Tip #1. Change all “I wills” and “I shalls” from the speech to “I’ll’; Also, “I haves” and “I ams” to “I’ve” and “I’m,” etc. You’d be surprised how much this cuts down on the oratory tone.
Tip #2. Pretend you are speaking to one person. One single person. Because that’s what everybody is. No one watching or sitting in the audience is an “all of you” or an “everyone” or a “those of you” or a “Hi, everybody,” and no one is a “ladies and gentlemen.” You, out there, are a “you.” So, speaker, think of yourself as being viewed by only two eyes. (Presumably on the same person.) The most magical word you can use, short of a person’s name, is “you.”
The great Arthur Godfrey practiced this invariably. “How are you?” he said, is all-important. “Ladies and gentlemen of the radio audience,” he said, “is bull and reaches no one.” With emphasis on “one.” On radio he had millions of listeners, largely adoring women in the daytime, each convinced he was speaking to her personally. Including my grandmother. (You knew it worked because in a ruthless Nebraska summer, when all the windows were open, I could hear Arthur uninterruptedly as I passed one house after the other.)
Tip #3. I feel almost silly when I do this one, but it works. Grab a bunch of words off the prompter and, instead of staring straight ahead, glance down and to one side as you do — in real life — when thinking just what to say next. Then look back and deliver those snatched-up words to the camera. It works like a charm. (As a beloved childhood magic catalogue of mine used to say — with unintended ambiguity — “We cannot recommend this trick too highly.”)
If I were McCain’s adviser I would shock everyone by having him come out carrying his script, and saying — not “ladies and gentlemen,” as we just learned, but launch right into, “You know, I don’t use these teleprompters very well. I guess I’m just not one of those people who can fool you into thinking I’m making it up as I go along . . . which these things are supposed to do. I don’t even fool myself. I cringe when I watch myself trying to bring off that ‘electronic deception,’ you might call it . . . Anyway, here’s my
This couldn't help but remind me of the teachings of my high school speech/debating coach, Michael Sipe. The two tips I learned from him that I will never forget:
(1) Don't use a podium. It's a crutch, and it puts distance between you and your audience. If you need notes, better to hold them in your hand. Remember how good Elizabeth Dole was at the RNC in '96? I don't mean what she said (I actually don't remember much about that, except that her husband was a war hero); I mean how well she came across. I don't think Daniel Webster used a podium.
(2) Never say, "in conclusion" at the end of a speech. You don't say, "in beginning" at the beginning of a speech!
Mr. Sipe had an important impact on my life. I heard some time ago that he died at a rather young age. I feel sorry for the younger Wisconsin debaters who never got to know him