Public Speaking Tips from Politicians

Armenia’s first parliamentary elections after the recent constitutional reform will take place on April 2. So far, three major opposition forces have used public speaking as a major tool for pre-campaign announcements for the upcoming elections. The first is the “Way Out” coalition co-founded by Aram Sargsyan (“The Republic” party), Edmon Marukyan (chairman of “Bright Armenia” party) and Nikol Pashinyan (leader of “Civil Contract” party). The second is a former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan and the third is the former leader of the “Prosperous Armenia” party Gagik Tsarukyan. Here are some major public speaking tips based on the devices used by these politicians.

Start With a Compelling story

It is very important to grab the audience’s attention right from the very beginning. The current MP Edmon Marukyan started his speech by sharing his parking experience on his way  to the first conference of the coalition  “Way Out” on January 21: “The citizen who was responsible for the parking recognized me. I asked if I could park there. He said, ‘No problem, of course you can.’ I told him I’m going to our coalition’s conference. He said, ‘Yes I’ve heard about it, but you guys are funny. Everybody is looking for a way in now, while you are searching for a way out.’ ”

Appeal to Audience’s Logic

One of the most effective techniques of persuasion that dates back to the time of Aristotle is the appeal to logic. The speaker shows the truth by bringing up a rational argument and visible examples. The council member of “Bright Armenia” party Hayk Konjoryan did exactly this at the “Way Out” conference. “When our tooth hurts, we go to the dentist and not the tailor. When our computer malfunctions, we don’t take it to a veterinary. When our cat gets sick, we don’t take it to a locksmith. Because we value our health, our computer and the cat. But if we don’t entrust our teeth to a tailor and the computer to a veterinary, than why do we entrust our country to people who are related to public administration as much as a veterinary to computers?”

Appeal Through Your Authority

Logical means are not always relevant for certain situations and speeches. The speaker can show that he is credible and in fact capable of solving the issues he is discussing by appealing to his or her authority. Such is the case of the former “Prosperous Armenia” leader Gagik Tsarukyan. On January 17, he gave a speech on Kentron TV announcing his return to politics: “ No political power could fill up the void that emerged in the political arena after my decision” (referring to his previous political retirement, etc.). Interestingly enough, he also used citizen testimonies in a rather Trumpian boastful way to once again affirm his credibility: “I cannot be indifferent towards my people’s fate, especially that every day thousands of citizens urge me to return to politics.

Appeal to Audience’s Emotions

The most commonly used technique and yet still applicable is the appeal to emotions. This tool allows the speaker to use his intonation and lexicon in a way that triggers desired emotional responses from the listeners, shaping their opinion, or calling them to action. One such example is Seyran Ohanyan’s speech on bravery and heroism. “But today, I want to talk about our teachers, doctors, scientific researchers, who display heroism in civilian life every day.” Mr. Ohanyan has already established a connection with this audience and uses more picturesque adjectives to describe their work. “They serve in their positions silently and with dignity. The compensation that they receive, the living conditions that the state offers to them are just insignificant in exchange for their provided services, humbly efforts and dedication.”

Use Literary Devices to Enhance Your Message

Many Armenian politicians follow oratorical traditions and incorporate literary devices in their speech. These include:

Allegory

In his speech at the Republican Party’s convention on January 27, President Serzh Sargsyan used allegory to create a vivid example of those who leave the party to independently participate in the elections as opposition. “Wide, mother rivers provide progress through the whole length of their words. They give life, nutrition, water, and those streams which separate from the mother river and don’t return to the same current shortly dry out and disappear. This is the Nature’s law.”

Irony

The council member of the “Civil Contract” party Nikol Pashinyan marked his speech at the “Way Out” conference by a very blunt and straightforward technique. “The banana, sugar, petrol, and everything else’s monopolies belong to one person – Serzh Sargsyan. And he organizes these elections every time with one goal – to keep his right of importing bananas intact.”

Simile

If there is one technique that never gets old, it is the simile. It has been used from everyday conversations to discourses of highest state and international importance. One such case is Seyran Ohanyan’s final speech remark” “We need freedom like air, purity like water, and justice like bread today.”

Smart Statistics

You can bore the audience with long and hard numbers which no one will remember anyway, or you could make those numbers relevant, simplified, and visualize by using them smartly. Such was Hayk Konjoryan’s approach: “The auditorium we sit in holds around 600 audience members. After the independence, more than 1,200,000 people have left our country irrevocably. That’s equal to 2000 auditoriums like this. 2000 auditoriums with people have left Armenia irrevocably.”

 

Khachatur Margaryan

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