A famous political consultant used to say “In a tsunami, a lot of shit gets washed up on shore.” After meeting Members of Congress one often scratches their head as to how in the hell they got elected in the first place. The reality is that no matter how awful a candidate is, if they have certain skills they can increase their chances of success exponentially.
The skills that make good candidates great candidates vary. Some can give a phenomenal impromptu speech with no preparation. Some will remember your name years after meeting you once. Some can meet every single person in a room and create deep feelings of connection in under 30 seconds.
While watching C-SPAN today (yes, people actually watch C-SPAN,) a parade of Congressmen spoke from the podium for 60 seconds each, alternating between Democrats and Republicans. This is designed so each Representative has video of them speaking about the government shutdown to show to constituents as a way of saying “Look! I’m doing something.” I was particularly struck by how good, and bad, some Congressmen are when it comes to giving speeches.
James Lankford (OK-05) was particularly impressive this morning. He spoke without notes, looked directly into the camera and delivered an impassioned plea. Whether it was scripted and rehearsed or entirely impromptu is irrelevant. It appeared authentic. By comparison, a certain Congressman from New York who was so bad he will not be named read all his remarks off the paper and never once looked at the camera. It was as if he was reading it for the first time that very moment. Clearly his staff had written his statement for him and he hadn’t bothered to review his statement before he gave it. He butchered words, lost his place and went on past his allotted time.
Remembering people’s names is very tricky for most candidates. You meet so many people, how can you be expected to remember everyone? Most people will cut you some slack, but if you repeatedly ask them their names they will dislike you. This is why most candidates say “nice to see you” and not “nice to meet you.” It provides a level of cover if you have met someone before but don’t remember them.
So how do you actually remember people’s names? Bracketing! When someone introduces themselves to you, say their name back to them. “Hi, I’m John.” “John. It’s so great to see you.” At the end of the next sentence, use their name again. “I’d like to ask for your support, John.” People like hearing their own name and no one will notice you aredoing this. After the second sentence, say their name SILENTLY in your head 3-5 times. “John, John, John, John, John.” If you do it out loud people will think you’re a weirdo, so do it in your head but it really works.