At the recent Republican National Convention, Academy Award winning director Clint Eastwood took the stage to rally support for Mitt Romney. In the only unscripted speech of the night, Eastwood announced that he would ask questions to an imaginary President Obama sitting in the chair beside him.
Eastwood’s speech received many laughs and provided a break from the steady stream of focus-group-approved, carefully crafted speeches. That said, he jumped from topic to topic without transition, yielding a rambling and unfocused speech. To fill the silences between his talking points, he pretended to listen to insults coming from the imaginary President Obama; and then responded inappropriately to “the chair”.
This long-winded dialogue lacked direction and exceeded the time limit, two basic flaws that preparation can fix. Ultimately, Eastwood’s speech detracted from the convention’s purpose. Instead of focusing on Mitt Romney’s merits as a presidential candidate, the post-convention buzz has revolved around Eastwood’s speech.
Public speaking requires a delicate balance between preparation and off-the-cuff speaking. Only through a mixture of the two can a speaker ensure that the speech stays on topic and flows smoothly, but not dully. The goal: an extemporaneous speech, one that is prepared, not memorized, and delivered in a conversational tone. Eastwood failed to balance those elements.