Day 2 Speakers Demonstrate How-NOT-to Speak

After a magnificent example of great speaking last night (see yesterday’s blog about Michelle Obama), the presentations at the afternoon and early evening sessions of the Democratic National Convention leave much to be desired. Most were average at best. A few were a little better than average and had some good techniques I’ll talk about. But there were some ones that did nothing to add to their political cause.

I’ll grade the speakers below, but first here are some hints that you can use in your business presentations:

1. When the crowd is noisy, don’t shout. It won’t help them or you. Use your normal voice and let the microphone do the work. Shrill voices turn people off.
2. Watch what you wear. You don’t have to wear designer clothes, but you should make sure your clothes aren’t wrinkled. And small flowers are not flattering when you’re up in front of a crowd.
3. Tell stories. They grab the attention of everyone, especially if they’re well written. Write them out and edit them. Then practice so you are comfortable.
4. Use pauses. Your listeners need a break. It helps recapture their attention if your voice or words (or their pressing needs) have made them drift away.
5. Blink. It’s unnerving to watch someone stare at a TelePrompTer without blinking. It’s the deer in the headlights look. Creepy and very unnatural.

Here are a few critiques:

The announcer needs to learn how to pronounce “commemorative.” When she asked people to turn around and face the camera platform, it took 3 tries before she got the word correct! Oops. At least you can pronounce “Obama” right, unlike Congressman Joe Baca (see yesterday’s blog).

Chris Van Hollen US House, Maryland Speech Expert Assessment C
+ Story telling
– Eyes looked shifty as he bounced between TelePrompTers
– Voice pattern too predictable

Barbara Mikulski Senator, Maryland Speech Expert Assessment D
– Major shouting. Ouch! My ears hurt!

Mary Landrieu Senator, Louisiana Speech Expert Assessment B –
+ Varied her pacing throughout
+ Blinked enough to make her reading very natural

Blanche Lambert Lincoln Senator, Arizona Speech Expert Assessment C –
– Needs work on TelePrompTer
– Pitch not comfortable to listen to
– Voice was patterned

Debbie Stabenow Senator, Michigan Speech Expert Assessment C –
– Used hands to point/chop the air on every word. I felt chastised. HINT: Watch your body language. Audiences react to your gestures and facial expressions.

Amy Klobuchar Senator, Minnesota Speech Expert Assessment C –
– Too much shouting!
– No vocal variety
+ Story of coal miners
+ Good use of TelePrompTers

Ed Rendell Governor of Pennsylvania Speech Expert Assessment C –
– Another speaker who points on each word. Why?
– Another shouter
– Changed too quickly between prompters
– The crowd was not interested. Listen to the noise.

Tammy Baldwin House of Representatives, Wisconsin Speech Expert Assessment C +
+ Thank goodness a change in volume. She did NOT shout.
+ Had lots of expression on her face. HINT: Your voice follows your face. If you have a lot of facial expression, it will add variety to your voice. Result—you’re easier to look at and to listen to.

John Sweeney President of the AFL-CIO Speech Expert Assessment F
Worst speaker of the day.
– His opening idea was of a 6th grade boy dreaming of a job and his future family. I don’t know any 6th grade boys who think about things like that. Do you?
– His voice pattern was tedious. He took a breath after every 3 words. I’m exaggerating. Sometimes he said 5 words before taking another breath.

The Average Citizens:
Robin Golden Autoworker from Michigan
The people who allowed him to go on stage without adequate preparation deserve a D. He looked like a deer in the headlights. His shirt was wrinkled and his doom and gloom appearance and words did nothing to invoke sympathy or promote the political cause. I couldn’t wait for him to get off stage and take away his pain. It was not fair for him to be put in front of a crowd.

Katherine Marcano Cedar Rapids, Iowa flood victim
She was in sharp contrast to Golden. Although she had a sad story to tell, she was sincere and did not look scared. I liked her ending phrase: see him (Obama) with my eyes, feel with my heart and support Obama for President.

Pauline Beck Homecare worker
Another D for the organizers of the convention. She should have been interviewed and had the best sound bites used in a video. She was clearly too uncomfortable up front.

Gloria Craven Laid-off North Carolina textile worker
Very good and natural. Her NC dialect was so real, she was a good choice to make the political point she did.

If you’d like an expert assessment of your speaking style, drop me an email at

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