Once you have your stump speech written, practice it once with a stopwatch. The gap between how long you thought it was and how long the watch says it was will surprise you. Adjust accordingly. You will know when you are speaking too long as members of the audience will not look at you, frequently check their email, text others or even fidget in their seats. Brevity will make you distinctive. As a candidate, the last thing you want to be is boring.
4. Use just enough concise facts to make your point
You need to strike a balance between providing empirical evidence to give your speech credibility and offering so many facts that people get lost in the data. Ineffective speakers confuse their audience with too many numbers and statistics. Despite their best intentions, members of your audience are not paying as much attention as you are to the point you are making. Many speakers believe people will think they are more knowledgeable if they use more facts. The opposite is true. Using just a few facts keeps the focus on you and your vision. It keeps the audience out of the confusing weeds.
5. Practice. Memorize. Practice.
Jack Valenti, the late CEO of the Motion Picture Industry Association of America, once told me he spent six to seven times longer practicing and memorizing his speech than actually composing it. And he was a very engaging and dynamic speaker. I was once with him when he spoke to an audience of 3,000 plus, and you could hear a pin drop as people were entranced by both the content and delivery style. His book, “Speak up with Confidence,” is a great investment. Bottom line: you can’t practice your speech too much.
6. Deliver your speech with authenticity and passion
The audience will forget the words. They will forget the grammatical mistakes you might make during the presentation. But they will remember your authenticity, and especially your passion. No matter your political party, ideology or ideas, Americans are drawn to people who demonstrate sincere passion about their beliefs. It signals to them the candidate is real. Now, I am not suggesting that you pound your fists, cry, scream or be overly dramatic. But I am suggesting that you show your true self to the audience so they can connect with you.
Finally, enjoy your presentations. Smile and ensure that you are having fun during the campaign. You can believe in serious ideas, but you also need to be likeable. It reminds voters you are just like them. Being authentic and passionate will never fail you.
7. Conclude your speech on an optimistic note
Whatever you are speaking about or to whomever you are speaking to, end with inspiration and optimism.
No matter what the challenge you are addressing (bad schools, gangland terror, lack of jobs), your audience will want to know we are all “in it together” and that united, the challenge can be overcome. By their nature, Americans are an optimistic people. Our country has overcome obstacles since our founding patriots decided to battle what was the greatest army in the world. Successful leaders not only lay out the problems, but also provide a roadmap in the future.
One last tip: if you haven’t had much experience as a public speaker, start with smaller venues that will put less pressure on you. That way your audience will see it not as a speech, but more of a discussion. Once you have confidence and have mastered this format, keep increasing the size of the venue.
Using these tips as a guide, your stump speech and introduction—and the event-specific tweaks you make to them—should be able to accomplish the goal of selling yourself to voters.
David Rehr, PhD, is an adjunct professor at the Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM) at George Washington University. He is CEO of TransparaGov, Inc., and former president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters.