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Missed Opportunities at the Republican Convention by Dr. Dennis Becker

“It’s August 28. We’ve just finished watching and listening to the first night of the

Republican Convention.” With that, Dr. Dennis Becker launched, a series of podcasts in which the speech coaches at

Brookline, Massachusetts-based The Speech Improvement Company, Inc.

objectively critique the important speakers of the 2012 presidential campaign.

“These broadcasts are designed to give voters valuable information needed to

make a confident decision on November 6. We’ll be watching and listening to the

candidates and others who are trying to win your vote. The talking techniques and

the tactics that they’re using are our exclusive topic for this unique critique,”

according to Becker.

Overall, Becker and the other panelists (senior speech

coaches Laurie Schloff, Monica Murphy, and Robin Maxfield) find that the speakers

at the Republican Convention’s first night missed too many opportunities – partly

due to speech writing, and partly due to delivery – to win over the undecided six

percent. Here’s a sample of the coaches’ analysis of Ann Romney:

•    Ann Romney was trying to humanize the situation and make Mitt a

loveable figure. That’s where she disappointed…she came across as strong vs.

soft, and hyper as opposed to low-key. Her speech wasn’t well written.
•    She used facial expressions and gestures well, and she started strongly

with her use of the word “love.” But Ann Romney could have used stories – with a

beginning, middle, and end — to connect with the audience in a heartfelt way. For

example, what makes a real marriage? How did Mitt help her when she was ill?

What was it like to be the father of five kids? How does he make her laugh?
•    She was nervous. Her pace of speaking was too fast. The listeners never

had an opportunity to stop and appreciate her, and get involved with it…[but] she

did the best she could with the speech that she had.

Keynote speaker Chris Christie scored slightly higher than Ann Romney, overall, in

the panelists’ estimation. They had this to say:

•    Chris Christie’s body language and facial expressions were great, and he

had some interesting things to say.
•    What was the point of this keynote? It took him 17 minutes before he

even mentioned Governor Romney.
•    His constant intensity and anger were difficult…he seemed on edge. It

was surprising he wasn’t more upbeat and positive.

There are 16 shows in the series, and there will be a post

every Monday PLUS every night that there is a special event, such as the

conventions and the actual debates. Dr. Becker and other

panelists are available to expand upon their critiques of the Republic Convention

speakers, and to rate their performances objectively. You can hear the podcast here:

Candidates’ Communication Choices written by Monica Murphy

5 Ways to Persuade the Undecided 6 Percent of Voters

Six percent of all Americans who are eligible to vote in the November presidential

election aren’t aligned with a political party. This undecided group will make all the


What do the voters who are still on the fence need to hear, or see, to make their

choice among the candidates? Here are the communication choices candidates

make that will determine who is the next president, and vice president, of the

United States:

1.    Word Selection. The successful candidate will choose specific words that

conjure up emotional images. For example, Paul Ryan walks onstage with his mom,

Betty, and promises to end this raid on Medicare. He assures his listeners that the

board will not mess with “your” mom’s or “my” mom’s healthcare. Ryan chooses

the words “your” and “my” to build a rapport with his audience, and words like

“raid,” “promise,” and “piggybank” are designed to motivate seniors to run into

the voting booth, as fast as they can get there, to protect themselves from an

encroachment upon their Medicare benefits and a threat against their healthcare.

Point made!

2.    Vocal Variety. Along with choosing the right words, candidates have to

work on their inflection, volume, and pace. Before the dawning of YouTube and

other broadcast media outlets – when the print media reigned – all that mattered

was the content of the candidates’ messages. Today, we’re going to hear the ways

in which the candidates deliver their messages. This is the time for President

Obama to tap into his much-remarked-upon vocal talents. A man who can channel

Al Green has no excuse, ever, to slip into a boring monotone and let his listeners

(and his potential supporters) slip away!

3.    Distilling the message. Candidates need the ability to be concise in their

verbal and written communication. Voters are looking for concise, easy-to-

understand strategies. Usually, less is more. Sentences that are very short – 8 to

13 words, no more – are the most persuasive. Even the best politicians derail

themselves when their sentences are too long. Listeners tune out. Even the best

language in a long sentence loses a listener. Mitt Romney has mastered the art of

editing the highlights of his strategies and plans into concise sound bites that his

listeners can easily digest. A candidate who does the best job editing does the best

job selling him- or herself to those undecided voters.

