Sarah Palin – Compelling

She looks like Marion the Librarian, but she jabs like Conan the Barbarian.

A phenomenon has sprung forth, and her name is Sarah Palin, and she is riding the wave of communication.

Sarah Palin has galvanized the country and changed this election – for or against – because on September 5th she gave her first nationwide speech, then topped that with an amazing convention acceptance speech last week, and she continued on with a powerful speech tonight as she arrived in Fairbanks. She is compelling because of her communicating – why?


1. Confidence

  • On September 10th there couldn’t have been more pressure in her convention speech – after four days of attacks and questions. Over 40 million people watched as Palin strode out and owned the stage. She spoke with confidence and competence. She is an extraordinary speaker, for several reasons.
  • She smiled, she joked, she was enthusiastic – she enjoyed herself. That certainty under pressure is the stuff of leaders, and people could feel it – if not hear it in her voice. (Her one weakness is in her voice, but she overcomes that with energy of face, movement and gesture.) She was not defensive – rather, she went on the attack. With a smile.
  • She uses the major components of great speaking with great skill – Rule of Three, Set ’em up and knock ’em down, contrast, dramatic pauses – and all with an authenticity and naturalness that is very rare, and missing from the other candidates.


2. Context

  • Palin is attractive, a mother of five, sending one of her sons to Iraq, had her last baby only four months ago – while she was Governor, has a husband who is an attractive “first dude,” she is a hunter and past basketball coach, is devoted to her union member, championship snow machine racing husband, holds her Downs Syndrome baby tenderly, and appears in interviews and speeches alike as a real person, not an icon.
  • As if that’s not enough appeal, she does all that while she is a very active Governor and now a national candidate, and seems to be handling it all with aplomb.
  • She smiles. It can’t be stressed enough in communicating how important the smile is. Open and inviting. McCain could take a lesson there. Sarah Palin seems to thrive under the pressure and we can see it in her face – we’ll see if it continues.

3. Content

  • Reformer with a record. Iron fist in a velvet glove.
  • She’s also good at interviews, although we’ll see more under the light of the Network interviews this week. In my close observations (in the last two weeks…) I don’t think I heard one halting phrase or non-word (um, ah, er, etc.) We hear them a lot from the other candidates.
  • And she knows her material well enough to use teleprompters well. Amazingly, she is the only one to do it – Obama and McCain are not good at it, and with Palin (and yes, she does have a speechwriter) you don’t know she is reading, and that the words are not hers. She is remarkably good at it – probably because she knows her material. And she’s enjoying the process.

Although there’s a long way to go in this now fascinating election, in the three major communicating experiences thus far Sarah Palin has shown to America that she is up to it. That’s the sign of leadership. I hunch she’ll continue, although there IS a long way to go. We’ll be following the communication end of it.

The Debates:

September 26 – Obama vs. McCain
October 2 – Biden vs. Palin
October 7 – Obama vs. McCain
October 15 – Obama vs. McCain