Save the President from strenuous speech

Uhuru Kenyatta

President Uhuru Kenyatta delivers the State of the Nation Address at Parliament Buildings on November 30, 2021.

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Reading the State of the Nation address is a solemn session. 
  • The president's speech should, therefore, be neither dreary nor dry.

After reading his 8th State of the Nation address for two hours non-stop, President Uhuru Kenyatta still had many more pages unread. He threw a gaze at parliamentarians and complained that he was weary. He wanted to get over the energy-sucking speech. His audience’s patience was running thin.

Reading the State of the Nation address is a solemn session. It’s a moment for the President to use the bully pulpit to inspire confidence in Kenyans, highlight the government’s achievements, and stimulate hope about the future.

His speech should, therefore, be neither dreary nor dry. As the keynote speaker, he should be animated and enthusiastic about his message. When making pitches, leaders often harness the modern technology tools to lighten-up their speech, connect with their audience, and make their message memorable.

An audience’s patience wanes with time, so the speaker must use it sparingly. Keynote speakers often use cordless mics to liberate themselves from the prison of the podium. They employ PowerPoint slides, charts, infographics, or teleprompters as props to their message. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

The presidency has a battery of cameramen who trail him everywhere he goes and capture thousands of images and hours of video footage. Some of these can be deftly beamed on big screens to punctuate the speech.

For example, if the President talks about the thousands of kilometres of roads that his government has built, project pictures of completed roads on a TV screen in the room to echo his point.

Pictures and video clips

If he is urging Kenyans to be vaccinated against Covid-19, he can use vivid pictures to illuminate the dangers posed by Covid-19 and the benefits of vaccines.

Short strategic video clips played at crucial points of the speech add flavour to the pitch. Such would reinforce the President’s points, bring clarity, and buy him a moment to catch his breath. These additional visuals can tap the emotions of the so-called mama mboga, boda boda riders, farmers, and herders. With these enhancements, everybody would relate to the State of the Nation address instead of seeing it as an elite members’ club conference.

A teleprompter is a convenient tool but rarely used. Two or three teleprompters in front of the President can help him move his head from right to left and centre. He would appear natural, as if he is speaking from his heart.

Aptly used, such strategies keep the listeners engaged and attentive. They leave the room with a lot to chew. President’s aides should use these tools to save him from the long and laborious speeches.

Snippets of such speeches would be tweeted, texted, emailed, and posted on social media. Embrace modern tech to save the President the pain of mind-numbing speeches.

Mr. Wambugu is an informatician. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @Samwambugu2

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