Claire Duffy's blog about public speaking and communication (in real life). Speak well, do well!
David Attenborough’s conspiratorial whisper has made him the most trusted person in Britain, according to a recent Readers’ Digest poll.
Attenborough is a magician. He entrances and intrigues us. Fuelled by his own fascination with his subject and his genius for explanation, he leads us carefully – so we don’t disturb anything, into a special, secret spot: on the forest floor, in the arctic wastes, at the highest, hottest, wettest or coldest spots on earth.
Keen, calm, curious, authoritative, there is no-one we would rather travel with.
As a child he collected specimens and made his own museum. At 86, his wonder at the world seems unstoppable. His superb gift for infecting others with it makes Attenborough a model of ethos, that credibility and trustworthiness which Aristotle says is essential for any speaker. As The Guardian put it:
His delivery style hasn’t changed, though as a young man his voice sounds clearer and lighter than now, in old age. He’s always reasonable and measured, but his inflection pattern is busy, because of his enthusiasm. Listen to any of his commentaries – he animates them by changing pitch, speeding and slowing, and varying his volume all the time.
His gift for rapport is not just with humans. This scene from his most recent series Africa, shows him down on all fours, chatting to a blind rhino.
Apart from his own stupendous output, Attenborough is one of the major architects of modern British broadcasting. As Controller of BBC 2 almost from its inception, he programmed music, the arts, archaeology, experimental comedy, travel, drama, sport, business, science and natural history. It’s thanks to him we have some of the most important TV of the 20th century: Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation, Jacob Bronowski‘s The Ascent of Man and Alistair Cooke‘s America. His contribution by now is probably incalculable.
Attenborough has a long list of letters after his name, and in 2010 received a Lifetime Achievement Award.
This is a wonderful montage of his work and his acceptance speech.