Lothery & Associates

Convention Conversation: Final Act

Tonight it was the President’s turn, and the question was, coming into tonight, could he out-perform former President Bill Clinton. In a word: no.

You know what to do with your party hats, so let’s start the convention conversation.

What I find most interesting about the difference between Barak Obama and Bill Clinton is the comfort with simply speaking, and painting a picture America can see in their mind, owned by Mr. Clinton, versus the dependency on the teleprompter and the more poetic flair of Mr. Obama.  Tonight we see what a difference it is to be a natural born communicator, instead of a well trained speaker.

Natural: can ad lib to build a mood, work a pause to their advantage, deliver facts and explain what they mean to real people in real time (albeit a really long time).

Well Trained: Cadence is wonderful, sincerity comes through, words give some hope, but the full weight is a little light at the end.

The President took a more humble approach this evening as he talked about successes and failures so far. He went easy on blaming Republicans for being more committed to defeating him, than fixing the country, which is understandable. His greatest critique from the other side is that he blames them for everything wrong in America.

He shared his hope, his vision, and did the one thing that I recommend when anyone is trying to make a case against another, he never mentioned his “opponent” by name. Every time someone’s name is used, it’s an impression. It’s a checked box on the awareness meter. So to use your opponent’s name often is simply giving them greater recognition and brand awareness. This will serve him well.

I’m thrilled that he was one of only three speakers who remembered that pointing is a bad thing.  He paused to give the crowd time to respond and build energy, and increased his volume to create a sense of urgency and camaraderie. He didn’t have the one liners or hard data used by President Clinton, last night, however, which I think was a mistake. Yes you must be yourself. Yes, use only as many numbers as you need, and not a single one more. And yes, stick with what’s working. A little repetition in a campaign is healthy, and frankly helps the voter remember what they’re actually deciding when they go to the polls.

Have you ever seen a really great commercial, it made you laugh or cry, but for the life of you, you can’t remember the brand or product they were selling? That’s what happens when you get caught up in prose, and not in building a consistency of message that sticks! Pick the three points that are most important in your campaign and keep hammering them. Hammer them with examples, facts, statistics, stories, pictures, you name it, you can use it. Never think once is enough. Most marketing professionals will tell you, it takes no less than six impressions for a concept to stick.

There were other positives, he was the most groomed, put together and polished looking speaker of either convention. He was confident and familiar. He had a few one-liners that made quite an impact on viewers who were also tweeting, which means he put in the right thought and preparation into finding the right words.

Now, let’s talk about the first family.  I’m exceptionally surprised that someone didn’t pull them aside and tell them to “play Nancy Reagan.”  Whenever her husband was on stage for any reason, she looked at him like he was the only person on earth, he had the only voice, and was the only person of value.  All three of the Obamas (Michelle and the kids) have very serious and negative looking ‘resting faces.” This isn’t a terrible crime. In fact, I was told the exact same thing by my news director in my first television job. The problem comes when there is a camera on you, while the most powerful man in the world (their husband and father) is on stage trying to rally America. The camera cuts to them, and they look solemn or bored. Their claps seemed routine.

For all “engaged listeners” who share my challenge of having an “up look” when listening, remember the camera is always on you, and always looking for something that is out of the norm, or controversial in nature. Eliminate your vulnerability by opening your face. What that means is, that you should lift your eyebrows slightly, and keep the corners of your mouth turned slightly upward.  This will take years off your age, add life to your listening, and show you actually care about the person and their message.

There will be a mad dash to the finish line in the next 60 days, so I’m sure there will be plenty more for us to discuss. In the meantime, please reflect back on both conventions and let us know who you thought were the best and worst communicators. Remember, this isn’t about whose politics are better, this is about who can deliver the message in a way that resonates with the audience.

And as always, may all of your communications be good ones. Communicate to connect!


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Comment by Greg Moore | September 7, 2012 | 1:59 am

I have been watching convention speeches since 1976
The three top speeches I’ve seen:

1. Bill Clinton 2012

2. Jesse Jackson 1988

3. Barbara Jordan 1976

4. Mario Cuomo 1992

Comment by JT | September 13, 2012 | 6:46 pm

I, too, noticed the resting faces of the first family. At the time, I thought the cameraman was spending way too much time on their faces during the speech. Perhaps had I thought about it more, it might not have bothered me had they seemed to be more rapt, or the cameraman was less intrusive into the family’s face. Hence, a well taken point about “the camera is always on you, and always looking for something that is out of the norm, or controversial in nature”. But the speech was good.

The comments are closed.


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