This is a guest post from Elissa Freeman.
The speech is making a comeback.
Actually, it never went away. We forget how powerful a collection of words can ignite an electorate, re-ignite dormant political passion and turn the most jaded onlooker into a passionate supporter.
Just ask Michelle Obama. She was firing on all cylinders during her turn at the podium during the recent Democratic National Convention in theUnited States. Her speech electrified social media platforms in ways I’ve rarely seen. Direct quotes and cries for “Michelle in 2016” underscored much of the conversation.
It was a clinic in how carefully crafted words and superb delivery can create a defining moment in political history.
Great speeches aren’t just for politicians. They’re for anyone who has to stand in front a group of people and get their point across. But there are significant lessons to be learned from seminal political speeches that people like you and I can use:
No, really. I’m not kidding. When you stand before a group of people and you’ve yet to speak one word, what are people thinking? Trust me, their not thinking: “Wow, I bet she’s really smart.” They’re thinking: “Wow, I love what she’s wearing.” Michelle Obama’s attire was an integral part of every follow-up news item, including a 48 hour research quest by one morning show to discover the colour and brand of her nail polish. Call it what you will, we are a society who makes snap, visual judgments. Dress smart. Wear clothes that don’t wear you.
Find a phrase and work it – the more informal, the better. Don’t talk over people’s heads – you want them to relate to you. For example, from Michelle Obama: “My most important title is Mom-In-Chief.” Those are relatable phrases that cross a number of demographics.
People want to know about you. Throw in a personal anecdote. It could be something you experienced as it relates to your topic. Or it could be something about yourself. For example, describing the early days of her marriage Ms Obama said: “We were so young, so in love, and so in debt.” This was one of the most oft-tweeted phrases of the evening.
Hit the high points hard Decide on your key message – and don’t stray from it. Former President Bill Clinton exhorted: “We believe ‘we’re all in this together’ is a better philosophy than ‘you’re on your own.'” He then proceeded to systematically dismantle the Republican Party plan with a number of proof points. This formula works well for any speech.
Don’t get caught in ‘the stall’
One CEO I worked for was a particularly good speaker. He would soar to the apex of his speech – then stall at about 50,000 feet. Since he never stuck to the script I wrote for him, I would be standing in the back of the room, patiently waiting for him to start his descent, while the audience got restless. It got to a point where I would actually sit front and centre so he could see my ‘wrap up’ sign.
What’s the take away?
Ensure your audience knows what they need to do or think about when you’re done. Former President Bill Clinton constantly reminded everyone “and that’s why you need to vote for Barack Obama.” Even if you’re not looking for political votes, you are looking for a vote of confidence. If you’ve done a good job, people will reiterate that take-away message back to you.
As a dyed-in-wool Toronto Maple Leafs hockey fan, PR veteran Elissa Freeman jumped at the chance to guest blog for a guy with the last name ‘Esposito’ from Boston. A 20+ year PR veteran, she was named one of Twitters’ Top 75 Badass Females and Toronto’s Top 150 Social Media Influencers.
Image: Talk Radio News Service