By J.F. McKenna
The speech on economics is one of the toughest public presentations to tackle. Maybe the most challenging address other than one’s pithy farewell to the firing squad.
As a business writer I’ve covered many of these soporific agonies. As a ghostwriter I’ve been stuck trying to spin platinum out of platitudes for other folks. So I’m confident I can offer several suggestions for your crafting a passable address on the dismal science.
To start, keep actual speech research to a minimum. Every audience preparing to hear an address on economics is predisposed to only half-listen to you. Turn such ennui to your advantage. Facts about weak GDP, big deficits and their ugly offspring are a nuisance to discuss and only trigger the notion that you shouldn’t give the speech in the first place. Ergo, gather up a handful of neutral stats on the world as a global economy and consider your quest for raw and relevant material complete.
When you begin the actual address, enthusiastically thank your audience for the invitation to share your solutions for Americans’ most pressing concerns—jobs, wages, next week’s grocery bill. Try to win over listeners with a wink and a smile. Research indicates that there are five or six such receptive persons in every crowd. By the end of your talk, you’ll be glad to have anyone with whom to make eye contact.
Obfuscation is critical to today’s well-received economics speech. Actual specifics regarding increased taxes or public expenditures are usually uncomfortable topics for any speaker and annoying reminders to listeners. Moreover, these topics almost always take the punch out of empty phrases about middle-class burdens. Embrace this rule of thumb—avoid details.
Instead, take the high road of shifting blame. For instance, if you’re focusing on weak GDP, forthrightly point out how others involved in public policy never listen to your wise counsel. Scrupulously omit your own involvement, no matter how culpable you may be. If the burning issue is an anemic jobs market, leverage your own credentials as a fellow who understands the pain of joblessness, and then carefully illustrate your words by brushing the sleeve of your second-best suit. Obviously, you must be wearing your second-best suit to pull off this rhetorical masterstroke.
Once you have established this winning tone, drive home the message that you have a plan to solve the audience’s problems. Do not be deterred at sharing your vision, even by the heckler who cries out, “Yeah, your current plan cost me my job last month!” Simply direct security to escort the rather rude critic from the venue. You may want to stare at the audience and add: “Let’s pray for that poor chap tonight, shall we?”
Most important, be sure the shills in the audience can see your every signal from the dais. My personal favorite is the gentle fingering of sweat from the right temple to signal that it’s time to stand up and clap with unbridled enthusiasm.
Try to conclude your speech on one of those fabricated outbursts of support. Smile and wave sincerely at the crowd. If good fortune is with you, that is all those folks will remember when they leave.
CBR contributor J.F. McKenna, a longtime West Park resident, is a business journalist, communications consultant and former editor of the national manufacturing magazine Tooling & Production. He has chased stories throughout the country and as far away as Japan, Israel and that most exotic of financial lands, Wall Street. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his LinkedIn profile: Jos. F. McKenna.