Friday, September 9, 2011

Impromptu or Teleprompted - Works both Ways

Last night, President Obama addressed both houses of Congress. He set forth a comprehensive jobs bill designed to "jolt" the economy back to life. As students of public speaking, whether you agree with his politics or not, you'd do yourself a favor to pull the speech up on the Internet and watch it (at least the first half).

I'm neither pushing nor bashing his policies, but I recommend him as an effective public speaker. What he did last night is far different from the impromptu strategies we're practicing in class. His speech was carefully written, scrubbed, polished, practiced, and delivered from a teleprompter. But the basic techniques would also work in an impromptu setting.

First, he had a simple, bold, memorable thesis. It was this: "This jobs bill is good for America. Pass it now!"

Second, he used the thesis to anchor the speech and tie the elements together. I heard him restate the thesis nine times. All of his reasons, examples, and support led back to the thesis over and over.

Third, he presented his message with conviction. I don't recall him ever saying, "I believe this will be good for America," or "I think . . .," or anything else that was tentative. He didn't try to sneak around opposing views; he simply made statements and left the listeners to decide.

You can, and should, use the same techniques when you have impromptu opportunities. Of course, the President used 4,000 words to deliver his message. In an impromptu setting, you'll often have only a minute (fewer than 100 words) to say what you must. Maybe two minutes, if you're lucky. So practice making simple, bold, memorable statements. Start your speech with one, end by restating it, and whatever you provide in the middle will be icing on the cake.

Have fun.

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