Rule #1 – Know Your Audience.

30 10 2008

Public speaking.  It puts fear in the hearts of many, but if mastered, it can be an invaluable skill and can launch wildly successful political careers.  And as any public speaker can tell you, the first thing to do, before putting pen to paper, is to know your audience.  Here are some helpful tips from “School for Champions.”

Your purpose in speaking to a group is to inform, persuade, or entertain the audience. Your motivation is to get satisfaction from expressing your ideas and getting recognition or applause from the audience.  In order to achieve your purpose, as well as to get the expression and applause you desire, you must satisfy the audience with something in which they are interested. Thus, it is important to know what your audience is interested in, what their expectations are and even what mood they are in.

Makes sense.  And I’ll bet it’s really helpful to know your audience when you’re speaking all over the country in different places, and to different people all the time. It’s a chance to make them feel special, and like you really care about them, and have bothered to learn a little something about their needs, and interests.  But, how do you know what your audience will be like?  How do you learn about them?

You can find out about the audience through research before you speak, through interaction at the beginning of your talk, and by making adjustments during the speech. 

Before you speak–and even before you prepare your speech–you should know what sort of audience you will have. What is the nature of the group? What do they expect to hear from you? Do they have any special interests or prejudices about which you should be aware?

Yes…research.  I bet it’s really handy when out on the campaign trail to have a crackerjack research team, so you know who you’re speaking to, and what sort of “special interests or prejudices” they might have.  Unless, maybe they took the day off, or maybe you think you know about sports geography on the East Coast.

Yes, that’s Sarah Palin today in Erie, thinkin’ all Pennsylvanians must just love those Phillies.  Errrr…. Big mistake.  But, if we’re feeling generous, we could remember that Alaska has no major league baseball teams, so maybe she just couldn’t believe that a tiny little state like Pennsylvania would have MORE than one, and that Pirates fans might not share the love.

But sometimes, no matter how many excuses you make for someone, the fact that they just aren’t thinking is hard to hide.  For instance, take Palin’s recent visit to a solar technology startup company in the battleground state of Ohio. 

Palin spoke after touring Xunlight Corp., one of a handful of solar technology startup companies in Toledo, a struggling industrial city in this swing state. The city’s leaders are hoping that the solar companies will create jobs to replace some of those lost by downsizing in the auto industry.

But Palin made only a passing reference to solar power in her speech and instead renewed her call for more drilling in U.S. coastal waters. She repeated her signature anthem, “drill, baby, drill,” which seemed to fall a bit flat on the audience at the plant even as it’s become a popular chant at her rallies.

I think I actually would have paid money to be present in the audience at a solar technology company, and hear Sarah Palin start chanting, “Drill Baby Drill!” 

Isn’t that right Toledo?!?  How ’bout them Phillies!?!  YEAH!!!

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Sarah Palin is a Socialist, and She Can’t Buy My Vote.

30 10 2008

Oh, how quickly they forget. While watching John McCain, and Sarah Palin decrying Obama for his “socialist” tendencies, I have found myself becoming increasingly amused. One of the things that defined Sarah Palin’s pre-VP candidate career in Alaska was the fact that nobody seemed to know what to make of her. I refer you to my comments on this, back in the beginning of June, 2008 titled “McCain’s a Greenie. Palin’s a Socialist. Hillary’s the President.”

I’m holding my sides laughing about the Newsweek article that has Alaskan’s all a-twitter, comparing Sarah Palin to Hugo Chavez. Having claimed my staunch neutrality about Sarah Palin, I’m enjoying standing in the middle of the swirling tornado that has become the Palin phenomenon and enjoying my popcorn. Is she a crazy creationist wingnut? A big business-hating, free-gas-doling socialist? A maverick hockey mom? The next Vice President? No one seems to know.

Obviously to regular readers, my “staunch neutrality” about Palin has gone the way of the Steller’s Sea Cow. (For you non-Alaskans; it’s extinct). I did not vote for Palin, but was willing to give her a shot. I like to think I’m open-minded. So, knowing what I know, and  all the recent “socialist talk” made me look up this old post, and I was amused.

I got my $1200 energy rebate check from Sarah Palin a couple weeks ago, and so did every other human being in Alaska.  This money, which came from the wealth of oil companies doing business in Alaska, got spread around by the Governor to help Alaskans defray the rising costs of energy that made the oil companies profitable enough to provide Alaska with the money for the rebate check that defrays the cost of energy…..(you get the circular idea).

