Lady in Red: What Ann Romney did right at the RNC

Written for PowerSpeaking, Inc.

There are three essential elements that make up an effective presentation – Substance, Staging, and Style. In this short review of Ann Romney’s 2012 (21 minute) “Tonight I want to talk to you about love” speech, I will highlight elements from each area that Ann applied in her talk.

SUBSTANCE (i.e., structure, organization, and content)

  1. Ann provides a roadmap for her listeners, “I want to talk to you tonight, not about politics and not about party.” She sets the theme for her talk as well, “Tonight I want to talk to you from my heart about our hearts… tonight I want to talk to you about love.” This organizational technique sets the audience’s expectation so we can settle in to our seats and prepare to listen.
  2. The Audience drives the talk, we’re just the navigation device. We must adapt our message to the audience otherwise it’s meaningless. Ann demonstrates audience analysis when she tells the audience she’s been around the country, “I know a lot of you guys.”
  3. Storytelling provides supporting material for the main talking points. A balance of data, stories, and analogies are an effective way to satisfy both our right and left side of our brain, and builds credibility and rapport with the audience. Ann tells the story about how she and Mitt met at a high school dance and that he made her laugh.
  4. Ann provides a clear lead in, setting up her message in neon lights, “This is important, I want you to hear what I’m going to say…”
  5. In the last few minutes of her speech, Ann revisits the high school dance where she and Mitt met. She reiterates what she told us she was going to talk about – love (and that Mitt loves America). She then concludes with a reference back to her opening story (that Mitt got her home safely after the dance), coming full circle.
  6. Repetition and alliteration are powerful persuasive and retention devices. Ann says, even if you don’t agree with Mitt’s politics you should know that, “No one will work harder; no one will care more; and no one will move heaven and earth…”

STAGING (i.e., audience management / visual aids)

  1. Audience involvement – Ann elicits a “No response” from the audience when she addresses accusations about Mitt’s success. As she asks pointed questions, the audience responds by shouting, “No!” in reply to each question she asks. This technique gets the audience participating in the experience.
  2. We see the pictures (visuals) of Ann and Mitt as teenagers in the background to add impact, and help us visualize their story.

STYLE – (i.e., verbal and non-verbal delivery skills)

  1. Vocal variety puts emphasis on certain words for impact. “I can’t wait to see what we’re all going to do together, this is going to be so exciting!”
  2. Ann’s delivery is almost seamless with the exception of a few minor hiccups that she does not apologize for, helping her to maintain confidence and composure. A minor stutter where the word “success” sounds more like “sex” is just one example of an “oh sh*t” moment any presenter is sure to have had a time or ten. Ann doesn’t acknowledge when she mispronounces a word or two, she just keeps on going, not giving her mistake the power to manifest into anything other than humanness. In fact, I like that she screws up a bit because it makes her less polished and more relatable (Let ‘er Rip)!

What can business presenters learn from watching Ann Romney’s speech? Engage your audience by tailoring your talk to them (adapt, adapt, adapt); use a theme and weave it through your talk; tell a story we can relate to or enhance your credibility; ask for audience participation (explain the game and the rule book so they know how to play); organize the structure of your talk so we know what’s coming (tell us what you’ll talk about, tell us about it, and tell us what you told us); and if you mess up, don’t announce it, just keep on truckin’. If you can apply these skills to your next business presentation, you’re sure to stand out like the lady in red.