Anni Cyrus shocks to the core

Six and a half years ago I began this blog for a simple reason. I had already spent more than twenty years helping people speak in public (most of it as a full-time occupation), and had become obsessed with analysing speeches to see what the speaker was doing wrong, or right, or how could it be better, and so on. The internet was a wonderful tool for me to exploit this obsession.

What I hadn’t foreseen was how much insight into the world this activity would give me. This is post number 421, and you can more than double that number for speeches I have watched but not shared. Today we have a speech which I would prefer not to have watched, but could not live with myself if I did not share.

Let’s get the rhetor stuff out of the way. If Anni Cyrus come to me for help with her public speaking I might spend a few minutes discussing ways she could make herself more comfortable with the medium, but the bottom line would be to change essentially nothing. Her discomfort increases her effectiveness. I hope she forgives me that bad news.

The video blurb describes her as a Sharia “survivor”. That word is not idle hyperbole.

I started covering a notepad in points of shock, but gave up. This speech is a continuum of shock. My earnest advice to the reader is to watch it. All of it. Force yourself to watch it all. You need to know. We all need to know what she is telling us. (The shock may persuade you not to believe it.)

They – whoever “they” are – don’t seem to want us to know this stuff. I rather expect this video to disappear – it was published in November 2018. I half expect to have nasty labels attached to me for daring to share it, but some things are more important.

I habitually attach a hyperlink to the first time a speaker’s name appears on my postings. Those links take you either to how they describe themselves on their own websites or to a Wikipedia page about them. Neither seems to be available on line. That is strange – or perhaps it isn’t.

Nimco Ali – professional

It was in The Eden Project, in Cornwall in England in June 2018, that today’s speech was delivered as part of a 5 x 15 session. These sessions consist of five speakers speaking for fifteen minutes each.

Nimco Ali, co-founder of Daughters of Eve, campaigns tirelessly against FGM.

I am immediately impressed before I watch any of her speaking that, although an introduction is included, the video is just a smidgeon over 14 minutes in length. It is shamefully unusual for speakers at any event to finish so comfortably within their allotted time.

The YouTube posting does not tell us who does the introduction. Whoever it is has presence, is personable, but is strangely uncomfortable with the role. Barely a minute to speak, but reads it all, stumbles over it, and has lousy microphone technique. I feel sorry for her because she is clearly not at ease when she could so easily be.

Ali on the other hand shows herself supremely comfortable in front of an audience. She’s the type of speaker that shoots from the hip and relaxes the audience immediately, partly from her confident demeanour, and partly through meeting her subject head-on. “All I do is talk about vaginas.”

She tells us she is a survivor of FGM, but strengthens her ethos immeasurably by her apparent insouciance towards her experience. She displays no simpering victimhood, describing the operation as “stupid” and “weird”, while several faces in her audience register horror. That’s very effective, casting her as admirably objective.

Most importantly she speaks with her audience, addressing them almost as if across a coffee table. It’s a style of speaking that comes from the right mindset and it works. I am not in the least surprised by her success at getting politicians to listen, “I got David Cameron to say the word, clitoris. I also got £36m out of him to fund an African campaign.”

I will finish as I started on this speech. Along with everything I’ve said about her speaking ability she has speaking discipline. Her allotted time was 15 minutes. After her introduction she began at 01:24, she grabbed her audience, told them what she wanted them to hear, even getting a few laughs out of them, stopped, concluded with a 2-minute video and the whole thing lasted 14:02 minutes. That’s a level of professionalism that you seldom get even from professionals.