Well, it's election time, folks. No doubt about it. For the next four months we will be bombarded with speeches, leaflets and party political broadcasts. Lucky us.
Actually, I like a good election. It's fascinating to watch the politicians if you are a communications coach. Who’s a good speaker? Who’s bad? Why are they good? Why are they bad?
Have you noticed how there are some speakers who are just easy to listen to? Tony Blair could always get me nodding along when I listened to him on the TV, and it was often only after the interview was finished and I thought about what he had actually said that I realised I didn't agree with a word of it. Why?! How did he do it?
I sum it up like this: the task of a good speaker is to do the listener's work for them.
This begs the question: How? In what specific ways can a speaker "do the listeners work for them"? Here's a basic guide:
- Are they speaking clearly? If the listener has to decipher words and phrases, they soon switch off.
- Are they speaking at a pace that's comfortable to follow, or are they rushing?
- Are they emphasising the key words and focusing the listeners' attention on the parts of their message that really matter?
- Is their voice rising and falling or does it settle on a boring monotone?
The list is endless but that gives you some ideas of what to look out for.
So how do they ‘deliver’? It’s really simple. You look with intention at your audience or an individual at the final word or two of each major thought, unit, or sentence. It’s very different from looking up in the middle of a sentence
(the message of which is ‘I’m checking that you are still listening’) – so please avoid doing that if you can. Instead, if you connect with your audience on those final words of a thought or sentence, the message is clear: ‘I value what
I am saying, I value you. And I want you to know about it.’ Now we’re cooking with gas!
So, when you're watching your umpteenth party political broadcast this spring, don't just listen to what they say, listen to how they say it. Political speeches may never have been so absorbing!