4.    Smile, smile, smile. While some of the undecided six percent of voters are

aural, and will make their choices based on what they hear, others are more

attuned to visual – that is, nonverbal — persuasion. They’ll rely on a candidate’s

facial expression for their cues about whom to trust, and a smile will go a long way

toward making that decision. The ability to smile naturally when speaking to a

group, even if your topic isn’t humorous, is a way to demonstrate warmth and build

a rapport. Joe Biden has mastered the art of smiling to present himself as

approachable. He keeps that smile on his face frequently and naturally – and, in

November, he may just find those undecided voters smiling back at him.

5.    Using Your Aristotle. So much of what we know about public speaking

today derives from what Aristotle taught us, and the successful candidates will tap

into this ancient wisdom. They’ll use ethos, pathos, and logos appropriately. Ethos

relies on the speaker’s credibility. How easy should it be for an incumbent

president – or, for that matter, for a  corporate executive – that he has an extensive

background in leadership? Pathos moves past speakers’ credibility to their ability

to connect emotionally with their listeners. Remember Paul Ryan’s mother, Betty?

She was (along with being a mother) a wonderful rhetorical prop, and Joe Biden

uses his own pathos when, for instance, he recalls losing his wife and daughter in a

car crash. As for logos, the use of logic to make your argument? Mitt Romney’s

five-point-plan for achieving energy independence can appeal to voters who want

to hear substantive ideas. President Obama’s has – it’s a bit more complicated, but

it still appeals to voters’ intellect – a twenty-five point plan to reform IT

management. Ethos, pathos, and logos … the best use of those old pillars of

communication will help someone win the Oval Office in November.

When an election is as close as the November election is shaping up to be,

communication matters. The candidates who win the votes are the ones who can

build trust and rapport with the undecided six percent of the voters through the

content, and style, of their speech and through their visual presentation. All of the

candidates this time around seem to have the tools necessary for success. The pair

of candidates who use those tools most wisely, and most consistently, will be our

next U.S. president and vice president. Good luck, and good communication, to all

of the candidates!

Monica Murphy is a Senior Coaching Partner with Brookline, Massachusetts-based

The Speech Improvement Company. Visit her online at

Suspect Found 12 shot dead at ‘Dark Knight Rises’ screening in Aurora, Colorado

A suspect was apprehended in the shopping center’s parking lot, Oates said.He was named as 24-year-old James Holmes.

Twelve people were killed and at least 50 others wounded early Friday when a gunman wearing a bullet-proof vest opened fire during a midnight screening of the latest Batman movie near Denver, authorities and witnesses said.

A three-month-old child and a six-year-old girl were among those treated, according to reports.

Authorities said the gunman had appeared at the front of the theater during the film and released a canister of tear gas. Witnesses told reporters that the gunfire erupted during a shootout scene in “The Dark Knight Rises”.

“It was mass chaos,” witness Jennifer Seeger told TODAY. The gunman shot the ceiling and then “he threw in the gas can, and then I knew it was real.”

“I told my friend, ‘We’ve got to get out of here,’ but then he shot people trying to go out the exits,” she recalled. She said the shooter made his way up the aisle, shooting as he went, saying nothing.

Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates initially told journalists that 14 people had been killed but the figure was later lowered to 12.

The incident occurred in the Century 16 Movie Theaters at the Aurora Town Center, police told NBC News. Aurora is a suburb less than 10 miles east of downtown Denver.

NBC station KUSA-Denver cited a witness as seeing a black-clad 6-foot-tall man wearing a riot helmet, goggles and bullet-proof vest.

However, many people attended the film dressed in Batman-related costumes.

Witnesses said the gunman entered the theater through an emergency exit door.

The suspect was found in possession of a gas mask, Oates said. Ammunition was found in the suspect’s car, police said.

The shooter had three weapons — an assault-type rifle and two handguns, officials told NBC News. Holmes’ car has Tennessee plates but authorities say he was living locally.

