Learn from the politicians: Perfect your public speaking

Cassey Deveau

Although the federal election is over, you can still learn how to be a compelling public speaker from politicians. For politicians, communicating messages effectively during an election is key to their success. Debates, press conferences, interviews and public appearances all involve public speaking.

On October 7, Halifax-West candidates Geoff Regan (Liberal Party), Joanne Hussey (New Democratic Party), Richard Zurawski (Green Party) and Michael McGinnis (Conservative Party of Canada) attended an all candidates debate at Mount Saint Vincent University.

Here are five things you can learn from the Halifax West candidates about effective public speaking.

1. Consider your audience

Communication isn’t effective unless it’s tailored to the audience. Public speaking needs to relate to the public present. For example, one candidate referred to their party as “dad” and “grandpa”. Using only male descriptors when speaking to a room filled almost entirely with women was not well received.

Always consider your audience.

2. Be prepared

Preparation is a crucial component of being a strong public speaker. Research your topic beforehand, prepare for the unexpected and practice what you want to say beforehand. When a candidate appeared flustered answering a question it took away from their credibility as a speaker. Preparation ensures that you appear knowledgeable and also helps eliminate filler words.

3. Be clear and concise 

Get to the point. Every candidate at the debate struggled with staying on topic. Instead of giving a concise response, they often took long routes to get to their conclusion, leaving the audience confused, and not answering the question that had been asked. This led the candidates to go over their time limit, not being able to touch on important points, and noticeably repeating previous points. Always be clear when communicating to keep your audience on the same page.

5. Be passionate

When speaking in public, it’s challenging to keep the audience engaged. One way to increase engagement is to be passionate while speaking. Use different tones and speeds in your speaking; it commands attention and keeps the audience interested. Many of the candidates were passionate about their platform points and did a great job keeping the audience’s attention.

5. Be confident

Political candidates want to be persuasive. Speaking confidently establishes credibility, and positive attention. Confidences comes with preparation and practice. Never let it show when you are caught by surprise, or unprepared. Answer the question to the best of your ability or state that you are unsure but you will look into the topic. The candidates that spoke confidently were the most persuasive.

It’s important to remember that public speaking can never be perfectly planned.

Even though things will never go one hundred percent the way you want them to, you can mitigate risks by being aware of your audience and focusing on what kind of communication will work best with them. Being prepared will also help reduce mistakes and will help you be more confident.

There is always room for improvement, so continue working on your public speaking skills! These skills will be useful is many aspects of your personal and professional life.