Quick Tips for Communicating in the Political Arena
Just to get you thinking about improving your communications strategies and skills, browse our tricks, traps and techniques. For more in-depth techniques, check out our articles.
Sometimes, just a simple change will make a big difference in your formal presentations and other informal communications.
- If you are uncomfortable looking directly into people's eyes, either when you are presenting or just chatting, look at a spot on their forehead just above their nose, They won't know the difference.
- Bat the nerves away with deep breathing before you are introduced and as you walk up to the microphone.
- Someone creating a disturbance in one part of the audience, or, just gossiping with his neighbour? If you can, walk towards him and stand so he can't possibly miss you.
- Trouble remembering names? Use a person's name immediately when you are introduced. Eg. "John Jones. You don't meet many Jones's anymore."
Try a couple of these and let us know how they worked for you. Click to let us know..
There are dozens of ways to trip up when you are in the political arena - and, we are just talking about the part before you get elected. Here are some of the common ones and methods to avoid or overcome them.
- Beware the open mike. Stories are legend of high profile politicians making inappropriate comments which were picked up by a nearby open microphone. Today's arena is even more dangerous since everyone is carrying a cell phone just primed for you to mis-speak. The answer is to mind your mouth at all times - not an easy task.
- The 'good ole political handshake'. Yet as you go door to door you may encounter a woman whose culture does not allow her to be touched by a man. If you are male, your friendly gesture may well prompt an embarrassing reaction. Similarly, women candidates, especially in meetings may encounter reluctance from some males to shake hands which is considered a masculine thing. Learn about the various cultures in your constituency and avoid handshakes if you are uncertain about your reception.
- Dry mouth when you are speaking. To avoid having your tongue stick to the top of your mouth, keep a mint handy.
- Squeaky voice, especially at the beginning of a speech. Our nerves get to us in many ways, one of which is to tense the vocal cords. Two practices will prevent the squeaky result:
- Running yourself ragged to get every last vote. Voters don't respond well to a hassled exhausted candidate. It takes discipline to pace yourself and stick to a firm campaign schedule; but, remember that one 'foot-in-mouth' incident because you are over tired can cost you the election.
- Let's end with a few literal trip up possibilities. We recently watched a luminary almost give his security detail heart attacks as he caught his toe on the 2 inch (5 cm) dais and pitched forward in a non too graceful lurch. . . Fortunately, he didn't plant his face on the platform, but it was close. He had already adroitly maneuvered a forest of cables and raised electrical plugs and probably felt it was now safe to look up wave to the audience. It wasn't.
In another tux and gown event, one of our principals had to save the beautifully gowned ( and, normally, very sophisticated) colleague he was introducing as her stiletto heel caught between the sections of the stage and threatened a prat fall.
Long gowns are a curse for stage presentations. As you go up the stairs, the front of the dress drops even lower and you are almost certain to step on it. Elegance disappears.
These are just a few platform traps. Add hollow stages that thump every time you step, curtains that hide a three foot drop, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
The huge caution here is: Never leave your facility check to anyone else - even your aides or security folks. Once you discover a potential hazard, take evasive action - write it in your notes- wear appropriate footwear - avoid that part of the stage.
Know your opening couple of sentences absolutely cold, and, do deep, slow regular breathing for several minutes before you are to begin.
Have a 'favorite' prickly point? Care to share? .
Try using these in your next presentation or meet and greet, then, check out our full articles for more useful ways to engage your constituents and colleagues.
- Inclusive speech includes people. Our definition of inclusive speech goes beyond cultural diversity: it takes the focus of an entire presentation or informal interaction away from "I" and moves it to "we". Here are some words and phrases to make that happen: 'our team', 'together', 'as we discovered', 'all of us in this room/constituency/caucus'. Sprinkle generously throughout all your communications. It will become a positive way of thinking.
- Breathe. In-count to 3. Out - count to 3. Repeat several times to put more oxygen in your brain and voice. Mostly do it to relax your entire body before a presentation or difficult interaction.
- Make sure you have given attention to every part of your audience by deliberately moving to a new stage position for each new section of your presentation. If you are stuck behind a table, deliberately turn your entire body to look at a new part of the group.
- Match your movements to the mood of your speech segment or face-to-face interaction. Grinning like the cheshire cat and prancing across the stage when discussing ebola . . .
- Always move briskly to the lectern. Look excited. If you aren't really into it, why should your listeners be?
Like to learn a little bit more about any one of these? For a complimentary response, click here. .