Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Speech therapists, writers, needed.

The three "serious" presidential candidates. Foot-in-mouth disease?

So I was only at about the first 20 minutes of yesterday's candidate debate in the SUB conversation pit. That means I got to hear the presidential candidates answer a few questions. It was a little painful. Not to be a hater, but I don' think it's too much to ask that the President of the AMS - who will have to do media, negotiate with government, and lobby administrators - be able to string a few compelling words together. Of the five candidates, the three "serious" contenders seemed to struggle the most. While jokesters Che and Rennie acquitted themselves with fluidity, hilarity, and points, Mike Duncan, Matt Naylor, and Rodrigo Ferrari-Nunes all struggled in their own unfortunate ways.

Mike has always had trouble with this: even though he's an easygoing and extroverted guy, he gets tongue-tied, stutters, and loses his place. The result is that even if he had something to say worth listening to (a questionable point itself), he'd have trouble actually saying it. Duncan needs to practice speaking clearly, in detail, and step it up a notch.

Naylor seems to have the opposite problem: He's got plenty to say, and a good understanding of what's important, and how issues relate. But lay off on the big words, man. I like big words as much as the next person, but you sound like you're imitating what you imagine a politician should sound like, not letting your personality shine through. We want to hear you talk naturally, unaffectedly, and clearly. Fancy phrases won't convince anybody.

Rodrigo is a case all his own. First, he doesn't seem to respect time limits, which is just rude. Second, he seems to barely address the point, preferring to ramble in social-science-speak about his favorite pet topics: music, connectedness, voices, and on and on. Tighten it up Rodrigo - you're running for a political position, not applying for grad school.

Take Jeff Freidrich, the current President (since I'm on a run, why stop?): Jeff is incredibly thorough, unaffected, honest, and genuine when he speaks. You always feel like he's saying what he means, including questions and ideas. All the candidates should strive to emulate that great down-to-earth, look-you-in-the-eye quality he has. But build on it: get some enthusiasm in your voice and body language! Don't ramble! Try to inspire a bit! Speaking well can be a great leadership tool.

Photo Peter Rizov