Why is a speaker like a pianist?
After a year or so’s membership of the Professional Speaking Association, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two sorts of speaker, just as there are two sorts of pianist (well, there are more but arguably there are clearly two preeminent types of pianist).
One type of pianist feels they must learn all the notes, every expression mark and other instruction from the composer and, then, having mastered everything, has to transcend the content to produce a unique, personal interpretation of the music, whether it be by Bach or Beethoven, Liszt or Ligeti.
The other type—the jazz pianist—works within a harmonic and structural framework which, while they might disguise it, is still quite apparent. There is a degree of improvisation—this is essential—but, if you listen to different performances of a given song by the same player, each is unique yet each is readily identifiably by that pianist and not some other.
I refuse to accept that jazz players are remotely inferior to classical pianists! And, in my defence, I cite Keith Jarrett.
Anyway, there are correspondingly, two types of speaker: the sort who has to rehearse and for whom every word, every gesture, every pause is planned and intended, reproduced faithfully time after time; and the sort who have a (possibly detailed) structure and content but for whom there is an element of improvisation.
Now, I’ve heard one or two very naughty people in the first group try to suggest that their group is in some respect superior. Shame on you! It’s just a matter of personality. Both groups can produce stunning presentations if the speakers are good enough.
When they aren’t good enough, the first group risks collapsing into a squirm-inducing falseness, while the second group risks collapsing, full stop. Neither offers an attractive spectacle and the solution is presumably to practise, practise, practise.
Personally, I just cannot do the former. I find that, unless a speaker is superbly good at this style, it is always inauthentic—it must be; it is, after all, rehearsed down to the last phoneme and then some—and, although poor or insufficient presentation is inexcusable in anyone receiving a fee for their work, it is at least real.