It’s not that the convention was going badly.
The 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa was chugging along thanks to its state-of-the-art technology, tight scripts, and slick production values. Then the special guest speaker walked on stage.
There had been an interesting mix of professional politicians and average people at the podium. Most seemed sincere, although many were reading their lines on the teleprompter.
Something about reading aloud makes audiences think that the speaker doesn’t really mean what he or she is saying. Don’t you agree?
Anyway, this special guest speaker works in the entertainment business. He has a long and storied career as an actor and director. He’s the legend known as “Clint Eastwood.”
Mr. Eastwood is not new to the art of making speeches. He’s won a gaggle of important film awards that required him to address large audiences. His films Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, and Unforgiven have all won Academy Awards.
Clint is not new to politics, either. The actor served one term as Mayor of Carmel, California from 1986 to 1988. He did quite well, too, by all accounts.
So it was fun to see Eastwood stride to the podium. Most viewers expected a break in the regular rhythm of the convention, but what they got was one of the most unusual speeches in the history of American politics.
Most speakers are average
I’ve given over 2,000 paid presentations, including keynotes, training sessions, and other types of presentations, so I know a few speaking tricks. When I use the word “tricks,” I’m not referring to deception or manipulation. I never recommend deceiving anyone.
I use “tricks” in the way that a professional magician tricks audiences when making a rabbit disappear. Everyone knows that the rabbit doesn’t actually disappear, so no one is truly deceived.
The speaking tricks that Clint used caused no harm. They were only techniques that helped him deliver his message amidst a backdrop of average speeches.
Here’s another way to look at it. Most speeches are average, but you can deliver a better speech by employing techniques that are different than those used by other speech makers.
Here are the tricks Clint used
Eastwood’s primary motif for the speech involved an empty stool next to the podium. Clint asked us to imagine that President Obama was sitting in the chair so the actor could ask the President some questions.
He made us wait for the first question, creating anticipation among viewers and audience members.
Clint used questions that drew attention to Mr. Obama’s unfulfilled campaign promises including the closing of Gitmo and how this administration seems to approve one war more than another.
There was also a pointed jab at Obama for flying a private jumbo jet to visit colleges to talk about student loans.
Eastwood employed humor, pretending that Obama was telling him to shut-up.
Some of his most popular crowd-pleasers were based in personal sentiment, such as:
“I never thought it was a good idea for attorneys to become President.”
“You, we, own this country [applause] … politicians are employees of ours.”
“When someone doesn’t do the job, we gotta let him go.”
Not bad for an old man
Critics of the speech charge that Eastwood looked less than vital, that his content was inappropriate and too informal, and that hair was in disarray. In short, that he looked and acted like an old man.
Clint Eastwood, of course, is 82 years-old.
This was not the best political speech of all time. It was not even a “rah-rah” speech.
Low-key and laconic, especially for his late evening time-slot, Eastwood at times seemed to be struggling to find the correct words. It had the opposite effect of a prepared reading, which was probably just what the actor-director wanted.
I know that’s what I wanted. In fact, Eastwood’s terrific, unconventional convention speech made my day.
Judging by the amazing feedback on Twitter, most other Americans felt the same way.
-Michael Angelo Caruso, from Royal Oak, Michigan
This article is available for reprint
You can repurpose this article on your website, blog or in your newsletter free of charge.
Simply send us a message stating your intentions. Provide a link to the page and we might even help drive traffic your way.