great communicator

How to be a Great Communicator: Alistair Cooke & the 3 P’s of Great Communication

Described by Tony Blair as “one of the greatest broadcasters of all time”, Alistair Cooke is one fine example of what a great communicator looks and sounds like. So what can we learn about the art of communication from the BBC legend?

By Olivia MacDonnell, ConfidentSpeak

great communicatorRecently I was giving a communications seminar and we started discussing some of the best communicators.

The question was asked, “Who is a great communicator?”

So we got to talking about presenters who really connect with their  audiences. One name to pop up was Alistair Cooke, who has been described by Tony Blair as “one of the greatest broadcasters of all time”.

So what were Alistair’s secrets? What makes him so refreshing to listen to? What makes him so memorable as a great communicator?

We try to break it down.

Alistair Cooke’s secret, I believe, boils down to what I call my 3 P’s for becoming a great communicator.

The 3 P’s of Being a Great Communicator, 1: Pace

Listen to Cooke anytime and you have to marvel at his great use of PACE.

Pace is hugely important for engaging and connecting with audiences.

He keeps his pace slow and measured, but also brings life and vibrancy through his great use of pitch range is key for engaging any audience.

The 3 P’s of Being a Great Communicator, 2: Presence

A great communicator always remains in the moment, is always PRESENT.

It can be hard to describe this, but think of it like this.

Did you ever listen to someone giving a presentation and you knew they were thinking about what they are going to say or do next?

It can be hugely frustrating for an audience when this happens.

Cooke, however, is always present, he is always “in the moment” when he’s speaking.

I believe you achieve this through preparation and planning.  In other words a little work!

The 3 P’s of Being a Great Communicator, 3: Personal

With Alistair Cooke, you just get the sense he is exactly the same person in-front of the mic as behind the mic.

There is no real sense of a “show man”.

There is an honest, natural flow in this delivery.

You just don’t get a sense of artifice. He seems so authentic.  He is relaxed and composed.

The outcome?

As a result, his audience is also relaxed and composed. His audience is able to listen and stay connected with him and not getting distracted.

The Alistair Cooke School of Great Communication Conclusion

The end result of everything Alistair Cooke brings to the table is that he has a definite commitment to the words he’s speaking, which gives him an honesty and integrity when he speaks.

  • He is connected and committed to every word he speaks.
  • He gives each word appropriate time and appropriate weight.
  • It feels like he has thought about every word he speaks.
  • He is emotionally connected to whatever he is saying.
  • There is no rush, an urgency but no haste.
  • These attributes draw an audience in.

Sit back, take a moment and have a little trip down memory lane with the Alistair Cooke YouTube clip below.

Is his speaking style timeless or does it feel dated to you?

Without question the slightly clipped BBC accent has certainly received a modification over time. We don’t hear it very often these days (I for one miss it!)

But leaving the accent aside, I don’t think the basic delivery skills to being a great communicator are out of date.

I don’t think they ever will be out of date. In fact, we all need to learn from a great communicator like Alistair Cooke. (If you want even more after the clip below, here’s a link to some of his “Letters from America” broadcasts.)


To learn some of these skills to help you engage and influence audiences, contact us to hear about our Vocal Presence Programmes.

About ConfidentSpeak

ConfidentSpeak is a Voice and Communications consultancy based in Dublin, Ireland.

We offer a range of voice and communications programmes for executives, sales teams and technical professionals. Our packages are tailored for both individual and corporate level. We work with leading Irish and international companies and executives

Contact us for details by filling out this form, or call or email us via the details below.

Telephone:- +353 1 9696056


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ConfidentSpeak is a specialist S.T.E.M Communications & Coaching Consultancy based in Dublin, Ireland. We work with leading Irish and international companies and executives at home and abroad. Contact us for details on our range of  corporate/private programmes for executives, sales teams and technical professionals.

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