Tag Archives: executive speech coaching

Election Night Speeches Have Great Healing Power

Election night speeches have tremendous power to heal, and they will have special impact in what has been an awful, embarrassing presidential campaign. There is so much that we have taken for granted that has been turned on its head. (I feel so badly for people for whom this is their first election.) While I’ve always said the best communicator wins, there has been so much tumult generated from so many different directions, I honestly change my mind about who is doing a better job from one day to the next… sometimes during the course of a single day!

I veer from sure to shaken.

So instead of identifying who is likely to win based on who I think is the better communicator, I’ve decided to move on to the election night speeches the candidates will deliver when the election results are in and the power they each have to move us forward from our current, depressing circumstance.

These election night speeches are critically important, both in substance and style. With this terrible campaign as a backdrop, they will be more important than ever before, for the country, indeed for the world.

So here is what both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump must do in their election night speeches whether they win or lose.  By observing them, we can learn a lot about leadership, particularly the roles grace and dignity play.

The mark of a true leader is someone who can give voice to the people he or she leads. When a candidate wins a US presidential election, it’s possible less than a majority will have voted for that person. Of the majority, many will vote not because they like a candidate, but because they dislike the opponent more, therefore limiting further who can be counted as a solid supporter.

But when a winner is decided, especially in a non-incumbent year, the ground immediately shifts beneath us all. For many in the opposing camp, it feels more like a earthquake measuring 7 on the Richter scale.

So it may seem as if the winner has a bigger lift than the loser, but I think they both have an equal, as well as awesome responsibility.

They must both exhibit signs of dignity and grace. The language of inclusiveness, of love, even, should be front and center, and not just for one’s own supporters, but for all the people.

The winner in particular must primarily show heartfelt compassion for the supporters of the loser, if not necessarily for the loser him or herself. (It would be nice, but unlikely given the personal animus between the candidates this time.)

The loser must communicate faith in the system and respect for the people’s decision. This is to ensure the peaceful transfer of power, a uniquely beautiful part of the American system.

Additionally, the winner should..

  • Keep it short. I’d advise no longer than 15 minutes. Obama spoke longer than that, but our attention spans have shortened since then. Besides, in terms of eloquence and public speaking technique, he’s a hard act to follow and neither Clinton nor Trump has his chops.
  • Thank every American who participated – whomever they voted for – followed by those who are closest, then the team.
  • Acknowledge the other side, that it was a hard fought campaign. Show grace in winning by promising to listen to and work with the loyal opposition.
  • Speak truthfully about conflicts and disagreements, but tie it into our freedoms.
  • Convey hope for the future and confidence about our ability to get there,
  • Exhibit a little self-directed humor.
  • Speak from the heart.

And, the loser should…

  •  Keep it very short. 5 minutes is enough.
  • Convey the selection of a president is bigger than any one person or campaign.
  • Acknowledge the loss and affirm it was fair and square.
  • Thank supporters, family, and team.
  • Show grace and dignity in losing by going quickly and quietly and don’t return to public life for a good, long time. The country needs to heal and adjust.

With passions running so high, t’s difficult to imagine how much can be accomplished with a solid, heartfelt, dignified, and graceful speech, especially after such a horrid and, frankly, disgraceful campaign. But we’ll all have a chance to see, hopefully Tuesday evening, that powerful speech can heal deep wounds. I’m certain of it. It’s actually the only thing I’m certain of when it comes to this election.

What if You Could Love Public Speaking?

More and more, I’m in love with public speaking! I’m ardent about it. I’m a missionary, a true believer.

I know not everyone feels the way I do, but I am also a firm believer in possibility, that you can come to love it. It’s something I see every day with clients, which is so gratifying.

Here is why so many people shy away from it: They feel they have the expertise and the deep knowledge. They have worked hard for years to hone their message. As a result, they feel audiences and listeners should be “smart” enough to see past any presentational deficits. They tend to regard delivery technique as fluff, surface, soft. But mastery in speaking and presentation is anything but.  

To put it bluntly, public speaking or presenting is an essential, professional skill. It is the delivery vehicle for all your content and your message. And once a professional attains even a modicum of leadership responsibility, it is no longer optional. You know I speak the truth because when you observe people who are great at it, you admire them. We all do.

Here’s a quick story that illustrates why you might want to learn to love public speaking and presenting…

Like all of us, you attend industry conferences. During these often multi-day events, there are concurrent breakout sessions. Attendees look at the program guide and select which breakout they think they’ll get the most out of. And they just hope and pray the presenter won’t bore them to death. Too often, however, they do. They stand behind the lectern, reading from slides that are too packed and disorganized for anyone to see clearly. Their heads are down. They don’t tell stories to make their data come alive. They don’t connect.

Honestly, when I go to a breakout where I’m unfamiliar with the speaker, I sit in a location where I can make a quick escape. My feeling is my time is so precious that if the speaker didn’t care enough to engage me, I’ll find someone who will. It breaks my heart when this happens, when I see people deserting the room because it’s very demoralizing for the speaker and I know things could’ve been different.

Occasionally, too rarely, however, the speaker blows you away. They are funny, engaging, they command the platform and their slides are bold, graphic, and clever. They tell stories. They reveal a little about themselves. They connect. You like it so much in fact that you patiently stand in line to meet that speaker, exchange business cards, be in that person’s sphere, maybe even buy something.

It continues afterward. At the conference, you observe others approaching that speaker. That person, whom you had never heard of before, has become a type of star, a celebrity.

But it doesn’t end there. After the conference ends and everyone returns to their offices all over the country and, more commonly these days, the world, they are talking about that speaker, linking in with him or her, referring the person to other, more prestigious public speaking venues where – let me be very clear – that speaker has an opportunity to connect with an entirely new group of potential clients and referral base. What an efficient way to connect and build a personal brand!

Do you think that speaker is ardent about public speaking? You betcha. Did he or she always love it? Probably not, but the benefits and rewards have become too clear to ignore.

Now, as I always say, it’s work. It takes time, practice, dedication. It’s just a matter of getting the support and coaching you need. That could be Toastmasters, a small group program offered by a qualified coach, or private coaching.

It’s no fun to be forced to do something for work that is painful. We all have a list of must-dos that we dislike or even hate. Public speaking should not be one of them. Better to become so good, and reap the unparalleled benefits, that you, too, fall in love with public speaking.

Bad Publicity vs. NO Publicity: Presidential Campaign Lessons

We’re finally down to two. The last ones standing. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. And one will become President of the United States.  

After all the primary debates and most recently, the conventions, the campaigns have begun the slog toward Election Day. On the one hand, you have Clinton, who cannot seem to get out of her own way when it comes to dealing with the screw-ups of the past and Trump, who has not encountered a criticism he should not respond to. It’s reported they are the most disliked candidates in history.

And there are still 3 months to go!

So, is it really true that the only bad publicity is no publicity? Is it better to be talked about than ignored, regardless of what’s being said?

It’s complicated.

Let’s start with Hillary Clinton. In her case, bad publicity has a decidedly negative impact. The reason why goes something like this: Bad news sticks when it 1) undermines the core argument you make about yourself or 2) supports the core argument the opposition would have people believe about you.

Clinton promotes herself as experienced, knowledgeable, a steady hand, a hard worker. Therefore, it’s logical to assume a knowledgeable, experienced person would know that using a personal email server for state and often highly confidential business could create significant problems. So the actions contradict her message. (NOTE: I am not judging, only observing.) They undermine what she’d like us to believe about her and give ammunition to the opposition in their efforts to derail her candidacy by sticking her with the “poor judgment” label.

But what about Donald Trump? Have his choices undermined his candidacy? Not yet. Trump promotes himself as a business expert, strong, and not politically correct. Furthermore, he has trained the public over many years to expect little from him in terms of behaving within the usual boundaries of polite discourse. One powerful result is he is not held to that standard. He is vulnerable, of course, but he’s been very successful so far at protecting himself from news that could undermine his claims of business prowess, such as his tax returns. This also cleverly plays right into the political incorrectness theme and keeps him in the news because although it isn’t required, it’s traditional for candidates to release their returns for public evaluation, so pushing back against tradition fits.

There is one advantage for Hillary Clinton: Bad news that has come her way in recent days has not stuck because Trump is sucking up all the media space.  

So what’s the answer? Is it true that the only thing worse than bad publicity is NO publicity? Right now, if you’re Hillary Clinton, the answer is no and if you’re Donald Trump, the answer is yes.

Like I said, it’s complicated.