Holmes’ apartment building in north Aurora was evacuated after he made a statement to police about possible explosives at his home, Oates said. Local and federal authorities later entered the apartment.

An FBI official said that the agency was working with local authorities on the investigation, but that there was no early indication of a link to terrorism. Holmes was not on any federal law-enforcement watch lists.




North Korea rocket breaks up soon after launch

North Korea’s long-range rocket failed early Friday, U.S. officials said.

The rocket broke up soon after taking off.

“All indications are that it failed,” one official said but went on to say that they are still looking into it.

The White House said it would issue a statement, NBC News reported.

The launch, which North Korea’s neighbors and the West say is a disguised ballistic missile test, was to take a three-stage rocket over a sea separating the Korean peninsula from China before releasing a weather satellite into orbit when the third stage fires over waters near the Philippines.

Regional powers also worried it could be the prelude to another nuclear test, such as one the hermit state conducted in 2009.

The South Korean Defense Ministry announced that North Korea fired the long range rocket Friday morning around 7:38 a.m. The ministry later also said the rocket broke into several pieces in the air a few minutes after launch, based on joint intelligence from South Korea and the United States.

North Korea had announced it was planning the launch of an observation satellite to celebrate Sunday’s centennial of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the country’s late founder.

“There is not a lot of information being disseminated at this point,” said Richard Engel, NBC News’ chief foreign correspondent, who is in North Korea. “But we did hear just a short while ago after the launch took place, after it was confirmed internationally, some martial music playing in the street, some fighter jets flying overhead. This is a national celebration time in North Korea and this rocket launch and this satellite launch, as the government describes it, is seen as a source of pride.”

The Japanese Defense Minister said early Friday that the North Korea rocket test had no effect on Japanese territory.

The U.S. earlier canceled food aid when North Korea announced the rocket test, despite Pyongyang’s February agreement to suspend all tests in exchange for food, NBC News reported.

Earlier Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said after meeting with G8 foreign ministers that the U.S. would be going to the UN Security Council to seek action. U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice is the rotating President of the Security Council and controls when to call a meeting.

North Korea launches long-range missile

North Korea launched a long-range rocket early Friday, U.S. officials confirmed.

The White House said it would issue a statement, NBC News reported.

The launch, which North Korea’s neighbors and the West say is a disguised ballistic missile test, will take a three-stage rocket over a sea separating the Korean peninsula from China before releasing a weather satellite into orbit when the third stage fires over waters near the Philippines.

Regional powers also worry it could be the prelude to another nuclear test, a pattern the hermit state set in 2009.

The South Korean Defense Ministry announced that North Korea fired the long range rocket around Friday morning around 7:38 a.m. and the success of the launch was being tracked by the joint military of South Korea and United States.

North Korea begins to fuel rockets

North Korea said on Wednesday it was injecting fuel into a long-range rocket “as we speak” ahead of a launch condemned by its neighbors and the West.

The launch is set to take place between Thursday and next Monday and has prompted neighbors such as the Philippines to re-route their air traffic just in case.

Japan said it would shoot down the rocket if it crossed its airspace.

The launch of the Unha-3 rocket, which North Korea says will merely put a weather satellite into space, breaches U.N. sanctions imposed to prevent Pyongyang from developing a missile that could carry a nuclear warhead.


“This launch will give credence to the view that North Korean leaders see improved relations with the outside world as a threat to their system,” Clinton told cadets at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

“And recent history strongly suggests that additional provocations may follow.”

She also called on China to do more to ensure regional stability.

China, impoverished North Korea’s only major ally, on Tuesday reiterated its pleas for calm and said it had “repeatedly expressed its concern and anxiety about the developments”, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told a press briefing in Beijing.

No grand jury for Travyon Martin case states Prosecutor

A special prosecutor has decided not to use a grand jury in the Trayvon Martin case.

State Attorney Angela Corey’s decision is not to be considered a factor in whether charges are eventually brought against George Zimmerman, Corey’s office said in a statement.

The grand jury, which was previously scheduled by the prosecutor, was set to convene on Tuesday.

