How to Become President: Chapter 8January 1, 2010
SECRETS OF UNSUCCESSFUL SPEECHMAKING
MANY a speaker has made the wrong impression because of some little thing like drinking two bottles of ginger ale just before going to the platform, thereafter being unable to suppress his true feelings.
Things like this can so easily be avoided. This whole subject should be brought up in the open, and I am now going to be as frank with you as I am with my own manicurist.
Some candidates make the mistake of studying public speaking and making good speeches. This is wrong. Good speeches seldom go down in history.
Look at the last and most famous speech Julius Caesar ever made. He was quite a lad, even if he did look like something that if you unscrewed his head you’d find him stuffed with candies. Well, the boys started drifting into the Roman Senate one afternoon after a filibuster and Julius looked up and saw his old pal Brutus.
Now get this. If Julius had said the proper thing, “Have you eaten too, Brutus?” nothing would have come of it. It would have been just another speech, and would have landed on page 8, out where they keep the shipping news and murders in Flatbush.
But Julius knew how to make the front pages even if it killed him.
“Et tu, Brute?” he asked whimsically. And Brutus, who couldn’t stand corny nicknames, or puns, especially those in a foreign language, pulled out his penknife and slit Caesar’s toga.
It just goes to show.
Take William Jennings Bryan. Nobody ever make better speeches than he did. He had ’em rolling in the aisles. The only thing was, they never quit rolling in time to get up and vote. So Mr. Bryan never got to fish off a battleship.
Take people into your confidence. If you haven’t any confidence, take them in anyway, it might be wet out.
Don’t try to impress your audience. Act like you don’t know what you’re talking about, then they won’t think you’re too smart for them. Fumble for a word once in a while; the audience will yell it up to you, and will thus have the thrill of being in on things. When the word is something like “fiduciary” or “incontrovertible,” you will be glad you’ve gotten them in the habit of helping.
Of course, funny stories are always useful. You must know some, and surely one or two can be cleaned up enough to get by. The ones I use are old family heirlooms, because I feel so safe with them. What I mean is, they have been tested, like a match that lit all right a minute ago so you know it works. After I’m elected, however, I expect to get some grand new ones, on account of I’ll get to censor all the movies and see all the good bits before I cut them out.
Before speaking over the air, I always rub the microphone with a slice of onion, so I can feel I’m meeting my public face to face. Sometimes my audiences applaud so loud I can’t hear myself talk, which George says must be a great comfort. Many people don’t realize that George is a speaker too. He is, really; he has addressed thousands of people. He said, “Scorecard, scorecard–can’t know the players without a scorecard,” and I’ve never heard it done better.
Perhaps I should now say a few words about that vital subject, Public Relations; or, Pushing Your Puns into Print. Then again, you might call it How to Treat the Press, unless you think they should buy their own drinks, in which case you will soon find out how the forgotten man got that way.
The main thing is to develop your nose for news. You can, if you go about it the right way. Look what Durante has made of himself, but don’t give up. It’s all very simple. First find your news. Then sniff and sniff, and pretty soon you’ll smell it.
I’ll have to develop this by example. Lose your fountain pen–that’s not news. Lose your money–that’s news of a sort. But lose your pants, and maybe you’ll listen next time the man tries to sell you a two-pants suit.
In conclusion, I’ll let you in on a trade secret. You can keep your name in print for years and years on the strength of just one story. For example, all that Brooklyn had to do was build a bridge, and they named a city after him. You don’t believe it?
Then look at this. All the same story, but with a different slant on.
Photoplay would say–“Will President Allen Marry an Egyptian?” True Confessions–“I Found Out What Built the Pyramids!” And Variety–“Prez in Mezz with Fez.”
But take my advice and don’t be adopted into one of those Indian tribes. The last time I did the Chief made me give him my hat.