Claire Duffy's blog about public speaking and communication (in real life). Speak well, do well!
Since the announcement of the Federal election date, you can be sure the lines of lobbyists have been lengthening. Persuading a a politician to support your interests in the next few weeks may get you an election promise. Then (assuming they win) you’re going to benefit. So lots of people are circling and making representations. How can you make the most of an opportunity like this?
Let’s assume you are a community or business group with an issue that deserves attention. You need to get the politician’s ear, and to cut through the competition. You may not have the wherewithal to hire a firm of spin doctors, but you have a voice and you want it heard.
Let’s say the first step is in the bag. Someone you know has been able to set up a meeting. What are you going to do with it?
Talking to a politician is very concentrated communication. They have little time, lots of people who want it, and a very particular agenda, that you may not be fully aware of.
When you go to present your interests you need to imagine you are like a billboard ad on a Freeway. The drivers race past you but somehow a message still gets through. The politician is like that driver, travelling at speed picking stuff up FAST.
Plan your communication so that they can get the gist in seconds. Don’t overwhelm them. Now is the time to think of your ‘elevator pitch’. Whatever you say has to be succinct, memorable and relevant. Clear, bold, and simple. And you need them to understand how THEY will benefit. Forget you…it’s all about selling, they will only commit if it works for them.
All the usual rules for public speaking apply.
• one clear message that connects everything you say.
• an attention getting opening,
• stories to make it live,
• just enough data to convince (use graphs and illustrations rather than words whenever you can).
• a goal – or takeaway call-to action.
Your ‘ask’ has to work for them. Say enough to interest and entice. Show that both of you will benefit if s/he takes up your idea. Demonstrate that you know what’s important to them and that your project is right in line.
Paperwork and leave-behinds
Your personal presentation is just one type of communication. You should round it with what you put down on paper. This is the place for backup: the denser, more fact-laden information. It’s also where summary arguments and contact information can go.
The politician may not read this, but their staffers often will. Make it easy for them. Three pages max, strong headings, bullet points and white space will all aid readability. And of course, a picture or graph is worth a thousand words.