SPEECHCRAFT – The Tool of Politicians
(Part 2 of a 3 Part Series)
The Whole Package
When you are giving a speech, it is not just the words that you are using that are important. More important than WHAT you are saying is HOW you are saying it.
You need to be aware of the Whole Package that is on the stage. How do you look? What is your body language saying? Do you sound confident? Are you excited to be there or is this just another stop on your long campaign trail? All of these things will impact whether your message will be received or not.
Let’s start with the basics:
HOW DO YOU LOOK?
Some would think that this is very simple. Dress professionally, make sure your hair is nice, have a good smile, and voila! You’re in. Not quite….
You need to dress according to the situation and the audience. There is something that we call “Match and Mirror”. You want to match what your audience is wearing and mirror their activities. If you are at a picnic and everyone is in shorts and T-shirts, you want to take a more casual look (and no, you don’t want to be in shorts and a T-shirt). Being in a suit and tie will just make look out of place (plus you will be hot and uncomfortable). Instead, dress in a golf shirt and casual pants. You always want to look professional, but dressing casual will make you fit into the crowd. Additionally, dress to your audience’s age group. Young people want to see a more “dressed down” and casual look. Older audiences want to have a more formal look.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
Body language and how you use the stage can make the difference between a boring speech and an effective one. One of the things that I always recommend is to video record your speeches before giving them live and watch for inadvertent body movements. Wringing hands, body ticks, constantly licking your lips, and other nervous actions can make an audience feel uncomfortable.
One of the suggestions that I always make to my candidates is “ditch the podium”. If the microphone can be removed, take it off the podium and stand just to the side of it. Getting out from behind the podium sends a message of “I am open and have nothing to hide. I am comfortable in my conversation with you”.
If you ever watch a professional speaker, you will notice how effectively they use the stage. They walk around. They use their arms and hands to emphasize points. They have dramatic stops when they want to stress a point. When you arrive at your engagement, evaluate the stage and what you have available. If you have a mobile microphone and a large stage, use it. Be sure that the audience call always see you clearly from wherever they are sitting, but walk from each end of the stage to allow you to be closer to the audience.
HOW ARE YOU SAYING IT?
Now, this is simple: Say it with passion! Say what you mean and mean what you say. Talk with conviction, confidence, and with a passion for your cause. You want to create an emotional state of mind, not a logical one. You will not be able to move your audience to make a change (i.e. support you) unless they have an emotional reaction to the words that you are saying (see this article on Speaking With Emotion).
I have seen too many Constitution Party candidates that speak with a very logical, very methodical voice. I have also seen their audience tune them out within the first 5 minutes because the candidate failed to connect with them emotionally.
If you believe in what you are doing, show that belief by speaking with passion about the topic that you are addressing to them. No matter how many times you have given the speech, give the presentation with the most conviction and emotional connections that you can make.
You also need to speak with confidence. There cannot be any doubt. You must believe (and make your audience believe) that what you are saying is the truth and the whole truth.
Finally, connect with your audience. After a time on the campaign trail, the speeches and the locations all start blending together. You may be giving the same speech 200-300 times. You must, however, say it like it was the first time because it is the first time for most of your audience. I have found that I can find new energy for my speeches by looking into the eyes of my audiences. As I see that they are comprehending what I am saying and making the connection, I get inspired over again and the same speech is no longer just a bunch of words strung together. One of the things that you can do to make your speech a little different is to customize your speech to your local audience. Everyone likes to have their town mentioned and for the candidate to talk to them about the issues that applies directly to them.
Remember that a speech is not just about words. It is about the Whole Package. When you are on the stage -it is about the message, the messenger, and how that message is delivered.