At the Alaska Women Reject Palin rally here in Anchorage, a woman drove by as I was returning to my car. She leaned out of her window and said, “Are you going to get a $1200 check this year?” “You mean the rebate check? Yes,” I said. “So how can you hate Sarah Palin!?!” she quipped, looking angry and smug at the same time. “Are you going to SPEND it???” she spat. I said the first thing that came to mind, “Yes, I’ll probably donate it to the Obama campaign.” She screeched away. And I didn’t tell her the whole truth. I’ve actually spread my wealth around to lots of good progressive candidates, both in Alaska and outside.

It was an interesting exchange, though, and I’ve thought about it many times. I’ve heard other people use this logic, although not quite as directly. The basic question is “How can you vote against someone who hands you cash?” It’s really very startling. It presupposes not only that cash-in-hand is the ultimate goal we humans seek, but also that I am not making good on my end of this deal. I’ve been paid for my services, and now I’m not willing to deliver. Does this make anyone in Alaska who votes for Obama, a political prostitute who gets paid in advance, and then takes off with the cash without delivering the vote, thereby breaking some kind of implied, perverse, money-for-votes pact?  To the woman in the red car, apparently it does.

I’ve seen a few references in the mainstream media to Palin’s socialist tendencies, which is good. The fact that in a society that has public education, fire departments, public libraries, police service, Medicaire, and Social Security,  it seems odd to be having the conversation at all. But if Sarah Palin is going to use the term to cut down Barack Obama, she needs to be reminded that 12 weeks ago, she was being compared to Hugo Chavez by her own party, in her own state. And anyone in Alaska who IS voting for Palin because of that $1200 for every man, woman and child in the state, needs to come to terms and make peace with their “inner Socialist.”

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Ted Stevens Numbers Slide After Conviction

30 10 2008

The Ted Stevens/Mark Begich Senate race in Alaska was a toss-up before the jury came back with the verdict of guilty on all seven felony counts for failure to disclose gifts and services totaling more than $250,000.

And, despite the amped up, frenzied Stevens supporters who crowded into an airplane hangar for Stevens’ Welcome Home rally last night, the scale has started to tip decidedly for Democratic challenger Mark Begich.  It’s a toss-up no more.  It isn’t over yet, but Uncle Ted’s chances are looking pretty slim.

Rasmussen released the following numbers, taken the day after Stevens’ conviction.
Begich (D) – 52%
Stevens (R) – 44%
Bird (AIP) – 3%
Undecided – 2%

Only 74% of Republicans say they will vote for the nominee of their party while 21% of GOP voters will cast their ballot for Begich, the mayor of Anchorage.

Fifty-two percent (52%) of Alaska voters say Stevens should resign while 39% disagree. Republican leaders including John McCain, his running mate Sarah Palin, the current governor of Alaska, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have all called upon Stevens to step down.

Stevens is now viewed favorably by 43% of Alaska voters, down from 54% before the trial began. Still, even after the guilty verdict, 52% of voters say Stevens is about as ethical as most politicians. Fifteen percent (15%) say Stevens is more ethical than most of his peers while 31% say he is less ethical. These reactions say as much about perceptions of politicians as they do about Stevens.

This must explain why 51% of Alaska voters say that Sarah Palin is more ethical than most politicians.

Palin earns good or excellent reviews as governor from 61% of voters in her home state, virtually unchanged from polling last month. Eighty-five percent (85%) of Republicans and 59% of unaffiliated voters give Palin positive marks.

Overall, just 22% rate her job performance as poor, a figure that includes 44% of Democrats.

If this makes you want to bang your head on the desk….stop. Remember that Sarah Palin’s approval rating was hovering around 90% at one point. So, step back, and think of how it would look on a graph. Time on the X-axis, and favorability ratings on the Y-axis. After the third time I banged my head on the desk, a vision of this graph popped in to my mind, and I stopped. Once the fun of having a local politician on the national stage is over, and she gets back home, the numbers will continue to slide. Stay tuned.

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Real Women Respond to Sarah Palin – Live Web-a-thon!

30 10 2008

Check out the live web-a-thon “Real Women Respond to Sarah Palin.”

It all started with a letter written by two women (Lyra and Quinn) that they emailed to 40 of their friends. “We are writing to you,” wrote Lyra and Quinn, “because of the fury an ddread we have felt since the announcement of Sarah Palin as the Vice-Presidential candidate for the Republican Party. She does not represent us.”

Within one week 100,000 women responded with their own impassioned stories and statements about why Sarah Palin should not be Vice President.

Join us on October 30th, 2008, when performers from all walks of life (unknown and celebrity) will lend their voice and human presence to the thousands of women across America who responded to Lyra and Quinn’s letter across America by reading their comments LIVE.