SPEECHCRAFT – Timing, Timing, Timing
(Part 3 of a 3 Part Series)
WATCH THE CLOCK
When I am not advising political candidates, I work as a Sales and Marketing Consultant for professionals (Attorneys, CPAs, Wealth Advisors, etc.). One of the main points that I stress to my clients is an understanding of a truth regarding clients. That truth is: “I don’t care about you until you demonstrate that you care about me.” If only I could get my political candidates to understand that concept.
DO YOU CARE?
I find that 90% of the candidates that I have been involved with are very egotistical and self-centered. It is all about them and being on the stage. Their reasons for running have more to do with getting public recognition than trying to improve government.
This attitude is one of the major stumbling blocks for candidates. It creates a barrier between them and their constituents. They come off with an attitude of “I don’t care about you, it's about me and my message”. As such, most candidates are getting negative votes. Negative votes are “I am not voting FOR you, I am voting AGAINST the other candidate”. There is a big difference in voter turnout, volunteering, donations, and creating a long-term relationship with the voters between whether they are voting for you or just against the other guy. When you figure out that it is about THEM and not YOU, you will find extraordinary success with voters and will see large voter turnouts with first time and prodigal voters.
No more is this represented than when a candidate interacts with their constituents. This is especially true when it comes to giving public speeches. When was the last time that you heard or saw a candidate that kept to the time limit that was given to them? They always go over. Most organizations plan on this. They tell the candidate that they have 20 minutes when they have planned for 30 minutes for the presentation. As a political candidate (or speaker) have you ever gone over the allotted time that was given to you? Every time that you do that, you are saying “My time is more valuable than yours. I have no respect for you, your organization, and your time. It is more important that I convey my information to you”.
SHOW YOU CARE
There are three ways of showing that you care about your audience. The first is speaking TO them, not AT them. The second is to demonstrate that you have an intimate knowledge about their organization and what they are trying to achieve. The third is that you be the only candidate that is respectful of their time (and I would suggest that you make a point of it when you end your speech – “I noticed that my time is almost done, and I am that rare candidate that actually respects your time.”).
When giving a speech, always know how much time is allotted and be acutely aware of it. Most Smartphones have timers built into them. If you don’t have a watch or have a clock readily visible, use that app to monitor your time.
If you want to have a Q&A session (I actually recommend dividing your time with 30% speech, 70% Q&A) then plan accordingly. Actually, provided that you have given ample time for it, a Q&A session is the only acceptable reason for going over your allotted time. If they keep asking you questions, it shows that they are interested and want to know more, so you can go over because they want you to.
Nothing is more embarrassing than being booted off the stage or have your host cut you off because you don’t know when to shut up (My most common complaint about candidates: “The problem is not getting them to talk, the problem is getting them to shut up”).
Most organizers are used to candidates that are inconsiderate of others’ time and have protocols for removing them from the stage. All of them are embarrassing for the candidate (and yet, most candidates don’t see it that way). Having someone come on stage, cut you off, and inform the audience that it is time to move on is a large neon sign that screams “TIME TO SHUT UP AND GET OFF THE STAGE!”. Have you ever seen this? Most of us have and it makes the candidate look like an egotistical moron.
This is very critical when it comes to radio, television, and newspaper interviews. These are professionals that have very strict time constraints and no respect for any politician. Cutting you off and making you look like a fool is considered part of their job. As a Constitution Party candidate, the odds are going to be very high that these media people are going to be antagonistic to you. Embarrassing you by cutting you off because you went too long in your response is something that they are going to be looking for. Don’t give them the opportunity. Most of them will tell you upfront about how much time that you have. You want to make sure that you don't go over your time limit. I always recommend that, when responding to questions, keep all of your responses to 2 minutes or less. Doing this will allow you to answer more questions and give the audience a better understanding of your position. You don’t need to give them every detail of every issue on your platform. The goal of interviews is to get the audience to want to know more, so teasing them is better than educating them. If you get asked a complex question that requires a complex answer, then take the necessary time to answer it, but 90% of the questions are going to be stock questions that you should have a ready answer for.
GOOD TIMING COMES FROM PREPARATION
I always suggest that you have prepared speeches and statements ready. You should have a 30-second, 5-minute, 10-minute, and 20-minute presentations ready to go. You should also have multiple >2-minute responses to frequently asked questions ready. These are all you need to be prepared for any situation.
You can combine your speeches to meet any requirement. For instance, if you are given 1 hour for a presentation, you simply give two 20-minute speeches and have 20 minutes for Q&A. When greeting people for the first time, have a 30 second “elevator speech” ready for introducing yourself and motivating them to want to know more (which you then give your 5-minute speech). If you are given 20 minutes to talk, you can either give a 10-minute speech with 10 minutes of Q&A or just a 20-minute speech.
Having these prepared speeches will ensure that you are always on time and that you are showing that you respect your voters. It shows that you care…and if you care about them, they will care about you.