Martin, a 17-year-old from Miami Gardens, was shot to death by Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, at a gated community in Sanford on Feb. 26.

Mega Millions Update – Winning tickets sold in 3 states

Winning tickets for the record-breaking $640 million Mega Millions jackpot were sold in Illinois, Kansas and Maryland, according to the Massachusetts State Lottery and The Associated Press.

The winning Illinois ticket — a quick pick sold at the Moto Mart in Red Bud, Illinois — is worth $213.3 million, according to the Illinois lottery.

The winning Maryland ticket was sold in Baltimore County, the Maryland Lottery said Saturday.

The winning numbers were 2, 4, 23, 38, 46 with a Mega Ball of 23.

California Lottery Commission spokesman Alex Traverso said 29 tickets sold in that state matched five of the six winning numbers. He said the payout will be about $125,000 to $130,000.

The multistate jackpot caused long lines at convenience stores, with many dreaming of creative ways to quit their jobs if they get the lucky numbers.

Sales skyrocketed at Manhattan Tobacco, a New York convenience store, cashier Alex Shanahe said. He said the store has proved to be lucky before, having sold winning tickets of $3 million and $5 million.

“The sales have tripled. Everybody wants to win the Mega Millions,” Shanahe said before the drawing.

A single winner could claim yearly payments or a one-time cash option of $462 million, Mega Millions spokeswoman Kelly Cripe said.

Official: Winning lottery ticket sold in Maryland

Maryland lottery officials have announced early Saturday their state sold what could become the world’s largest lottery payout of all-time, but it was unclear if that ticket holder would get sole possession of the $640 million jackpot.

Carole Everett, director of communications for the Maryland Lottery, told the AP the winning Mega Millions ticket was purchased at a Baltimore County store. She said it’s too early to know any other information about the lucky ticket-holder or whether others were sold elsewhere in the nation.

The winning numbers for the Mega Millions prize were 46, 23, 38, 4, 2; mega ball was 23, lottery officials said late Friday.

Video of Zimmerman in Trayvon Martin case raises questions



Forensic experts say newly released video by police of the man who shot Trayvon Martin raises more questions than it answers — but that’s not stopping droves of amateur sleuths on TV, Twitter and Facebook from scrutinizing it anyway.

“I think the public should not draw any conclusions from this at all,” said Grant Fredericks, who once headed the forensic video unit for the Vancouver (British Columbia) Police Department.

The video should be just a fraction of the evidence available to police as they investigate George Zimmerman’s claim that he shot and killed Trayvon, 17, after the teenager allegedly punched the neighborhood watch volunteer in the nose and slammed his head against the ground, Fredericks said.

The Feb. 26 shooting in Sanford, Fla., has brought national attention because Trayvon’s family claims Zimmerman killed the unarmed youth after racially stereotyping him. Trayvon was black. Police say Zimmerman is white; his family says he is Hispanic.

Zimmerman’s brother, Robert Zimmerman Jr., told CNN Thursday that reports his brother was chasing the teen are “absolutely false” and that he “was not patrolling the neighborhood. He was going to a store, Target.”

Robert Zimmerman said the voice heard screaming on 911 tapes is that of his brother, who acted to save his own life. He said George Zimmerman “was very disappointed that none of the neighbors had come out” to help him. He said his brother would have been dead “if he had not acted decisively and instantaneously.”

The police security camera video shows Zimmerman exiting a patrol car and entering the Sanford Police Department about 35 minutes after the shooting. Images of Zimmerman’s head and face reveal no obvious cuts or gashes, but at one point, a police officer inspects the back of his head. Zimmerman’s lawyer, Craig Sonner, told NBC’s Today the video supports his client’s story because the officer may have been looking at an injury.

The public weighed in on social media sites. Many expressed disbelief at Zimmerman’s claim that he fired in self-defense, and pointed to the grainy video as proof.

Trayvon’s family and supporters say Zimmerman’s lack of apparent injury in the video shows he lied about the teen attacking him.

Forensic video expert David Notowitz, founder of the National Center for Audio and Video Forensics, says much work remains before investigators can draw evidence from the video. “Right now, people are jumping to frantic conclusions,” he said.