Public Speaking and Interviews

One of the key aspects of becoming a good campaigner, councillor and politician is giving a voice to others who don’t have one – whatever the reason may be.

In it’s most literal interpretation, this means that you must be prepared to speak in public, or to groups of many people, and work to become an effective communicator when you do.

Before you are elected, public speaking opportunities may be limited to asking questions at meetings, giving an overview of yourself and why you are standing, or perhaps taking part in a hustings, if one has been organised in the area where you are seeking election.

The same principles apply to public speaking, no matter the circumstances – and this includes interviews.

So if you consider your approach and prepare yourself now, you will be ready when you know an opportunity to speak may be coming up, or when you find yourself asked to speak without any time to prepare.

Ideally, your aim should always be to speak to other people the same way. So whether you are talking to ten, a hundred, a thousand or many more people through a television camera, the very best you can be will be when you speak to them all as if they are alone and you are talking to them in a one-to-one.

I did say ideally. But reality is rarely ideal and when it comes to public speaking and interviews, just about everyone you can imagine suffers with nerves before they begin to talk.

If they don’t, it probably means that they don’t care about what they are about to say.

If you follow the principles of How to get Elected, you will always have the understanding and knowledge to answer questions appropriately off-the-cuff, even when you find them challenging.

In terms of writing a script, the only time you should really do this is when you are literally giving a speech, or providing a formal response or question in an environment where getting the form of words across accurately is the primary aim.

For example, when I was a Borough Councillor, writing a script to follow was what I would do if I was addressing the Planning Committee about a contentious issue, or talking to a large group of people about a subject where it was essential to cover all the details and not get any facts wrong.

When you know you are going to be in a situation where you might have the opportunity to speak or ask a question about a certain topic, you should always prepare by reading up and researching the topic I detail first.

Identify some key facts and numbers from a source or sources you can legitimately refer to.

Either try to remember them, or write yourself a small prompt note that is easy to see or you can keep on the top of your notes or in your hand. (But away from other peoples view)

If you should find yourself caught out with a question you cannot answer, don’t ever be tempted to lie. Be honest and tell people that you don’t know the answer, but will make it your priority to find out. (You can always use it as an excuse to follow up if it’s appropriate to do so).

REMEMBER that when you are in a room speaking or debating with other people, it is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that others are getting their messages across more effectively. They don’t even have to try. It’s just the way that listening to other people speaking about the same subject can affect you emotionally, when you are putting effort in to what you are doing.

The best way to deal with this kind of experience is to simply focus on what you are going to say yourself and make sure you say it. Even if it sounds like someone else has said it before.

Also, never be put off by the behaviour of other speakers who use ridicule of others as a way to try and enhance their own performance.

These are usually the worst offenders for having little to say of any value to anyone but themselves. This is a very important thing to bear in mind that will help you keep perspective.