Lothery & Associates

Convention Conversation: Wrap Up

Are you still scratching your head over Clint Eastwood’s speech last night? If so, don’t worry, you’re not alone! He definitely let his “unique” side come through. At least, that’s what Ann Romney called it when she said, “Clint is a unique guy and did a unique thing.” You have to love it when public figures give me something interesting to write about!

Now before we dive into convention review, let’s remind all newcomers of the rules.  No red, blue, or tea party hats allowed when writing or reading this blog. This is strictly to examine the communication skills, or lack thereof, by public speakers, not their politics, not their platforms.

With that said, let’s get started! I don’t think I can say it any better than my high school friend, Christina Kazanas said it this morning, “…didn’t any of the convention organizers, or the Romney campaign, ask him what he wanted to *do* with the chair beforehand? Like, when Clint said, “Hey, I’m going to need a prop for this…”, didn’t anyone ask him why?” (Thanks Chris!)

If you are planning an event with a series of speakers, neither their speech content nor approach, should be a surprise to any of the top 30 people affiliated with the evening. While it was a well intended “role play,” it missed the mark and served as a distraction in the following day’s news coverage. It will likely be one of the more memorable moments of the night. It should be all Mitt on the brain, when people speak the next day, not Clint.

Marco Rubio managed to pick up some dropped points with a clear and focused speech, however, his delivery missed the sincerity he wanted, because he was clearly reading most of the time. Earlier this week we talked about the importance of the rhythm of eye contact when using a teleprompter so your emotional connection to your audience stays. He made a connection with one audience that is leaving the GOP, Hispanic/Latino voters. The use of a personal story to show his intent, his position, and his vision were effective.

Before we get to the Republican Nominee, himself, let’s rewind a bit to the previous evening.

Paul Ryan is taking some hits for not being as strong of a ratings draw as Sarah Palin, but as the youngest man in the race, he proved himself to be poised, polished, articulate, and confident.

However, he falls in the same spot as Rubio, as having a little more of a flat tone as a result of reading too much. The flatness translated to a sound of arrogance, over confidence. He had a few factual flubs that could hurt his credibility, should anyone remember to take the time to look them up. For all speakers reading this, your facts are your story. So if you’re looking to build the strongest case, do so with what I call “bulletproof facts.” Stay out of the gray, and play in the black and white zones.

Condoleezza Rice on the other hand, was most impressive, and likely brought over the largest number of swing voters than any other speaker in the convention. With the fact that she had a thin layer of lipstick over her teeth, throughout, aside, her delivery and message were supremely crafted and almost flawlessly delivered. The former Secretary of State provided harsh criticism on foreign policy issues of the current administration, that came with more credibility than any other attempting to do the same. Her first hand experience and now academic world filter created a perception of knowledge and strength.  Additionally, she, as much as Chris Christie, was very specific on actions needed, and plans that need implementation, more so than the VP candidate, Mrs. Romney, Sen. Rubio, or Mitt himself.

Rice was the only speaker, besides Dirty Harry, to speak without the prompter. This allowed her to be more conversational, more real, and allowed her the flexibility to go slightly off script without going off message. That’s the true mark of an experienced communicator.  Finally, she created a feeling of hope through the use of personal stories that appeared to bolster her case and put Gov. Romney in a favorable light. Her two minor flaws were with the pointing at the audience when she was most impassioned, and reading a bit much at the beginning so she lost eye contact quite a bit in the first few minutes.

Which brings us to the presidential hopeful, himself. When he first emerged from backstage, Mitt appeared a bit uncomfortable and awkward with his “rock star status.”  The walk down the aisle seemed a bit forced in trying to find the faces of the people he knew.  Once arriving on stage, comfort began to set in.

When he took the stage, he should have had only one objective: convince the voters that he will not flip-flop, he will stand tall on clear issues and be the leader he says he is.  While he clearly picked up ground, as the polls now show, he failed to have the “wow” factor. There wasn’t a line that we all will remember at the poll. There were big macro ideas without a lot of specificity.

From a delivery standpoint, Gov. Romney will need to work on expression and animation. There were times when he paused that he looked bored with himself and the evening.  So let’s be clear, some people are born with charisma, a fire in their belly and a little “ham” in their spirit, and some do not. It’s not a crime to be flat or boring, by any stretch. However, in today’s society where most millennials want to be “famous” when they grow up rather than quoting a title or profession, we see the reality shows where wild or entertaining behavior is what draws the ratings. Shows with the straight laced and mature traditional characters are losing ground despite what logic or morality might otherwise dictate. That doesn’t mean he needs to come out dancing or be caught partying in Vegas, but it does mean he needs to find some level of animated personality to speak to those who crave entertainment from their leaders. Young people are expected to be voting in high numbers again this year.

Finally, there’s another point that warrants a mention, even though it isn’t about one of the speakers. If you are ever in a situation where you need to find advocates to speak on your behalf, choose wisely. Just like you would never ask a “luke warm” previous employer to be your future job reference, don’t ask a “luke warm” supporter to stand up for you when the media is collecting endorsements. This last point comes from an interview I watched with George W. Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush. The younger Bush gave a strong endorsement for Mitt Romney and said he will be the best candidate for president. The elder Bush, whose stance differs vastly from that of Mr. Romney on issues ranging from Planned Parenthood to religious tolerance and freedom, simply stated flatly, “he’s a good man.” As we heard last night, Marco Rubio called President Obama a good man, but that was hardly an endorsement.  As you rally your best team of spokespeople, always choose those who will speak strongest for you.

As we wrap up the Convention Conversation on communication, here are the key lessons learned:

  • Always know what your “warm up” speakers are planning before they take the stage.
  • Space out your most dynamic speakers so they can boost the energy of the crowd as needed.
  • Always do a “person-check” before heading out on stage. See if you have spinach, lipstick, or anything else in your teeth, on your clothes, or hair before you head out on stage.
  • It’s OK to be direct in your message, but remember, no pointing, eye rolling, or eye wandering while delivering.
  • Use personal stories to help paint the picture of your vision. People vote with their hearts and rationalize with their brains. Their heart engages when they can connect with the story you tell.
  • Be specific when trying to establish trust. Just remember you need to back up your specifics, or trust will be fleeting as quickly as the words leave your mouth.
  • Get the endorsements you want, not simply the endorsements.

Good luck in your next persuasive speech. May you always communicate to connect!


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