Public Speaking: Trial By Fire

He is a Kennedy. His is being touted as an up and coming political star. The democrats tapped him as their media spokesperson, and now he is the talk of the internet. People are lighting up Twitter and other social media about Democratic Congressman Joe Kennedy III’s rebuttal speech to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech. But, unfortunately for Kennedy, the buzz is not about his spokesperson skills, presentation skills or political prowess. Instead, it is all about the appearance of drool oozing from both sides of his mouth.

Social Media Storms

People are raging about Kennedy’s drool all across social media. On Twitter, you are seeing comments such as:

  • “Ask not what your country can drool for you, ask what you can drool for your country!”
  • Another tweet reads, “All we’ll remember is the drool on his face.”
  • Another says, “I know liberals get really upset when Trump is doing great, but this was the first time I actually saw one frothing at the mouth.”

Spokesperson Skills & Challenges

It is not easy being a media spokesperson or a public speaker! But, Kennedy explained the drool as he made the rounds on network morning news shows today. He says the shiny substance was really just too much ChapStick that melted under the glare of the camera lights. You may recall that in 2013 Marco Rubio was the internet poster boy the day after his State of the Union rebuttal speech, too. Rubio kept reaching for the water bottle and the internet went crazy.

Spokesperson Lessons

There are three great presentation skills lessons from Kennedy’s experience:

  1. When you look at Kennedy’s speech, he actually has some very good presentation skills and nonverbal communication skills: nice inflection, good use of pauses, eye contact with all audience segments and many other things.

But, as we like to say, “Energy flows where attention goes!” You can have a great presentation or speech, but if there is an annoying or obvious distraction – that is where your audience’s attention will go. There are some strategies for dealing with presentation distractions, but we have to assume Kennedy had no TV monitor nearby to see what was happening around his mouth.

  1. When you are delivering an important presentation or making a high-profile public speech, it is best to conduct a practice run – with the same environmental conditions (such as lighting, cameras, podiums, etc.). Had Kennedy done this, perhaps he or his staff could have caught this unexpected glitch in their plan. Our teams often prepare executives for televised broadcasts and we prefer to have them practice under lights with their makeup on prior to going live. The more practice you have to prepare for a presentation or a major public speaking event, the better off you will be!
  2. This is also a great reminder that people will remember visuals over words! Numerous studies show that long after a presentation is over, your audience will remember things that were visualized. Unfortunately, Kennedy will primarily be remembered for drooling on his first major new media broadcast. But, Marco Rubio recovered, and so will Kennedy.

News Media Coverage Benefits!

There are many benefits to speaking with the news media and learning news skills with spokesperson training. You can gain exposure for your brand and establish credibility with millions of viewers. The benefactor of Kennedy’s glaring distraction is ChapStick. They are celebrating a day of free mentions all around the world!