Whether you are a political junky live-streaming convention coverage all day or just a casual observer catching up via morning-digest emails, it’s worth the effort for PR pros and business leaders to study what makes a political speech effective. Political figures have the advantages of teams of writers, voice coaches, teleprompters, and hours of practice, but it all boils down to whether they can deliver the goods. Observing and critiquing from the other side of the podium can give us the perfect opportunity to snag some good tips. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
Paint a picture of where you were, what you saw, how you felt. Bring us into that moment. Personal experiences draw us into your story, as we saw Michelle Obama do seamlessly in her marquee speech at the Democratic National Convention, recounting the emotional experience of sending her girls off to school for their first time as residents of Washington, D.C. At the Republican National Convention, personal stories flowed through Ivanka Trump’s introduction speech, as she took us back to the times she shadowed her father walking construction sites, building Lego structures, and being challenged by him to think big.
Past experiences and personal anecdotes aid in seguing into the heart of a speech. The best speeches not only must have a significant central point, but they must take us along on a journey, building up an emotional connection that will dramatize the key point.
These two ingredients are the secret to any speaker’s special sauce. Simple and concise sentences help the candidates put clear, powerful emphasis on their thoughts and punch behind their words. And intentional, thoughtful pauses woven throughout a speech are key to showing your audience that you are in control. What’s more – these punchy lines have the power to evolve into memorable social media posts and memes that live well beyond the speech itself (for better or worse).
While election coverage can make your head spin at times, great speeches do more than present a policy platform. If done well, the audience is drawn in and comes to share a speaker’s passion. As Toastmasters suggests, if you are truly invested in what you are saying, you will be better able to keep your audience’s attention.
For the next 100 days, this election cycle will provide us with many highs and lows, and it will also give us many chances to study and learn what can make personal communication so powerful.