Article Category: Commentary

Speech Critiques – McCain, Palin, Republican Convention 2008

Last week, we examined speech critiques of Barack Obama and others at the Democratic Convention 2008.

This week, it was the Republicans’ turn at the microphone with the whole world watching.

One by one, they spoke — John McCain, Sarah Palin, Rudy Giuliani, Joe Lieberman, Fred Thompson, Tom Ridge, and Cindy McCain.

One by one, they were critiqued — by Nick Morgan, John Watkis, Garr Reynolds, Bert Decker, and Denise Graveline.

This article is a collection of speech videos and numerous speech critiques from public speaking experts.

Watch, listen, and learn from their strengths and weaknesses. Enjoy!

John McCain

Nick Morgan on John McCain:

Overall, the speech was mediocre.  It was too long, McCain was frequently out of synch with his audience, he’s a wooden presenter, and there was absolutely nothing new in it. …

McCain’s speech was full of fight.  Almost literally; he repeated the word “fight’ obsessively and absurdly at the end in a weird attempt at creating a final frenzy of enthusiasm with the audience.

John Watkis on John McCain:

McCain was average tonight. The speech was well written, but McCain lacked the ability to deliver it the way it was written. His timing and rhythm were non existent.

Still, McCain did have his moments. When he told the story of his capture, McCain was most comfortable. At that point, it became less about the speech and more about sharing his story with the audience. When that happened, he connected. His final rally cry to fight was quite a surprise. I was actually moved.

Garr Reynolds on John McCain:

It was not a disaster for Senator McCain, at least not for the supportive live audience in the hall, but I was really surprised by the lack of energy, emotion, and clear structure in his address to the Republican National Convention.

Sarah Palin

Bert Decker on Sarah Palin:

The speech was well written and outstandingly delivered. Together it was a very rare communication experience. Power under pressure! … There was not a vocal hesitation, not a non-word, not a shaking hand at the start as she handled her speech papers.

Denise Graveline on Sarah Palin:

Her rhetoric defines her as a “hockey mom” to evoke a decidedly feminine image. … But Palin’s speaking style last night was decidedly old-school, aggressive and more traditionally masculine in tone–at a time when her own credibility and suitability for the role is widely debated.

John Watkis on Sarah Palin:

Palin’s best moments came when she used her sense of humor and when she connected emotionally to her message. The emotional moments came when she spoke about children with special needs and when she took swipes at Barack Obama.

The one area Palin needs to work on is her voice. There are times when she speaks in a high pitch that grates on the ears. When she got down to business, the high pitch was replaced with a lower, stronger, more pleasant tone that made you want to listen.

Rudy Giuliani

Joe Lieberman

Fred Thompson

Tom Ridge

Cindy McCain

What did You Think?

Unfortunately, not as many bloggers reviewed the Republican convention speakers from a public speaking perspective. Why is that? What are your thoughts? What are the strengths and weaknesses demonstrated by the Republican convention speakers?

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  1. Annette Winston says:

    I thought the real power in Sarah Palin’s speech was in her micro-gesturing. The command she has over the micro-gestures in her face is the best I think I have ever seen. I recommend you watch the speech again and cue yourself into these tiny gestures, whether is the slight clenching of teeth, or the raised eyebrow, or the slight grin . . . all are perfectly delivered! I will use this one in class for a long time to help my students understand micro-gestures.

  2. Wow – what an opportunity to watch & learn from folks whose whole careers are really built on their ability to speak in public. I don’t think that I can add too much to the evaluation of the individual speeches so let’s try something different: why were the speeches not tied together?

    Think about it for a moment, this is a unique opportunity where you have a set of seven speakers who are all quite good at delivering a message. This is an opportunity to create (watch out – music reference coming up) a virtual symphony of words where it starts low and then gradually builds to a crescendo. However, just like the Democrats, it sure looks like this speaking opportunity was missed.

    Instead of complaining, perhaps we should talk about how it could have been done better. Pick a main message: “Lower taxes for everyone”. Then make sure that every speaker has this as a central theme to their message; however, give each speaker another theme (“A strong foreign policy”, “Energy independence”) that they can wrap around the main theme. This way each speaker would appear to “hand off” the main message to the next, carrying it higher and higher until it was handed to the final speaker – the big man. Have him also wrap his speech around this message, touch on all of the other speaker’s additional themes, then then finish strong by driving home points on the main message.

    I guess what we are talking about here is coordination. Yes, some speakers were good; however, they were good islands of information. A road that stretched from starting speaker to final speaker would have delivered an even more powerful message.

  3. Gene Grindle says:

    I know we are not talking about the wives. But I must say, both were terrible. For different reasons. Michelle had some vocal variety, but whenever the audience laughed or applauded she talked over them as if she was about to get disqualified for going over on time or something. Cindy McCain was obviously reading every word off a telepropter and was as monotone as any speaker I have ever heard. She paused waiting for applause or laughter after one liners that she timed incorrectly and never got it. It hurt me to watch.
    As for the others, I think Biden, Giuliani, and Palin stole the show.