Speech Tips for Obama and Rubio

A great speech tells a story by painting a picture with a clear, consistent message. Could you summarize President Obama’s State-of-the-Union address in a single line? I doubt it. It was a checklist not a story and had inconsistencies that muddled his clarity.

While he called for “smarter government” instead of bigger government, he also called for more pre-school education, repairing 70,000 bridges, creating new institutes for manufacturing and other ideas that require government involvement.

His plea to be “partners not rivals” with Republicans, also included an attack that we can’t drift “from one manufactured crisis to the next,” a condescending shot at Republican policy on the debt limit.

The checklist approach to these addresses is not new. Its designed to curry favor with specific constituencies and often the president gets a temporary bump in polls right after them. But the communication world is changing fast. Attention becomes more of a commodity every day. Presidents continue to waste this precious resource — the attention of 45 million people for an hour — with the same old, same old.

The president’s second term communication plan should be less about what he wants to do and more about how he will get it done. He should have painted a picture that looks something like this: “You re-elected me and a Republican majority in the House. That’s gridlock. I get it. Here’s what I plan to do to fix that problem.”

President Obama is a bright, articulate man with lots of charm and a conversational speaking style. He does have a truncated cadence and a certain detachment often creeps into his speeches. But his biggest improvement opportunity, however, rests with clarity (or the lack of it).

About Rubio:

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who gave the Republican response, is a rising star. His humble Cuban roots are a GOP political consultant’s dream. He’s smart, articulate, passionate with a strong conservative record. While many top Republicans are floundering, he got in the President’s face with a “no apologies” defense of Republican principles. But he had nothing about fixing the gridlock either. And his awkward water break (click below) demonstrated he needs a lot more seasoning.

Water Break

It’s hard to believe no one thought about having a glass of water well within reach. Nervousness can give you cotton mouth in a hurry and Rubio had plenty to be nervous about. This was the most important speech of his life. But lessening speech anxiety is about the right kind of preparation. His “deer in the headlights” look when reaching for the water broke the rhythm of the speech, affecting a presentation that had some giddy up to it.

Just last year, Rubio suddenly discovered he had no last page while reading a speech. There’s no excuse for inadequate speech preparation, especially for a presidential aspirant.

Focus on delivering value to the audience. Be better prepared. Maybe we did learn something from last night’s speeches after all.

The writer is a speaking coach and former elected official who has made hundreds of presentations and media appearances. 

Contact markgrimm if looking for help!

The Hole in Social Media: Video That Makes You Shine

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what is a video worth?

The use of video in our social media platforms presents enormous opportunities and, so far, too many are not taking full advantage of it.

YouTube essentially offers you your own TV channel at no cost. Unlike Facebook, whose user-friendly credentials are questionable, YouTube does a number of things to make your channel easy to use and effective.

Firstly, you don’t really need to host video on your site. You can place them all on YouTube and embed the links into your own website, into Facebook or LinkedIn, or link to them from Twitter. YouTube also deals well with the complexity of various types of video files by converting them to a format people can view on their computer. Your YouTube videos can also be found in searches offering more exposure at no cost to you. Over 800 million unique users visit YouTube each month. More video is uploaded to YouTube in one month than the three major US networks created in 60 years.(1)

There are special features that are quite helpful. For example, if you find a YouTube video you wish to share, but the really good stuff doesn’t start until 3 minutes and 12 seconds into the video, you can set when you want the video to start when someone opens your link (hit the “share” button and then “options”). You can also add text to the video under annotations.

The fight for people’s attention has never been more challenging. Social media has made nearly everyone a “publisher.” We are consuming information at an unprecedented rate. And so much that is distributed is ignored. Video is a tool to grab and capture attention and to tell a story better.

There are some cautions, however. Your video reflects on you. Blurry video, poor audio, harsh lighting and weak graphics send a message, too. The wrong message. Investing in professional help —- producers, videographers, on-camera/voiceover talent — is money well spent for your signature videos (here’s mine, for one example). However, that’s not realistic for all your videos given the need to produce content on an ongoing basis. Video cameras and software are more affordable than ever before. Take advantage of their use. Remember, though, a video is about telling a story, not communicating a bunch of data. So before you prepare a short video (and be sure to keep them short), ask yourself, “What is my story here?” Be yourself, be conversational, and avoid talking heads. Make it as visual as possible. If you do, a video will be worth more than a thousand words. It will move you one step closer to your dream!

The writer is a former TV anchor/producer who now provides insights and training to dramatically improve how people communicate.