Last night at the Republican convention, we witnessed public speakers who nailed their presentations. What do Paul Ryan, Condolezza Rice, and Susana Martinez have in common as public speakers? Each and everyone of them shared a personal story. Susana began by telling the story of her immigrant parents.
“Growing up I never imagined a little girl from a bordertown could one day become a governor. But this is America…My parents taught me to never give up and to always believe that my future could be whatever I dreamt it to be.
We grew up on the border and truly lived paycheck to paycheck. My dad was a golden gloves boxer in the Marine Corps, then a deputy sheriff. My mom worked as an office assistant. One day they decided to start a security guard business. I thought they were absolutely crazy. We literally had no savings. But they always believed in the American dream.”
By the reaction of the audience, it was evident that they could relate to the governor's rags to riches story.
Condolezza told of her upbringing as a Black child in the South.
“And on a personal note, a little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham - the segregated city of the south where her parents cannot take her to a movie theater or to restaurants - but they have convinced her that even if she cannot have a hamburger at Woolworths, she can be the president of the United States if she wanted to be, and she becomes the secretary of state.”
Finally, Paul Ryan started to tear up as he spoke about his mother.
“My Mom started a small business, and I've seen what it takes. Mom was 50 when my Dad died. She got on a bus every weekday for years, and rode 40 miles each morning to Madison. She earned a new degree and learned new skills to start her small business. It wasn't just a new livelihood. It was a new life. And it transformed my Mom from a widow in grief to a small businesswoman whose happiness wasn't just in the past. Her work gave her hope. It made our family proud. And to this day, my Mom is my role model.”
Paul Ryan, along with the other speakers injected humor and poked fun at Mitt Romney. When acknowledging the generational difference between Romney and himself, he stated,
“There are the songs in his Ipod, which I have heard on the campaign bus.... and I have heard it on many hotel elevators. He actually urged me to play some of these songs at campaign rallies. I said, ``Look, I hope it is not a deal breaker Mitt, but my playlist starts with AC/DC and it ends with Zeppelin.” Ryan ended the speech by bringing his family on stage.
There were many effective public speaking techniques that the speakers used during their presentation-humor, passion, and repetition. But by far, the one skill that connects with an audience is the personal touch. Every audience wants to know three things: Who are you? Who are you to tell me? What’s in it for me? It’s not the facts that move an audience, it’s emotions that get them on their feet.
The audience got a look into the lives of these three presenters and got to know them on a personal level. This will be a challenge tonight for Mitt Romney who tends to be more mechanical and reserved in his presentation. He may be on top of his facts, he may have a plan for turning around the country. But most Americans are thinking, "Who is he?" In order to connect with his constituents, he will need to connect on an emotional level. And nothing is more emotionally powerful than a personal story.