Last night, watching the proceedings of the Democratic National Convention I was looking at what made some speakers soar and others stumble. While the Washington Post saw both keynote speaker Julian Castro and Michelle Obama “winners” I left with a different impression. My observations are below. Have some of your own? The comments section awaits!
Castro, the mayor of San Antonio was one of the least known keynote speakers in modern memory and his youthfulness and inexperience were evident in his presentation. While he dons an executive presence of a politician and leader his authenticity hurt his credibility in my book (in fact, I found myself quickly surfing because it was so painful to watch). He may have been saying all the right things, at the appropriate times with strong vocal inflections and good use of pauses — but there was one fatal flaw. He wasn’t thinking about what he was saying. I felt like I was watching a well choreographed speech rather than listening to someone who I could connect to on a human level, someone who made himself vulnerable and placed me as a listener above his needs as a speaker. Even when he shared his reverence for his mom, it felt like a script — the authenticity that comes with staying in the moment, thinking about what you are saying and why, just wasn’t there.
While the First Lady was criticized for starting quite slowly, her authenticity connected her to her audience and carried them along until she hit her stride, leading to a resounding conclusion. Her facial expressions were sincere, her gestures simple and powerful because they reflected both her words and her beliefs. She came across as transparent and as a result. . . when she smiled, her audience could relax and listen; when her eyes appeared to “fill-up”, the audience (and me as a viewer) rallied to support her, not as the First Lady but as a human being.
Making the investment to “think-the-thought” and stay personally engaged with “what” you are saying not just “how” you are saying it pays off in terms of credibility, like-ability, and is this case “vote-ability”.