Ashdown’s speechwriter Max Atkinson to get an award from the Speechwriters’ Guild

We were very pleased to receive an email from Brian Jenner of the Speechwriters’ Guild telling us that Paddy Ashdown’s former speechwriter, Professor Max Atkinson, is to receive an award from them in just over a month’s time:

Dr Max Atkinson is to be awarded a ‘Lifetime Achievement’ award by the UK Speechwriters’ Guild.

The award is being made for his outstanding contribution to the theory and practice of speechwriting and public speaking over the past 35 years.

Dr Atkinson came to national prominence when he used his academic research into the speaking techniques of top politicians, and applied them to a speech delivered by a novice at a party political conference.

The speaker Ann Brennan went on to win a standing ovation at the SDP conference in Buxton in 1984.

The results were made into a ‘World in Action’ TV documentary, produced by Gus Macdonald, (now Baron Macdonald of Tradeston).

Dr Atkinson published the results of his research in a book called Our Masters’ Voices.

He also had a chance to put his theories to the test by offering speechwriting support to Paddy Ashdown, who became leader of the Liberal Democrats in 1989.

In 2004, Dr Atkinson published his book Lend Me Your Ears, which explains the techniques in simple terms to any layman who might wish to adopt them.

Founder of the UK Speechwriters’ Guild, Brian Jenner, said, ‘Using recording technology which was new at the time, Dr Max Atkinson discovered the ‘claptrap’ – the means by which speakers can provoke positive responses from audiences. He has championed ‘the language of public speaking’ which most people can master. We want to acknowledge the huge value of the research Max did.’

Dr Atkinson will be presented with his award at a reception at St Matthew’s Conference Centre, 20 Great Peter Street, London on Wednesday 25 November from 6.30pm. Tickets are available here.

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2 Comments

  • Nick Collins 20th Oct '15 - 5:04pm

    A lovely man. I recall fondly his sessions at the Henley Management College. I also half remember his anecdote about appearing on a tv programme with Tony Benn.

    I think “Ant Wedgewood” was arguing that oratorical skills were a natural gift, not something which could be taught. Max let him speak for a while and then said something like this: “You’ve just used three of the “claptraps” I discuss in my book, so what you’re suggesting is that effective public speaking should be the preserve of those to whom it comes naturally, not those who practice to learn it”.

    It’s a long time ago, so I don’t remember the exact quote, but I think that was the gist.

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