Respect Over Love: A Presentation Analysis of Chris Christie’s RNC Speech

Written for PowerSpeaking, Inc.

Political commentary on Chris Christie’s 24 minute, Republican National Convention Keynote speech, has been “dominated by discussion of whether Christie offered too many words about himself and too few about Romney or about the kind of original and provocative ideas that many were expecting on such a major occasion.” (John Harris and Tim Mak at the Tampa Bay Times) Many fellow Republicans said the speech was a disappointment and did little to advance the Romney cause, but we don’t want to discuss the politics of what he said or didn’t say. This analysis will focus on Christie’s presentation style and what we, as business speakers, can learn from it.

Early in his speech, Christie uses a metaphor, “the automobile of life” to acknowledge his father (“the passenger”) in the audience, and honor his late mother (“the driver”). He also tells his parents’ story of struggle, growing up in poverty and coming from nothing. This technique builds rapport with listeners by focusing on family and where he came from making Christie relatable prior to discussing the issues.

Christie delivers the use of strategic and intentional pause, Zone 2 gestures, effective eye interaction, and voice variety. However, John Heilemann from MSNBC said, “He looked kind of angry through the speech, and he looked angrier than he sounded.” This was due to a scowl-like look in his eyes (you know that wrinkle that forms in between your eyebrows when your mad?) and frequent finger pointing (a common illness most politicians have).

He also utilizes repetition of his Core Message to increase retention as he talks of choosing “Respect over love.” Toward the end of his speech, a second core message, “I want to live in a second American century” is repeated five times in short succession.

Christie closes with a clear call to action, “I won’t be part of the generation that fails that test and neither will you.” Inviting the audience to stand up with him he says, “It’s now time to stand up. Let’s stand up. Everybody stand up. Because there’s no time left to waste.” By getting the crowd to come to their feet, he transcends what could be perceived as a figurative “standing up” to a literal application of his action step. Here’s the key, if you motivate people to commit to your call to action (by physically doing something), they are more likely to follow through. The rising audience is a demonstration of support, which I’m thinking has greater momentum than butts in seats.

So, what can business presenters learn from watching Chris Christie’s speech? Use a Core message and don’t be afraid to repeat it; speak with passion (let them hear it in your voice variety and see it in your gestures); incorporate intentional and strategic pauses; ask for audience participation (get them involved); and engage your audience with eye interaction. If you can apply these PowerSpeaking, Inc. approved skills to your next business presentation, we’re sure you’ll bring the crowd to their feet.