the turn of the last century. They are introduced as Mr and Mrs Hitler, parents of Adolf. This photo is replaced by an Asian couple of similar age. They are introduced as Mr and Mrs Pol, parents of Pol Pot. A third couple appear, of South American extraction. Their titles read, Mr and Mrs Pinochet, parents of Augusto… Noriega’s parents and Stalin’s mum and dad were also introduced.

You have my attention… so what’s the message.

The next graphic reveals the words… ‘Avoid unwanted pregnancies. Use Durex Condoms.’

(Short enough?)