Speak for Yourself

Claire Duffy's blog about public speaking and communication (in real life). Speak well, do well!

Lovely Voices: David Attenborough, natural wonder.

attenboroughDavid 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:

We sense strongly that he is not vain; he is not out for himself; he is not pretending to be something he isn’t… we have smelt you David, and you smell good.

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.

You can watch one of his early broadcasts in black and white if you click  here, and in this one you can see him with lion keeper Joy Adams, of Born Free fame.

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 CivilisationJacob 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.


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This entry was posted on 10/02/2013 by in Presenting a speech, Public speaking, Speaking to Camera, Speeches on video and tagged , .

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