Thursday, August 28, 2008

Toast and Communication

In his book on the Spanish Civil War. George Orwell recalls how the opposing forces would often shout slogans at one another from the misery of their trenches. One day, however, one side trumped the other by announcing (and I quote from memory), "We've got toast! Hot, buttered toast!"

That was communication at its finest.

The best speakers can cut to the soul. They can eloquently state the great unexpressed thoughts of others. By doing so, they speak not only to their audience but for it. Orwell's speaker was addressing a hostile audience and knew just where it was most vulnerable.

This ability to stir is not easy because it requires precision. The difference between a great speech and a mediocre one can be extremely small. That is why the best speakers devote much time and attention to preparation. The ability to appear at ease requires a lot of work and an eloquently framed argument seldom comes automatically.

In short, "Hot, buttered toast" requires thought.

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