We just had a civic election here in Alberta. Congratulations to those who won, and good for you for wanting to make a difference in our fine province. I listened to many speeches over the course of the election and I’ve come up with a list of things that you can do better next time.
Can I trust you?
Everybody worries about the content of your speech. I get it that content is king, especially when you are in an election, but it comes in a package. What the audience wants is a feeling from you. And in the case of the election the feeling is of trust. We want to trust that you will listen to our concerns and act on them. After all we received your flyer and read it. When we come to see you we want more than that.
Body language sends a message. If you are fidgeting with your watch while giving your speech or have your eyes focused on the ground I would call that a down and in position. That position smacks of low self esteem. We want someone who will take charge and help make our community strong. Move your body in an up and out position and see how confident you become.
To Memorize or Not to Memorize
I tell my clients to always have their speech in front of them. It could be on a paper, or cue cards. Some memorize their speeches and that is fine, but in case you have a brain freeze, because there was a crash in the kitchen of the banquet hall or a phone (god forbid) rings, you may need to refer back to your speech. And please do not read from your phone. The font is just too small which makes you squint and lose your place really easily.
Do You Know Who you Are?
The one thing you can memorize and you really should know, is your name. I saw a lot of “My name is (looking down at the paper), Alyson Connolly. Say your name loud and proud, and then look down at your next sentence.
Thanks, but No Thanks
Almost everyone says “I would like to thank”, to which I think they are going to say, “but I won’t”. You usually have been given a limited amount of time to speak and you’ve just used up 3 seconds! Plus a simple “thank you” has more impact. One candidate repeated “I want to thank” six times! Couldn’t he have just made a list?
I’m so sorry?
The saying, “The show must go on”, is so true when giving a speech. In a speech never say you’re sorry. “ Sorry I missed a bit and I have to retrace my steps.” “Sorry I have to rush this bit because we’re out of time.” “Sorry to bore you with the details.” This just puts the audience on edge. We start to worry. Believe me, you want these people to vote for you and you don’t want any negativity surrounding you.
The dreaded “Um” (Could someone please pass this on to Justin Trudeau?)
We say” um” or “ah” when we are thinking of what to say next. We feel that we need to fill the empty space. but it really is just a few seconds and that gives the audience time to register with what you have just said. Instead of “um” just pause and breathe. That gives you time to formulate your next thought.
Say this really fast: “Thank you for taking the time to hear what I have to say. It is important for you to make an informed decision when it’s time to vote.” That is what I heard, at breakneck speed, a lot! The audience mirrors the speaker and when the speaker speeds up it puts us on edge. You are trying to persuade people to vote for you. Don’t you want them to understand? Have you ever had to give directions to someone on the street? You need to speak slowly and clearly.
Take a breath at the end of a sentence. See what happens.You may think the time’s going by so slowly but it is not! Believe me, the audience will wait.
The Microphone is Your Friend (If you treat it right!)
The microphone is an aid to help you communicate your ideas.
That means that you have to speak directly into the mic.
Is this On? Can everybody hear me?
Do a sound check. Get to your event early and check out the microphone.
Find someone to be your audience.
If you have a technician, use him or her. Find the microphone’s off and on switch.
When ready to give your speech, don’t tap the mic and say is this on? Can everyone hear me?
Place the mike on the lectern at a good distance from you. It shouldn’t block your face.
Stand with good posture. Don’t be like the winners at the Academy Awards when they lean into the mic to speak.
If you have to hold the mic, hold it to your chest and keep your hand there, so when you turn your body, the mic turns with you.
Don’t crowd the mike or eat it, you’ll pop your ‘P’’s and have distortion.
If wearing a lavaliere, which is a mic clipped onto your clothing, wear something that it can be clipped onto; a blouse, or a shirt, not a T shirt or turtle neck. No clunky jewellry.
Stand with good posture.
The Camera is your Constituent
In these days of selfies and instagrams, many candidates posted messages on video. Please, let a friend hold your phone so that we are not distracted by the shakiness of your hand or the leaves on the ground. Look straight into the lens because you are speaking to us, not the phone.
If you practice these rules, who knows, you might soon be giving a lovely acceptance speech!