The ability to write and deliver great political speeches is one of the hallmarks of a winning politician. Some candidates love giving speeches, while others hate them. Either way, every candidate, for every office, needs to be able to give a passable speech… and the better you are at connecting with a crowd through your speech, the better your chances of winning on Election Day.
Here are some tips and tricks that every candidate can use to make better speeches:
Practice Makes Perfect
If you hate giving speeches, the best advice I can give you is to practice, practice, practice. Buy a speech training book like Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln, and read through it to get tips on posture, tone, and wording. Then start by delivering speeches to your mirror. After you are comfortable doing that, start videotaping your speeches and review them (by yourself).
Once you are comfortable with your progress, deliver some speeches to your family and friends in your living room… then offer to speak at some local clubs like the Kiwanis and town Chamber of Commerce (most small groups are always looking for speakers). Also consider joining Toastmasters to practice your public speaking in front of a crowd that will critique without judging.
Preparation is Vitally Important
In politics, you simply must prepare for your public speaking engagements. When possible, speeches should be written out and practiced ahead of time, with well crafted turns of phrase, rousing applause lines, and good research to back up your statements.
Of course, in politics, you will often be called on to offer remarks “off the cuff,” or to respond to a question while on the campaign trail. Be prepared. Have great lines prepared beforehand for most of the key issues in the campaign. Know your statistics. Stay current on news clips, and practice your phrases, facts, and statements with your press secretary or communications director at least once per week.
Establishing an Emotional Connection
Political speeches, unlike many other types of speeches, are based on establishing an emotional connection with your listener. When you speak as a candidate, your goal isn’t to get the facts out into the open, and it’s not to deliver some amusing anecdotes, though both of those can be important. Your goal, as a candidate, is to get people to believe in you. To do this, you must connect with them, show them you care, and get them to emotionally invest in your candidacy and your campaign… all in 5 or 10 minutes. It’s a tall order, but there is a tried and true formula for establishing an emotional connection through political speaking…
Developing a Great Speech
In order to establish an emotional connection with your audience and deliver a great political speech, use your own version of the following formula that has worked for winning politicians for generations:
1 – I care about the same things you care about – Establish with the audience that you share common issues, that you relate to them, and that you have the same hopes and dreams that they do (e.g. “Like many of you, I’ve got two small children at home, and I want them to receive the best possible education. I want them to have a better life than I did.”)
2- There’s a problem WE have to deal with – Frame the problem for the audience in terms of “we” vs. “them.” Tell the audience what you see that is wrong, what threatens the common dream that you shared with them in #1, above. (e.g. “Too many of our children are coming out of high school unprepared for college. Too many of our children don’t have the skills they need to succeed in the market place, even after twelve years of schooling.”)
3 – Here’s proof of the problem – Give some statistics, facts, and anecdotes that show that the problem you have identified is real and pervasive. (e.g. “23% of all graduating high school seniors eventually drop out of college. 15% of all high school graduates fail their 1st collegiate English exam.”)
4 – My opponent is part of the problem – Gently (or not so gently) let your audience see how your opponent is part of the problem, not part of the solution. (e.g. “Now, many people in our state capitol can afford to send their children to private school, so they don’t have to worry about this crisis in public education. That’s why 62% of our state senators voted against standards-based testing for public high school seniors. Sadly, our own Senator Radomille was one of those senators. She has consistently stood in the way of improving our public schools.”)
5- But I have the answer! – Show your audience that you understand the problem, and have the solution. (e.g. “As your next state senator, I will fight to improve our public schools, beginning on day one. My four point plan will bring honor and excellence back to our public schools. The first facet of my plan is…”)
6 – Here’s what tomorrow can look like – Cast the vision of a better tomorrow for your audience. (e.g. “Together, we can make it happen. Twenty years from now, we will be able to look back on this moment as the time when talk stopped, and action began. Our children will be better off, ready for an information economy. The economy, and the nation, will be stronger and sounder because of the investment we are making today.”)
Now, obviously, those example statements don’t add up to a complete speech (and don’t quote me on those stats in point #3, I made them up). But you get the idea – use this formula to create a real emotional connection with your audience based on your issues, your message, and your themes. Fill in around the edges, then practice, practice, practice.