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Bill Clinton DNC Speech Now Viewed As Historic Public Speaking Paradigm


My UBC Faculty of Management students will recall that I said that Bill Clinton’s speech to the Democratic National Convention was memorable. I also predicted that Clinton’s speech would be remembered and analyzed as one of the great communication events in recent years. Now that the dust has settled and the smoke cleared from the U.S.  Presidential election, it is also much clearer what was important and what was not.    It is even more clear now, with the passage of time, and the elimination of all the emotion.  Below is the Wall Street Journal’s glowing assessment of Clinton’s speech.  Coming from the WSJ, one must admit that their opinion carries even greater weight because a Rupert Murdoch owned publication is not expected to show much admiration for anything to the left of Karl Rove.

Students of rhetoric and public speaking everywhere should review Clinton’s Tour de Force for gems they can use in their own presentations.

Wall Street Journal Assessment of Bill Clinton Democratic National Convention Speech

John Stewart of the Daily Show had the great good fortune to interview Clinton following the speech, and did us all a favor by asking him, how he did it.  The result was a superb explanation of planning and practicing a communications event.  If you can find that John Stewart Daily Show video interview with Clinton (September 21, 2012), it is priceless (it is not easy to view in Canada because of copyright and licensing restrictions).

Failing that, watch Clinton’s speech in its entirety on YouTube, and learn.

Bill Clinton Speech Nominating Barak Obama at the 2012 Democratic National Convention

9 Ways To Deliver An Award Winning Speech

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Word of mouth marketing can be one of the most powerful marketing tactics. Think about it – it costs nothing and every person who hears about your product is a potential genuine referral. Sometimes you are asked to give business presentations to a group of people interested in your ideas. It can be very difficult to put your ideas into words that your listeners will relate to and appreciate.

I have discovered that there is a checklist of guidelines. I need to make sure my listeners are able to follow along with me and capture my enthusiasm as I deliver a speech selling my ideas. Read on for this “Award Winning, Speech Giving Checklist“.

1.    Relate: Make your speech relate to its audience. Often you will be giving a presentation to a class of people who come from all kinds of different backgrounds. Find a common point they all have in common. Alternatively, you can find a common aspect of life they will all have to face some day. Use that as the grounds for your presentation and refer back to it more than once.

2.    Preview/Review: When you’re giving a presentation, having pictures is great but what if you have no access to pictures or any visual board? A wrap-up at the end – (i.e. a recapitulation of “what we just saw”) acts in a similar way. It helps everyone keep on track and get a better overall understanding of what you are talking about.

3.    Covering your Tracks: This point is more about unity than covering your tracks. When you speak to your class, turn the feared Q & A session at the end into an open floor discussion with everyone. If you don’t know the answer to a question, invite other people to answer. It’s not about what you know; it’s about what people you know know!

4.   The Poor Presentation. Everyone in life has a purpose. If you sit through a boring presentation, take note of what aspects of it are boring. Are you making these same mistakes? If you are, reexamine your speech and put yourself in your audience’s place. What would you rather hear sitting with the audience?

5.   Looking Professional: Probably the reason why dressing up in a shirt and tie is so effective when you give a conference or speech is because no one else does it. Being one of the few who goes out of their way to look good shows that you care about your appearance and reputation. Moreover, it demonstrates enthusiasm and confidence – two qualities that you cannot do without, especially when teaching people something they assume you are the expert in.

6.   Confidence: There are hundreds if not thousands of different ways to acquire a feeling of 100 percent confidence as you walk on the stage or in front of your class. Some tell themselves they are the best repeatedly in their minds. Others study for hours and hours until they have convinced themselves or until they have mastered the material they wish to present. If you give a speech and you fumble because you’re nervous, you can get rid of this by doing the following:

  • Identify the root cause for the fumbling. This is usually fear, however you need to be certain that you recognise where it is coming from. For example, it could be fear that you are not good enough, or fear that you will make a mistake, or fear of what others will think.
  • Next replace the root fear with its polar opposite. If you are afraid of what people think, remind yourself that what they think is none of your business. If you feel that you are not good enough, remember that we are all unique and have different special abilities in different areas. If you are afraid of making a mistake, focus very hard on what you are saying and practice! Practice! Practice!
  • Think positively! Visualise and believe in yourself as a vehicle that will allow you to attain your inner most desires.

7.   Enthusiasm: Half of the audience thinks you are waving your hands too much, the other half feel you are not into your speech enough. What do you do? Get excited. Engage your audience by asking them questions and crack a joke while you’re at it if the context allows (this tends to reduce tension). This builds momentum, which puts you in a complete feeling of joy. No one will notice the annoying details if you are giving them an experience to remember.

8.    Test-Run: Doing a test run with the equipment you will be using can be very rewarding. Avoid possible difficulties/embarrassments that increase the level of stress on your presentation day. You will also want to use the opportunity to proof-read your presentation to to make sure the text is legible on the background of your slides.

9.    My last point is called “Journey” because it is the journey that is the reward, not the end, and not the beginning. As you take your audience through your presentation, you are guiding them through a journey. Hand-feed them all the way, and make sure everything is very well explained. Remember that your presentation is a tool to convey your message, not the object of your presentation. Do not look back at the screen or down at your monitor. Do not read of your slides either – your audience can read off the slides. If you are presenting to 30 people or less, make eye contact with everyone. If you’re presenting to a larger group it is ok to look above the crowd’s head, since eye contact isn’t really possible. One or two large images, key points and “sound bites” will help the audience to remember things you said and to follow you through the journey of your presentation.

And that’s all there is to it! Imagine yourself being electrocuted – you are excited – this will create a contagious smile and energy to flow around the room.

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One Comment on “Bill Clinton DNC Speech Now Viewed As Historic Public Speaking Paradigm”

  1. dmjylw March 4, 2013 at 08:36 #

    This is excellent advice!

    I remember a PBS show with Warren Buffet & Bill Gates answering unscripted questions from the graduating Business and Economics students. It was a really great show and the last question to both was, “What doe you consider the one most important business skill that is essential for a successful career?”

    Bill waffled on about something – probably coding or some equally useless activity – but Warren didn’t hesitate. “Public speaking,” was his answer, “at many points in your career you will have to speak to a group of people, gain & keep their attention and convince them of the merits of what you’re saying.” He went on to say that this had not come easily to him and that he had used Toastmasters and Dale Carnegie to help him.

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