GOP Thompson Demonstrates 9 Speaking Tips

Disclaimer:  This is a NON-partisan blog.  Its purpose is to point out the good, the bad and the ugly of giving speeches.

Day 1 of GOP convention

Best speaker:  Fred Thompson.   Worst speaker:  Bill Gross

If you have any uncommitted time, google “Fred Thompson’s GOP Convention Speech” and watch it.  He is a master, as you might expect from this senator-turned-actor-turned-presidential-candidate-turned-supporting-politician.  He gets an A ++.

Here are the positives you need to think about in your speeches before large crowds.  And some of these pointers might surprise you.

1.    He used “but,” “uh,” and “and” throughout his speech.  While there are speech coaches worldwide who will tell you to eliminate those words from your speech persona (and I do, too, if they’re an annoying habit) … his speech sounded so conversational with these 3 tiny words included.   Reason: There are very few people who never use these words in every day conversation.

Surprised?  These little touches show humanity.  I’d guess that the But’s & And’s were added to the text of his speech.  HINT:  Very easy to add “but,” “and,” “well,” “so,” & “therefore” to your speech text at the beginning of sentences.

The Uh’s were probably a part of his own “acting” technique to make it sound like he was speaking extemporaneously.   HINT:  It takes practice to be able to use “uh” and “um” effectively to give that effect.

2.    He coughed and wiped his lips with his hand.  This was good.  Surprised?  In its analysis, MSNBC made it sound like his coughs were mistakes that should have been technically corrected by giving him a microphone cough switch.  Come on!  This cough was real. It was NOT a nervous habit.  He obviously had some kind of tickle in his throat and probably spit while he was talking.  Ever happen to you?   HINT:  If you are a confident speaker, you can get away with this.  If it is a nervous habit, you’d better overcome it. Videotape your speeches and see if it is a problem for you.

3.    Lots of humor throughout the speech.

And I can say without fear of contradiction that she (Sarah Palin) is the only nominee in the history of either party who knows how to properly field dress a moose … with the possible exception of Teddy Roosevelt.

Also here tonight is John’s 96-year-old mother, Roberta. All I’ve got to say is that if Roberta McCain had been the McCain captured by the North Vietnamese, they would have surrendered.

Now, John’s father was a bit of a rebel, too. In his first two semesters at the Naval Academy, he managed to earn 333 demerits. Unfortunately, John later saw that as a record to be beaten.

4.  He moved from funny to serious very well.

Humor first:

He never violated the honor code. However, in flight school in Pensacola, he did drive a Corvette and date a girl who worked in a bar as an exotic dancer under the name of Marie, the Flame of Florida.

Thompson slowed down the pace of his words, lowered his pitch and gently eased us into the description of horrible events.

And the reason I’m telling you these things, is that, apparently, this mixture of rebellion and honor helped John McCain survive the next chapter of his life:  John McCain was preparing to take off from the USS Forrestal for his sixth mission over Vietnam, when a missile from another plane accidentally fired and hit his plane.

5.    He also knew that it was important to bring the audience back up after relating somber/serious/emotional part of a speech.  HINT:  a semi-funny part of the story helps the transition.

He was beaten for not giving information during interrogations. When his captors wanted the names of other pilots in his squadron, John gave them the names of the offensive line of the Green Bay Packers.

6.    He used irony to make his point.   WARNING:  Brain research shows that older people don’t process irony as well as they did in younger years.  Know the age of your audience members.

Now our opponents tell you not to worry about their tax increases. They tell you they are not going to tax your family. No, they’re just going to tax “businesses”! So unless you buy something from a “business”, like groceries or clothes or gasoline … or unless you get a paycheck from a big or a small “business”, don’t worry … it’s not going to affect you.

7.    He made use of a technique all of us can and should use—visual analogies.  In this speech:  Bucket of money = bucket of water.   Money = water.

They say they (Democrats) are not going to take any water out of your side of the bucket, just the “other” side of the bucket! That’s their idea of tax reform.

8.    Lots of variety in the pacing of his sentences.  Lots of variety in the pitch of his sentences.  Lots of variety in the length of his sentences.   Just listen to the first minute of his speech and you’ll understand what “vocal variety” means.

Listen to this part of his speech where he changed the pace to rev the crowd up.

This man, John McCain is not intimidated by what the polls say or by what is politically safe or popular.  (Thompson speeds up here.) At a point when the war in Iraq was going badly and the public lost confidence, John stood up and called for more troops. And now we are winning.

Here’s the example of how he went from complete sentences to phrases.

So then they put him in solitary confinement…for over two years.
Isolation … incredible heat beating on a tin roof. A light bulb in his cell burning 24 hours a day.
Boarded-up cell windows blocking any breath of fresh air.
The oppressive heat causing boils the size of baseballs under his arms.
The outside world limited to what he could see through a crack in a door.
We hear a lot of talk about hope.
John McCain knows about hope. That’s all he had to survive on.

9.  Finally, he used a very tried and true technique; he asked the audience questions.  HINT: By asking questions, you re-engage the audience and make them part of your solution.

It’s pretty clear there are two questions we will never have to ask ourselves, “Who is this man?” and “Can we trust this man with the Presidency?”

On second thought, I’ll give him an A+++.
More tomorrow on lessons learned from speeches…and a  review of the worst speaker on Day 1 with hints on what YOU should avoid.

If you’d like an analysis of your speaking style, please email me at, or call me in the U.S. at 317-873-3772.

This entry was posted by Jean Palmer Heck in Analyses of, Good and Great Speeches. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback.

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