The Good, the Bad and the Unprepared

PR professionals will be the first to tell you: Rehearsal is the key to a successful speech or presentation. Not only are speakers that are well rehearsed more confident, but rehearsal can also help the speaker stay on message, make key points more clearly and communicate more effectively. Without practice, however, an important speaking engagement can turn into a PR disaster.

Politics aside, Clint Eastwood’s 12- minute speech during the Republican National Convention created a lot of buzz. The video and commentary of Eastwood’s speech went viral on Twitter and Reddit within minutes after airing, and viewers were split on how effective the speech actually was.

However, in an interview following the speech, the 82-year-old actor and director admitted that he had not prepared or rehearsed his speech. According to the Carmel Pine Cone, Clint Eastwood revealed that he came up with the idea to speak to an empty stool representing Barack Obama right before he went on stage.

The Carmel Pine Cone reported, “Early Thursday morning, when Eastwood left San Jose Airport on a private jet headed for Florida, he was still making up his mind. And even with his appearance just a few hours away, all Eastwood could tell Romney’s campaign manager, Matt Rhoades, and his aides, was “everything I would say would be nice about Mitt Romney.”

“They’ve got this crazy actor whose 82 years old up there in a suit,” said Clint Eastwood. “I was a mayor, and they’re probably thinking I know how to give a speech, but even when I was mayor I never gave speeches. I gave talks.”

While Eastwood’s supporters argue that the actor had pulled off an engaging, entertaining speech that stood out during the convention, critics said they thought the speech was “sad and pathetic.” They pointed out that, “Talking to an empty chair relays insanity.” The substance of Eastwood’s talk became overshadowed by the method, and the coverage following the speech focused more on Eastwood than the candidates he intended to support.

With viewers so strongly split on its effectiveness, Eastwood’s speech demonstrates the importance of preparation and rehearsal in order to stay on message. Preparation is imperative to those striving to be viewed as a credible source, and it is especially important for those looking to change minds. Without preparation, going off message and speaking in another direction can destroy credibility and greatly increase the chances of a PR disaster.

Image Credit: Daniel Acker / Bloomberg / Getty Images

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