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A public speaking nightmare is definitely unusual. But, it can happen. And this week we saw that President Ramaphosa of South Africa had one such moment. Now, it's true that such problems aren't that common. Yet when they do happen they always make uncertain viewing. It's true that this President Ramaphosa Covid-19 speech wasn't really in the nightmare category, nothing like the Victoria Hammah speech horror show. So, perhaps a new bemusement category is more apt.

President Ramaphosa covid-19 speech

President Ramaphosa Covid-19 Speech Wrestles With Tight Head Prop

This week's mishap saw President Ramaphosa give a televised speech to the nation from Pretoria. But this Ramaphosa Covid-19 speech managed to go viral because of a tight head prop. No, not the Dan Cole or Kyle Sinckler rugby variety. No, this was a prop that just wouldn't behave appropriately. Not dissimilar perhaps to Harlequins and England Joe Marler. Yes, a particularly tight squeeze.

President's Covid-19 Speech Is Masked

It was at the end of the President Ramaphosa speech that he tried to wear one of the new face masks, prepared so well by the country's textile industry. Of course, the result, if not predictable, was more than amusing. It's the delicate matter of mask in the right place and the fiddly elastic. It's certainly tricky stuff when you're live on television with a huge audience. To be fair, wearing a prop also bothered Catherine McKenna at the end of her Ottawa speech as she considered what to wear for her next speech.

Students of South Africa's politics will recall another President, Jacob Zuma, explaining his bizarre no-barrier method for combating AIDS. So, all credit to President Ramaphosa for this attention to detail.

Yet the Cyril Ramaphosa Covid-19 speech had just about everything going for it. The President gave his speech with autocue, slightly hesitant at times, but that does happen.

However, he managed to set the right tone throughout this Covid-19 speech and laid out all the best advice for people to follow. That's good stuff, when you consider that the country has had a lock-down for five weeks so far.

Top Tips For Props In Your Next Speech

You typically want to demonstrate features, benefits or simple ease of use when you have a prop in your speech. So it makes sense to be fully prepared.

  • Practise your speech beforehand
  • Become fully acquainted with your prop
  • Test your interaction with the prop and check it really does work
  • Have a spare prop

His sentence length was perhaps wordy. But, let's just note the specialist nature of this Covid-19 speech, since the language has to be precise and meaningful.

All businesses that are permitted to resume operations will be required to do so in a phased manner, first preparing the workplace for a return to operations, followed by the return of the workforce in batches of no more than one-third.

Towards the end of his corona-virus speech he rolled out the rhetoric with some style.

This is a crucial moment in our struggle against the coronavirus.
It is a time for caution.
It is a time to act responsibly.
It is a time for patience.
There is no person who doesn’t want to return to work.
There is no company that does not want to re-open.
There is no student who does not want to return to their studies.

Some excellent repetition here, Mr President.

How To Recover From A Mishap In Your Speech

The mishap with the face mask will make this a priceless speech for quite some time. But, equally valid is the President's reaction to the matter.

“Well for those of you who were laughing at me yesterday, I am going to open a TV channel where I'm going to teach people to put on a mask," he said.
"So you can enroll how a mask is put on.”

He has style. Well done, Mr President.

Clearly we hope that you have no intent to wrestle a tighthead prop. But, if you plan to use a prop in your next speech or presentation, then you'll find plenty of top public speaking tips here. And when you want to pursue your public speaking skills that bit further, then please don't hesitate to get in touch.


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About the Author

The Principal Trainer at training business Time to Market. Based in Oxford, I run presentation and public speaking training courses, coaching sessions and seminars throughout the UK.

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