Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Transparency in DNC speeches: less is more

I must confess I only sampled the speechmaking that flowed at last night's opening of the Democratic National Convention. What I heard was fairly effective which I of course attributed to the quality of the speechwriting.

But I have a question:

When, oh when, can we get rid of the transparent teleprompter - that tilted screen upon which the text appears so that it is visible to the speaker but transparent to the audience. There's something else that's transparent to the audience: the idea that the speakers are communicating from their heart directly to you and you and you, and the rest of the live or video audience.

Ironically, we're more able to "see through" this conceit on video, the medium reaching the largest audience. Notice the head turned one way but the eyes another, as the speaker strains to follow the scrolling text. (See my earlier post on the challenge of reading prompter.)

When I read from a printed text, I can adjust my own pace more easily and give emphasis to my most important statements, the ones I should have rehearsed the most.

For example, Michelle Obama could have read from her script as she explained how in America her husband and she could arrive at this historic point. Then she could have paused, lifted her gaze to really focus on the audience, and stressed, "That is why I love this country."

Face it: A speaker who looks at an audience while reading from a teleprompter is like the direct marketer who, thanks to the magic of mail merge, addresses a piece to each recipient by name. I for one pay no more heed than if it said, "Occupant."


More on "only in America"

The LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) reportedly will require its foreign-born members to speak English.

It's probably a safety issue: Think how dangerous it would be if the French player in the group behind you yelled, "Quatre!"


Steve Cadwell said...

Great points that I wouldn't have thought of and a most useful example with Michelle Obama. As well-delivered and personable as her speech was, your suggestion would have made a noticeable improvement.

Mike Quinn said...

Thanks for the comment, but I have to admit: Politicos are as likely to give up their teleprompters as they are to return to campaigning by train.

It occurs to me that Michelle and Barack would both appreciate your Mill Creek Almanac blog.

John Ettorre said...

Good stuff, Mike. I'd have to agree. Not long ago, I helped write a speech for a person who addressed the City Club, and it was a deflating experience to see all the time and hard work we put into filling it with lilting phrases be wasted on a wooden, plodding, uninspired delivery. Oh, well.

Mike Q said...

I share your pain. In an earlier post I recalled a speech I'd written years ago for a well-known person. When he stopped midway through it and stared at the text for what seemed like a career (mine), I realized he hadn't bothered to look at it until that moment.

John Ettorre said...

Egad! How can people be so dumb? You'll have to tell me who it was when I see you next time. A few possible candidates come to mind.

Mike Q said...

Well, it also was a lesson for me. From then on I resolved to review the speech with my speaker -- if I had to hold the individual hostage at gun -- I mean -- penpoint.

Yeah, let's have a mocha or something soon.