SPEECHCRAFT – The Tool of Politicians
(Part 1 of a 3 Part Series)
Just like a plumber or an auto mechanic who uses tools to accomplish their tasks, a political candidate also has tools that they need to use. No tool is more important than using their voice and body to deliver effective and motivating speeches. Like any professional, if you are not using the right tools or if you are not using them correctly, the job will end up in a mess.
When it comes to Speechcraft, too many Constitution Party candidates are lacking in their ability to effectively communicate their message to the voters. When it comes to speeches, it really is a case of it being more important on HOW you deliver your speech than WHAT you deliver. Even the best of messages will be ignored and dismissed if it is delivered in a way that does not engage and inspires the audience.
In advising candidates about speeches, I always tell them about the three basic concepts that every candidate needs to know before making a speech: 1. Know your audience, 2. Know your topic, 3. Know your goals. In this article, I am going to discuss these 3 components and provide some insight on improving your Speechcraft.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE: Most candidates have multiple speeches that they can give. Choosing the right one for your audience is critical. One of the suggestions that I give my candidates is to get to know the organization that is inviting you to speak. When you are setting up the appointment to speak, ask that person questions about the organization and their members. Ask questions about speakers/topics that they responded well to. Ask questions about other affiliations that their members may have. Also look up the organization on the internet and Social Media pages. This will tell you a lot about topics that will help you resonate with them.
A common mistake made by candidates is to only talk about the core subject for the group (for instance, only talking about Gun Rights for a 2nd Amendment Organization). The problem with this approach is that you are going to be saying the same things that everyone else has said. Since you are the outsider and a 3rd Party candidate, you need to “wow” them. If you are going to talk about a core subject, then change up the topic to introduce new concepts or new ways of solving the issue. I would strongly advise, however, that you be open to talking about a different topic that would also appeal to the audience but be related to their core subject. For instance, a speech about Constitutional Government could easily be tied in with comments about 2nd Amendment rights yet be a new topic that they have never heard.
KNOW YOUR TOPIC: You need to be an SME (Subject Matter Expert) on whatever topic you discuss. You can’t “fake it” and have a general understanding of the topic. You need to be able to answer any questions regarding it and be able to provide some unknown details to the audience about the topic. Too many of our candidates think that they need to have a broad range of topics to discuss. This comes from our previous failed attempts to “educate” the voters. I tell all my candidates to have 3 main speeches and 3 secondary speeches. Period. No more, no less. You will give the 3 main speeches 80% of the time and use the secondary speeches as special needs require (i.e. a unique group that would really respond well to the secondary speech).
Candidates hate giving the same speech over and over again, but like a One Hit Wonder Band, you have to remember that your audience wants you to sing the hit song, even if you have sung it 1000 times before. You have heard your speech hundreds of times, but most of your audience is hearing it for the first time (and the others will not mind hearing it again because they missed things the first time and want to hear it again). You can vary the speech up a little to make it fresh for you but keep to the same major points in every speech.
This also has the added benefit of making the speech better each time that you give it. You gauge each speech and see what works and what doesn’t. Over time, you refine the speech until it becomes a perfect balance of time, information, motivation, and delivery.
KNOW YOUR GOALS: You are not there to educate them nor to entertain them. You want your speech to be entertaining and educational, but the main goal of the speech is to motivate your audience to take action. The end result is that they will vote for you, donate to you, or become a volunteer. This directly applies to my admonition that you are not there to get them to join the party. You are there to get elected. Let non-candidates work on party recruiting. Your ONLY job is to get elected.
Therefore, it is important that the topics that you pick and the audiences that you deliver them to are related to your goals. For instance, when you are first starting your campaign, you need just two things: Money and Volunteers. You are not worried about votes at this time (even if they decide to vote for you, voters are notorious for changing their minds at election time). Vote speeches will come in October and November, not in June. When you first start, you want to motivate your audience to contribute to your campaign. Knowing that goal will help you in delivering your speeches. The words that you use and the topics that you discuss are designed to motivate the audience to actively participate in your campaign. Your call to action will be to help you get the message out by participating on your staff or donating money. As such, the topics that you use, the way that you deliver the speech, and the audience that you want to deliver the message to, will be very different than what you will be doing during the last 8 weeks of the campaign.
You also want to keep your speeches aligned with your overall campaign strategy. If you are campaigning on cleaning up government, then all of your speeches should be related to that strategy and have some component of getting rid of the corruption and fraud that permeates government today. Like speeches, I advise all my candidates to just have 3 main campaign slogans (hence, why we have 3 pillars vice 6 pillars) and align all their marketing and speeches to promoting those slogans. You should have one main slogan and two secondary slogans for your campaign. This does not mean that you don’t address other issues as needed, but it does mean that all your marketing and speeches will only be related to the main slogans (with a strong focus on your main slogan). If you have too many campaign slogans and issues that you are addressing, your message gets washed out and confusing. Again, using the One Hit Wonder analogy, you are there to sing your greatest hits, not the other songs that you wrote. Keep pounding on the 3 main slogans and your message will resonate. Say it different ways and with different words, but keep to your main slogans. Your speeches are a critical part of that marketing and campaign effort and should all be aligned to that goal.
Know Your Audience. Know Your Topic. Know Your Goals. Keep those main ideas as you develop your campaign and your speeches, and you will see better results come election night.
In the next part of this series, I will be writing about speech rhetoric and styles. I will discuss the different styles and how to change the way that you speak to effectively reach your audience.