Boris Johnson Olympic Clock speech analysis

Boris Johnson speech image

Boris Johnson speech image

Boris Johnson stole the show today by giving a hugely informal speech not to a group of close friends, but the entire planet.

You can view whole speech here.

This has to be my speech of the year so far. It was short, sweet, and informal enough to make every person on the planet feel welcomed by the Mayor of London. However, the real objective of this speech for Boris was to get us, the British public to realise our identity in front of the rest of the world and to become inspired and proud that we are hosting the Olympics in 2012.

Boris achieved this with a speech that was half humour, half battle-cry, but wow, did it work – let’s take a look at how he did it:

Humour

It’s so simple, but also so easy to get wrong (especially if you are Boris Johnson) – Boris put the world at ease with jokes about the Olympic clock starting and then breaking, but getting going again with the help of our Swiss friends. This put everyone at ease, made us aware this wasn’t going to be a dull, hugely political speech and even helped form an identity of ‘us’ the target audience as British, versus our Swiss chronometers counterparts abroad.

Language

Boris then went on to galvanise ‘us’ as the proud people of Britain through great use of language. Lines such as ‘we got it going again, didn’t we?’, hint at the ‘great British spirit’ and ‘still that clock ticks on to remind us that nothing and no one is going to stop us preparing for the greatest event that this city has seen in 50 years’, is like a rallying-cry, almost Churchill-esque (sorry Winston).

These lines are hugely emotive and conjure images of war time Britain and all of the best traditional values of Britain as a country and a collective of people under one identity.

Personality

A Boris Johnson speech will never be a speech without personality, but on this occasion Boris’ personality shone through and made the messages he was conveying all the more convincing and believable. How did Boris (or his speech writer) let his personality shine through? Through the use of such typically ‘Boris’ language. Terms such as ‘horde of hooded crusties’ and ‘chronometers’ and grand focus on topics such as the streets, venues and of course, bikes being ready are so typically Boris. Boris is human (as he proves time and again) and so being able to see real personality and passion in his statements raises great empathy from his audience for his beliefs and values about the Olympics.

The finale

Every speech hinges on the one key message that you leave your audience with and Boris’ final message was emphatic.

‘And above all, above all the people of London will be ready. To welcome the world’s finest athletes to the greatest games that have ever been held, in the greatest city on Earth.’

What a great message – translated to the audience (who Boris is trying to inspire) this final is roughly: ‘You and I will be ready, to welcome the best athletes in the World to the best Olympic games (which we’re organising!) in the greatest city on Earth – ours!’.

A truly great speech which will probably be labelled as slightly juvenile, irrelevant or just babble in the course of Olympic history, but which in fact I feel was hugely motivating for the British audience present, well-planned, well-delivered and of course, incredibly British!

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Rich Watts is the UK Business Speaker of the Year and a past JCI National Public Speaking champion. He setup and now runs Rich Public Speaking providing presentation skills and public speaking training.

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