Earlier in the month I listened to 44 speakers over three days at the 34th Annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, DC. I went primarily because it allowed me to see and compare all of the 2008 Republican current and potential presidential nominees (minus John "I-don't-need-no-stinkin-conservatives" McCain) speaking to the same audience in the same format.
Not all of the 44 were presidential hopefuls, although at times it does seem there are that many. The other speakers covered a range of strategic and tactical issues, including big government, taxes, entitlements, health care, national security, etc.
This blog is--or at least attempts to be--non-partisan. So without discussing the political content of what I heard, what lessons about communicating did I notice? Here is one huge plus and three minor refinements:
- Showing enthusiasm for your message helps big time! Forty-four
speakers is a lot of folks to listen to in 3 days. But I was alert
during all 44 presentations. How often have you found it hard to stay
awake in business meetings with only 4 or 5 speakers?
What's the difference? The speakers I heard were excited about what they had to say. They believed what they had to say was valuable for their listeners to know. And they let that enthusiasm come out in the voice and body. Audiences want to know you care about what you are telling them. If you sound bored, why should the listener care?
- If you number one point in a list, number them all. Bob Moffit of The Heritage Foundation gave the most content-rich presentation of the conference. He's a wonderful speaker, very easy to listen to. But he made a common mistake. In giving his list of 6 characteristics of conservative health care policy, he identified the first 3 by number (first, second, third), gave the next two without identification, and closed with "my final point."
I don't know what characteristics 4 and 5 were. By the time I realized he was no longer talking about point 3, I couldn't reconstruct 4 and 5. Reminder: listeners have enough distractions. Don't add to that by making listeners figure out where one point ends and another starts. Identify each one by number.
- Answer questions to all the audience, not just the questioner. When one person asks a question, the rest of the audience does not disappear. Many of them may indeed have the same question. So when responding, speak to all the audience as you were during the speech. Avoid creating a 1 on 1 conversation with the questioner.
- If you are showing slides, know by whom and how they will be advanced. When one speaker reached the point when he was ready to show the first slide, the following dialog ensued: "First slide, please." Soft response by audio-visual technician. "What was that? Oh, so I'm advancing the slides? Okay, so let's see, where's the remote? Anyone know where the remote is?...Oh, here it is." Know process details before you reach the lectern.