(Jeffrey Purtee) – While attending a marvelous Republican Candidates Forum hosted by the Washoe County Federated Republican Women’s Clubs recently, I had the opportunity to hear more than 25 candidate speeches back-to-back. The speeches – of either 1 minute (local races) or 3 minutes (statewide races) – presented a perfect opportunity to judge the effectiveness of varying styles and presentations. Taking advantage of that opportunity, I offer ten tips for candidates wishing to maximize the effectiveness of their brief time on the stage.
Tip 1: Take your time to start speaking.
Speaker after speaker would rush to start speaking as soon as they got to the microphone. Make yourself stand out. Relax, take a deep breath, smile at several audience members, count 1001, 1002, 1003 … and then begin. That three-second pause – as small as it is – shows a command of the stage and a comfort in front of an audience that will impress everybody.
Tip 2: Skip opening inanities
You have just one minute (or three minutes). Don’t waste 10+ precious seconds boring us by thanking everybody, complimenting us for being here, commenting on the weather, or anything else not specific to your message. Start with a bang and grab our attention.
Tip 3: Speak at a normal pace for you
You have just one minute … you want to hurry and get your whole platform in, right? Wrong! OK, maybe you want to list your entire impressive resume, right? Wrong again! We can read your platform; we can read your qualifications … and besides, we don’t care. We don’t want to feel you are rushing. Instead, we want you to inspire us; we want you to entertain us; one minute is plenty to do both. Which leads directly to tip #4.
Tip 4: Tell us a story
In one minute you have plenty of time to tell us an entertaining, inspiring story that makes us want to support you. Sitting in the audience, I want to know a little bit about YOU. Share a story of how your daughter inspired you to get into this race. Tell us about a teacher who inspired you to want to serve. If you share a little bit about who you are, in an amusing way, you’ll have us in the palm of your hand.
Tip 5: The time you’ve been given is exactly the right amount of time
I saw speaker after speaker start with “I only have a minute, so I’ll just read my notes” or “I’ll just refer you to my website” or … well, you get the idea. Forget that! In one minute you can entertain us, inspire us, and convince us to vote for you. DON’T WASTE THIS TIME! Come with a well-organized, rehearsed, entertaining one-minute story, and knock our socks off!
Tip 6: State your name and the office you’re running for in your opening and your close
People remember best what they hear first and what they hear last. Open with your name, office and a request for support; close the same way. Believe it or not, there were speakers last night who … since I was taking notes during their introduction … well, I didn’t catch their name. They never said their name or the specific office they were running for once during their speech! They sat down without me knowing who they were. Don’t let that happen to you.
Tip 7: Pull microphone out of the holder; hold it in your hand; step out from behind the lectern
Nothing shows command of the stage more than stepping out from behind the lectern to come forward and engage us directly. Another benefit of this strategy is it adds a built-in delay to the start of your speech (see Tip # 1). Look relaxed and confident on stage … come out from behind that lectern!
Tip 8: Ask for money!
You are in front of an audience of hard-core Republican activists. If you can’t ask for financial support then, when can you? Last night only one candidate specifically requested financial support; I’m sending him a donation just because he asked! I want to send money to worthy candidates, but for goodness sake … as least ask me!
Tip 9: Skip the standard Republican platitudes
Look, every Republican candidate running for everything from dogcatcher on up is a limited-government, fiscal-conservative, constitution-loving paragon of Republican rectitude. Do you think saying that sets you apart from every other candidate, especially in a primary? Trust me, it doesn’t. How about we just assume you are all those things, and instead inspire me with a funny family story that illustrates why you are running and why I should support you.
Tip 10: Look the part
I have to say, as a general rule, Republicans do this right. Candidates, overall, dress professionally and present the image you expect from somebody asking you to trust them enough to vote for them. Still, this is important enough that it is worth repeating: look the part! Your clothes should look great and fit perfectly; your jewelry should be elegant and subdued (especially on the men!); your hair should be fashionably cut. Men – and I am being completely serious here – consider a little stage makeup. You can hardly believe how the bright lights ruin your complexion. A tiny amount of base, carefully applied, can make a huge difference (ask your wife … she’ll show you how).
Is all this too high a bar to set? Not at all! Two candidates last night nailed it on at least eight of the points I’ve outlined above. Another half-dozen used well over half of these tips. All it requires is a little care, thought, and planning. Before you know it, you too can be wowing them from the stage!