The Power of the Pause, Context (and Reframing), and Music Appreciation

An analysis of Paul Ryan’s and Mitt Romney’s RNC Keynote Speeches By Janell Payne, PowerSpeaking, Inc. Trainer

In this analysis I will share six (do’s and don’ts) and tips I found to be useful for business presentations.

Key take away #1

Paul Ryan places vocal emphasis on the numbers that 1 in 6 Americans are in a state of poverty. He also uses a vivid analogy to illustrate his statistics, “If everyone out of work stood in single file, that unemployment line would stretch the length of the entire American continent.”

Tip #1: When talking numbers, imagery helps bring quantitative data to life. By translating numbers into pictures, statistics become more relatable and easier to understand for your audience.

Key take away #2

Both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan seem to have taken the same skill-training seminar on the strategic pause—one that invites: applause, elicits the “boo” response, and promotes unison chanting of, “USA!” from the crowd.

Tip #2: Pausing is a multi-purpose technique. It allows the audience time to absorb what is being said, and the opportunity to respond. The added bonus is the benefit it provides the speaker: it gives you a mini break buying time to prepare what to say next, and it allows you to read the audience (feedback) and assess whether your talk is headed in the right direction.

Key take away #3

Context: Convention speeches are often a reaction to the context of the time. The spring and summer debate about the “gender gap” put the Republican party on the defensive. The approved platform included language restricting personal choice. Just eight days before the convention, Republican Senator Todd Akin created a firestorm with a comment about “legitimate rape” that had reinforced the Democratic Party charge of the Republican’s “war on women.”

What was necessary for the speaker at the Republican Convention? Reframe the argument! Go on the offense! Demonstrate through story the love of grandmothers, mothers, wives, and children and their respect for women.

The resounding theme was amplified again and again: The Republican Party is pro-woman. You couldn’t miss the message in Chris Christie’s, Ann Romney’s, Paul Ryan’s, and Mitt Romney’s speeches. Whether it was Ryan’s, declaration, “My mom is my role model” or Romney’s story of his strong mother who advocated for women’s rights or his statement echoing his wife’s earlier testament (that a mom plays one of the most critical roles in society) or his efforts to elect/hire women leaders and colleagues, the theme was undeniable: The Republican Party is pro- woman.

Tip #3: When preparing for a talk, one must always look at the context of the talk. When collaborating or working in tandem with other speakers, it’s always a good idea to develop a common theme for your presentation. Theme continuity aids in audience retention of your message, and the overall feeling or lasting impression you want your audience to remember.

Key take away #4

Ryan has a habit of what seems to be an “hmmm” sound, almost as if to agree with himself after making a point. At first observation I didn’t think much of this but later it became distracting.

Tip #4: Be aware of subtle habits such as making noises that your audience might pick up on. Remember: effective delivery style is invisible (and I would add silent – when not talking).

Key take away #5

Toward the end of Ryan’s speech, he talks about how he and Romney are a generation apart. He uses humor to discuss Mitt’s choice in music, announcing that his (Paul’s) iPod “starts with ACDC and ends with Zeppelin.” After poking a little fun at Mitt, he continues on by bolstering Romney’s credibility, closing the age gap by highlighting their shared values and goals.

At the beginning of Romney’s speech (a day after Ryan’s), he uses humor as a “come back” in response to Paul’s earlier jab about his taste in music, countering that his (Mitt’s) genre is better. The playful nature between the two men indicate they’re a team.

Tip #5: When co-presenting, working in collaboration, or introducing a colleague, always bolster your colleague’s credibility by speaking to their experience, qualifications, or passion. It’s usually OK and fun to do a little roasting (if you’re working with a “good sport”) to lighten the mood.

Key take away #6

The last minute of Ryan’s speech includes four repetitions of his Core Message, “We can do this.”

Tip #6: Repetition of your Core Message has lasting power. If the audience remembers nothing else, have them remember your key statement. Your audience will retain more details of your talk, if they can recall the Core Message.

These are the six Key take aways I observed while analyzing Ryan’s and Romney’s Keynote speeches for the RNC, and the six Tips you can think about when preparing for your next business presentation.