I’ll admit it — I enjoy politcal speeches. If you’re going to convince thousands or millions of people to cast a vote for you and your cause, you’re likely a pretty effective persuader. You know how to hold the attention of a crowd. You’ve had those special moments when you’ve got a crowd hanging on your every word. You’ve moved people. So politicians have a few things they can teach the corporate executive about making effective speeches and presentations.
After playing tourist at a couple local political rallies, a few obervations and takeaways on public speaking:
- It’s your speech – own it. One of my more painful moments as a writer was watching a chief executive give a keynote speech that I had written. As the CEO spoke, he’d stop and say things like, “That’s right – that’s very true.” I realized that this may well have been the first or second time he’d read the speech. He was reacting to words he’d spoken as if someone else had spoken them. Good politicians don’t read speeches – they simply speak, from the mind and from the heart. They tell stories.
- You’re not giving them a speech. They’re giving you a chance to be heard. What do want your audience to remember? Clinton flags his key points over and over – saying, in effect, “here’s what I want you to know”; “this is important…and here’s why.” Your words need to pass that old smell test: “Why does this matter…not to me, but to them.”
- If you’re prepared, it’s change the script. This was the second week I’d heard Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar speak. They were doing stump speeches – much of it was repeated from the week before… and yet, much of it sounded fresh and new. Klobuchar told new stories, and peppered her speech with stories from the campaign trail. Franken urged volunteers to talk to 5 friends and then 5 more about the election … then he stopped and said something like, “And I know some of you just need to get new friends,” utterly cracking up President Clinton behind him (you probably had to be there).
And finally… I enjoyed many of these speeches… and, amazingly, they didn’t use a single PowerPoint slide. Does anyone remember a great speech that included a slide show?