QUESTION: Pat, I’m going to be speaking to a group soon about civic leadership. How can I put some fun and energy into a topic like civics that’s not really fun? What angle can I use to motivate the audience?
ANSWER: This a common question. I think any topic can be fun, and the energy will come from you. Remember, you are the message. Your angle is your story. Your own journey into a civic leadership role is inspiring in and of itself. You know that motivation is an inside job; tell your audience up front that you hope by telling your story, they will be inspired to consider contributing to the community through leadership roles like you have.
When we talked, you mentioned your run for city council and your first election. There were some good stories in that, maybe what you didn’t know then that you know now. Aim for humor, not one-liners and stand-up comedy. Where can you give – and get – smiles?
This is not a campaign speech; it’s a “let’s do this together” kind of speech. Talk about why the town and the sense of community is so important to you, all the opportunities that are available, how the work impacts them every day, from the walking trails to where they park on the streets to the length of the Christmas Lights parade, or whatever.
Your angle is you. What you thought it would be like, and what it really is like. What you wanted to do as a civic leader and what you really spend your time on… but how fulfilling it is in the big picture. As a little girl, did you want to grow up to be a “civic leader?” But look at me now, Ma, no hands!!
And most of all, practice and use key words in your notes. If you take a script with you, you might default to reading, which is definitely not fun for the audience! Have fun while you’re at the microphone, and the audience will have fun with you.