Post GE 2020 Special – Public Speaking Lessons from the Singapore General Elections 2020!
For the past week, the talk of the town was the key event affecting Singapore’s future – the General Elections 2020! While many articles are analysing the political perspective, the recent elections represent an opportunity for communicators like us to pick up the communication lessons from both sides (regardless of political leaning!). With the elections moving into the social media / new media sphere, we can extract the many techniques and lessons to apply in our day-to-day communication settings.
Part of the political process is the need to be front-facing. From interacting with citizens, responding to door-stop media interviews, or even delivering online political broadcasts, these political representatives are placed in high-stakes communication settings. These techniques are not limited to just the political sphere! Instead, we can tweak and apply them in various communication settings to inspire, motivate, or even persuade.
Here are three broad lessons we picked out from the recent elections!
#1: Reacting & Responding
One of the key moments of the election trail in Singapore was the televised political debate between the leaders of the 4 political parties contesting the most seats. Featured on various media platforms, this was a tough communication test for the participants – having to react to their counterparts and still consider their online audience! In such a scenario, for example, an aggressive, harsh vocal tone may give you the debate upper hand, but you may end up coming across as unpalatable to your online audience. In a heated environment such as a debate, how can we respond? (in case you have not seen the debate, catch it here!
One example is an exchange between candidates Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and Dr Jamus Lim (at 5 min, 15 s). In a Question and Answer format, Dr Lim was asked about the trade-offs for the policies proposed by his political party. In that same question, Dr Balakrishnan also made comments concerning the political leanings of Dr Lim’s party. Instead of reacting to the comment, Dr Lim instead focussed on delivering a clear answer, especially given the time allocated. For example, Dr Lim’s response at the 7 min 15 s mark was a strong use of the PEEL method – he gave a direct Point on whether a trade-off existed, Elaborated on this main point, gave Examples/Evidence of other countries around Singapore, and reiterated the Link to his main point.
While we are unlikely to find ourselves in such a high-stress communication setting (e.g. with a time limit to respond), this exchange is one example of how we should aim to respond to a core issue instead of reacting to an emotional point. Doing so ensures that the discussion, debate, or meeting will not descend into a messy and distracted affair!
*** Before we react emotionally ***
#2: Seizing the Virtual Stage
The shift to the online platform also means an opportunity for our political representatives to shine on the virtual stage. The online political broadcasts are an example of this. With the camera trained on the speaker throughout the broadcast, the speaker’s speech content, delivery style, and charisma were scrutinised by all eagle-eyed viewers. Some of these viewers may even be anticipating a (humorous) slip-up!
These broadcasts offer us, as communicators, a platform to understand different communication styles on the virtual stage. Just consider these two broadcasts:
These examples show the importance of managing our vocal quality, engaging eye contact, and comfortable posture for a virtual stage. A rigid, unmoving posture with a monotone may not be as inspiring as a natural delivery style, punctuated by comfortable pauses and soft, sustained eye contact. Use these lessons to think about what you would do differently the next time you find yourself on a virtual stage!
#3: Charismatic and Persuasive Delivery
The advantage of unpacking these examples of political communication settings is the opportunity to appreciate the value of charismatic and persuasive delivery. The rise in popularity of Dr Jamus Lim on social media is an example of how such speech or presentation delivery elements can create an immediate impact on your audience, even with the virtual platform.
A strong example of this was Dr Lim’s concluding statement during the televised political debate (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgZ4SlpUQLE). The two features that stand out from his delivery was (i) the use of linguistic devices, and (ii) the natural, facilitative hand gestures. For (i), Dr Lim concluded his point by emphasising his Call to Action (i.e. a call for voters to support his political party) – he does this using the power of 3, repeating the phrase “if you believe”. For (ii), Dr Lim’s hand gestures were animated but natural. One tip for replicating such natural gestures is by matching your natural speaking speed. For example, if you are slowing down to emphasise a key point, match the speed of your movement to your delivery. By combining these factors, you can come across as more charismatic and persuasive in your delivery!
*** Whether it is online or on-stage… ***
Learn from our Leaders!
The recently concluded General Elections was a key event for Singapore, primarily for its political impact. Beyond this, it provides us, communicators, a chance to learn from powerful communicators and leaders and understand how the techniques are applied in practical settings. We hope that with the key lessons we extracted above, you too can emulate these effective communication skills in your day-to-day communication settings!
(Note: The author and the Public Speaking Academy do not express any views or preference on the political aspects of the election – this article is only focussed on the communication lessons we can learn!)
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