Tomorrow is our student government election day. Before everyone hits the polls, we’ll be hearing speeches from the candidates. These are always interesting. While none of the candidates are professional communicators, you can tell who does it better than others.
If I could sit down with each of the candidates as they put their speech together, I’d offer the following advice and suggestions:
- A speech is an experience.
You need to think about how you want people to feel after they hear your speech. You want to elicit certain emotions and ask for a commitment (ie, I want you to vote for me!). It’s so much more than the words you say. It’s how you say them that will connect.
- Your visuals should be visually stimulating.
Don’t use slides with bullet points. Capture pictures that make people feel something. Put pictures up there that are memorable (make people laugh). People shouldn’t have to read your slides while they’re trying to listen to you.
- Don’t admit you’re nervous or unprepared.
Even if you are nervous and unprepared. You want to show confidence. Act like you know what you’re doing. Your speech is a barometer that people use to gauge whether you’ll be effective in the position.
- Stop speaking right before they stop listening.
Not everyone is a good communicator in front of a group. So know what you’re going to say, say it, and get out of there. If you stay up there longer than you’re effectiveness at communicating, people will remember your speech as being awkward, boring, or rambling.
- Name recognition. Name recognition. Name recognition.
Unless you know everyone in your student body, you will need to make sure they know your name and connect it to the office you are running for. State your name at the beginning and end. Make it one of your visuals.
- Focus more on the future than on the past.
Students will often spend the bulk of their time talking about their experience and their qualifications. My opinion…keep this part short. People are looking for leaders who will make the most of the time they have in front of them. Tell people what you’re going to do more than what you’ve done.
- Practice your speech before giving it.
Don’t just get up there and wing it. Spend time going over it. Practice in front of friends. Practice in front of the mirror. Have someone videotape you and watch it. Memorize your speech. Your preparation for your speech is part of the preparation for the position you’re running for.
Best wishes to all of you out there gearing up to run for a leadership position.
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