Sep 6, 2008

Delivering a motivational speech, political style

Have you seen Sarah Palin's speech at the Republican convention? This was a great speech, whether you agree with the GOP's political agenda or not.

Why was it so great?
  • She was engaging: she smiled during the entire speech. Her smile seemed genuine and like it or not , a genuine smile is always more appealing than a sourpuss face. Too many political candidates forget to smile when they speak to their constituency. You can learn how to do so, but it always comes off better if you don't have to fake it. Palin seemed to thoroughly enjoy her moment in the sun, and it showed. If you want people to enjoy your speech, you need to enjoy delivering it also.
  • She made it personal: most of her stories were personal. This is a hallmark of this year's political campaign: all candidates and their running mates focus on personal stories whether it be Palin's dealings with the old guard in Alaska, McCain's days as a political prisoner, or Obama's rise to become the first black presidential candidate. It is easier to identify with someone when that person opens up and lets us know how they are very similar to us.
  • She made it about the audience: she identified the most important issues for the people in the room and addressed those, while skimming over the others. It is a fact that most voters don't really care about what happens outside of their country: it's what happens close to home that is important. In this type of setting, discussing foreign policy is a waste of time, except when your sons or daughters are serving overseas in a war-torn nation. For most Americans, foreign policy is not very meaningful unless it helps get their sons and daughters home safely, and soon. Palin stuck to themes that are important locally.
  • She showed grace and fury: one way to deliver a speech with impact is to include contrasting elements. She did so by using fierce words and tone of voice when talking about her political opponents ("What is the difference between hockey moms and a pit bull? Lipstick!") but using a decidedly more nurturing tone when speaking about children with special needs.
  • Few facts, much emotion: if you are looking for policy statements and programs in Palin's speech, you will find it lacking. But what she lacked in content, she more than made up for with flare. She brought the crowd on an emotional roller coaster ride for close to 45 minutes, and they loved it!
I don't fancy myself a seasoned political analyst by any stretch of the imagination. However, if the GOP wins the vote in November, Palin's performance last Wednesday night will no doubt be seen as a cornerstone of that victory.

You can see Sarah Palin's speech here: Vice Presidential Candidate Gov. Sarah Palin (AK) Full Speech at the RNC

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