Armenian Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan paid a visit to the American University of Armenia and held a discussion with students on January 20. He started his speech by describing the conversation he had with the university’s leadership right before the event, “I think we had a fruitful conversation with your university’s leadership about the future of education.”
Then he emphasized that from his previous saying at AGBU talks “independent, safe, just and intellectual Armenia,” the term “intellectual” is a necessary component for our country. He went on to say, “And that is why our government is going to pay maximum attention to our educational system. Therefore we have big hopes with you.”
This article will highlight the details of Mr. Karapetyan’s rhetoric, which he used while answering questions by students.
During the Q&A with students, the Prime Minister showed that he is an attentive listener, knows the issues very well and is ready to jump in, or demand clarification when he finds it necessary. When asked “Why would companies want to invest in Armenia, after we saw that some executive orders adopted in 2016 do not work or work improperly?” Mr. Karapetyan was quick to jump in and requested to know which orders the student was referring to, each time asking for more and more clarification.
Shifts the pressure away
Karen Karapetyan combines his active listening skill with shifting the pressure point from him to the student who asked the question. Often he would direct that same question back and ask the student “What do you think?” After which the students, who are neither career politicians nor eligible to answer the questions, would nonetheless answer them. For example, when asked whether he thought 50 percent dismissal rates, which occurred in companies during the economic crisis were normal, Mr. Karapetyan replied with “What do you think?” When the student answered with “it depends,” he agreed heartily, using this to elaborate and comment on his point further.
He has grasped the importance of humor in public speaking and used it during the meeting, cracking a one-liner here and there and getting a boisterous response from the overcrowded hall every time. In some cases he had probably used these sayings previously; other times it seemed that he came up with his one-liners on the spot. For example, when an AUA alumnus discussed the issue of his startup ending up in the illegal sector, because of the lack of legal norms, the Prime Minister replied “Talk to Aram Vardevanyan [pointing to his assistant, ed.], he deals with issues of going, or not going to jail.”
Master of sarcasm
At times Mr. Karapetyan teased the audience out of the blue. “It is like you are saying a riddle. Define the problem,”was his reply to a student who asked a complicated question. But his sarcasm was mostly emphasized when he used English phrases in his speech. [the whole discussion was in Armenian, ed.] He would start off with the Armenian phrase and then add “or as you would say – generalization,” or “as you would say – let’s do a business simulation.” [The non-italic words were in Armenian, ed.
Asks a question, answers it himself
“Do I believe in that vision? Definitely.” While this might seem like an eloquent technique, it is not. You either ask a rhetorical question, not expecting an out loud answer from anybody, or you ask it and receive a response from the audience. Is it possible that he is creating a new technique of speech? Certainly.
The Prime Minister’s speech was competent in the given context and full of usage of different techniques. While these techniques weren’t always spot on, he managed to grab the audience’s attention and keep them engaged for 40 minutes. When AUA President Dr. Armen Der Kyureghian was already approaching the stage to wrap up the event and present him a memorial award, Mr. Karapetyan was still gladly accepting a question from a student, showing that he was thoroughly enjoying his time and would gladly have continued the discussion.
Photographer Anush Petrosyan