Friday, October 25, 2013

Famous Speech Friday: Christine Lagarde on "dynamic resilience"

I'll just say it: There may be no better woman speaker in the world today than Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund. And when she speaks as she does in this speech, she's speaking in her first second language, English, rather than her native French. She's extraordinarily fluent in both. And though her remarks focus on the tangled web of the global economy, she's clear, connected and current.

This speech, "A new global economy for a new generation," was a highlight at the World Economic Forum in Davos early in 2013. Lagarde had the role of explaining the "dynamic resilience" theme of the meeting.

From the start, she turns her text into a dynamic thing, adding and extemporizing. Faced with an opening laundry list of factors intended to describe the current global crisis in statistics, she extemporizes a repetitive riff, saying "You would expect me to say...." before each one. She's setting us up for surprise, in a speech that will point to Facebook, Twitter, gang rape in India, climate change and many other factors that impact the world economy:
So how can we successfully navigate our way into this future world? There are no easy answers. So where to begin? I think it starts with the new generation on the march—in a world that is flatter, more closely-knit, more interconnected than ever before in history.This new generation thinks differently. It is a generation weaned on immediacy, democracy, and global reach of social media. Consider the scale: Facebook and Twitter have about one billion and 500 million users respectively. If they were countries, they would be the 3rd and 4th largest nations in the world! Perhaps we can lay the groundwork for future success by embracing some of the emerging values of this new generation. Let me touch on three of these in particular: (1) greater openness; (2) stronger inclusion; (3) better accountability.
Lagarde includes empowerment of women and girls throughout her speech, using her position of power to advance women as economic engines around the world. In her introduction, she deviates from her prepared text to say, "I would like to give this moment to Malala, the daughter of Pakistan, and her sister, the daughter of India," the latter a reference to the anonymous girl who was brutally gang-raped, prompting headlines around the world. Later in the speech, she speaks of women driving 70 percent of global consumer spending, and laments that there are not more men to make the case for inclusion of women.

What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Work the rule of three: This speech is in three parts, focusing on openness, inclusion and accountability. The rule of three is the oldest rule of rhetoric, but it works especially well in a long, technical speech like this one. When your listeners can hear that you have an outline, they'll be more willing to follow along.
  • Make the most of metaphor: "In a flat world, there are no economic place to hide," Lagarde says, turning the global crisis into an open field. Likewise, she says "this is a world where economic hardship will be contagious and will contaminate the rest of the world, all the other regions, in next to no time." When she talks about climate change, she warns that the "next generation will be roasted, toasted, fried and grilled." Not your everyday dry economic speech, this.
  • Make the audience part of your speech: The World Economic Forum audience is no ordinary group, loaded as it is with world leaders, corporate titans and technical experts. Lagarde gracefully weaves into her prepared remarks mentions of people in the audience, tying their earlier remarks to her points. It makes clear that she's a good listener as well as a good speaker, and creates strong connections during her talk.
  • Work the lectern: This is a long speech, and it needed to be a prepared speech--it's tough to maintain almost 40 minutes extemporaneously and cover all the ground Lagarde needed to cover. She makes the most of having to stay at the lectern, however, with extemporaneous adds, lots of gestures, vocal variety and colorful language. If you're in the same position, watch this video for pointers.
The text, prepared for delivery, differs in part from the address she delivered. It offers you a useful opportunity to read while you listen to this speech, so you can learn more about deviating from your text and how to make it sound smooth. You can see how Lagarde works in mentions of people in the audience, adds commentary, and even embellishes on her points. What do you think of this famous speech?

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