Speech masterclasses from Philadelphia
Most of us are hoping the US electorate tells Donald Trump “You’re Fired” right at the end of what should be a particularly memorable US presidential election campaign. For now though, and against all the odds, the outcome of the Republican Party Convention was that he’s been hired by party members as their man. The focus has now turned to the Democratic Party Convention.
For me, the speeches at US Party Convention time, and during campaigning are absolutely captivating. The performances are polished and measured, there is excitement and fantastic production. I have to say that, so far, the performances at the Democratic Party Convention have put those of the Republican Party Convention in the shade – at least that is what I’ve been told from our former MKC colleague Mike Miley who, while working at both conventions, has listened to all the speeches in person over the past fortnight. And that’s even before making reference to the most infamous case of plagiarism that I can remember… ever!
While speeches given to political, business and social audiences have differences, the basics of good speech writing and delivery remain the same. Given how powerful a communications tool the public delivery of a speech can be, let’s look at some of these key elements:
Repetition – Your audience will rarely remember all the contents of your speech. What they will hopefully remember though is what your big points were. Key to achieving this is sticking to the structure of telling people what you’re going to tell them, then telling them, and then telling them what you’ve just told them.
Hillary Clinton’s presidential running-mate Tim Kaine used his speech to achieve a couple of goals: giving his back story to the American public, displaying his public service credentials and attacking Donald Trump. But even as he does this, he makes sure that he sticks to the key points raised in his introductory video, repeating these key messages to voters.
Keep the language simple – to be heard and understood means having simple but memorable language. There is no need to try and impress with long words.
Confidence – As with anything in life, having confidence when you speak will greatly increase your chances of an effective delivery. Add to this the fact that over half of communications impact is non-verbal – body language is key. The best way to gain confidence is through preparation: getting a respected peer to review your speech; carrying out edits to sharpen it up, practicing delivery out loud in front of a mirror, to colleagues. Speech writing style and delivery is very different to normal writing – it’s about doing your best to command the audience and space.
Take your time – The rule of thumb for speech writing is to have 150 written words in a spoken minute. This allows the speaker to take their time and to pronounce their words correctly. Try to always start your sentences after taking a full breath.
Pausing for effect – Another useful tool is to insert a number of pauses after you’ve made key points. This will signpost to your audience where your key points lie within your speech, as well as helping the audience digest your words. Barrack Obama’s speech at the Convention had plenty of pausing for effect, but then you’d expect nothing less from this master orator.
This is at best a Top Five of speech writing tips. What I would recommend is that you listen carefully over the coming weeks to some of the great speeches that will be made as the Presidential election campaign hots up– I’m sure you’ll pick up a few useful pointers.