Speaking of Presidents and the Power to Persuade

By Andrew Ivey | Public Speaking

Mar 13
White House Presidential speeches

The White House: Scene of many Presidential Speeches

Ezra Klein has a neat article in the New Yorker that gets to grips with the issue of Presidential rhetoric. His article looks into the effectiveness of Presidential public speaking, speeches and state of the union addresses.

Much of the analysis is provided by George Edwards. When George was the director of the Center for Presidential Studies, at Texas A. & M. University in 1993 he ran a program on Presidential rhetoric. That program spawned a conference. And the conference spawned a whole series of analytical debate on effective public speaking.

It seems that Presidents don’t manage to persuade many of their constituents with their speeches. In contrast, when campaigning for the Presidency their speeches do manage to persuade. Their two year campaign for the nomination and then the job itself is all about persuasion.

But in government it’s different…and it’s evident in the President’s approval numbers and the audience figures for the speeches themselves. Speeches have very limited impact upon an incumbent President. In fact the New Yorker article shows how some speeches actively work against a President achieving his objectives.

But if speeches don’t achieve much, you might ask the question, “why do Presidents bother with speeches?”

The answer is complex. But simply put, we want them to give speeches, Congress expects speeches and everyone feels better when they give speeches. It’s that simple.

Apparently a President who doesn’t give speeches is a President who’s disengaged from the people. Now that’s something that no politician can survive.

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About the Author

The Principal Trainer at training business Time to Market. Based in Oxford, I run presentation and public speaking training courses, coaching sessions and seminars throughout the UK. Andrew Ivey on Google+