Communications Insight For More Inspiring Leaders Thoughts On The Prime Minister's Coughing Fit

Thoughts On The Prime Minister's Coughing Fit

 5th Oct 2017

The Prime Minister faced a 'perfect storm' in her speech yesterday, as has been widely reported - a coughing fit, a prankster plus letters falling from the Party slogan behind her. I was interviewed just now on BBC Scotland on the subject, prompting these thoughts...

When Preparing: (especially with a cold/sore throat) 

Sip something warm/slightly sweet to drink - in my experience, water alone doesn't help as much, especially if it's cold! Inhalations (hot water with eucalyptus with towel over your head!), good quality breathing, gentle vocal warm-up.

When On Stage:

Ensure you take something warm/sweet to drin up on stage with you (not just water!). If coughing strikes, take your time to regroup (the PM tried to keep talking 'through the cough' a little too swiftly, I thought, which made things worse); remember to breathe deeply to help relax (this is harder than it sounds as the stress triggers your body to tense up); make light of the issue (as the PM did).


Acknowledge to yourself that these things can and will happen, sooner or later - there's no magic button you can press to guarantee it won't happen. You're only human. Take comfort in knowing that most if not all audience members will be thankful that it wasn't them!

Of course, current political circumstances and the timing made it a particularly difficult day for the Prime Minister yesterday. But any further negative fall-out is, it seems to me, symptomatic of wider and deeper political challenges faced by the Prime Minister rather than solely because of what happened in the speech. Context is all. 

What I've appreciated most has been the increased thought the team has been putting into how they come across and what they say. Colleagues in other teams have already commented on the improvement in both skills and confidence.


Emma Truswell | Deputy Head of Services, Open Data Institute (ODI)

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