You’ve been there, admit it.
You’re working on an upcoming presentation and come up with an idea that’ll really wow ’em.
The idea is slightly crazy because the gimmick is really not worth the risk, but “Oh, what the heck,” you say. “I’ll try it anyway!”
Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, used such a trick recently and it backfired badly. The resulting gaffe caused a bunch of people to take notice and some Canadian citizens to feel slighted. Watch the video here.
Trudeau’s idea was to name the ten provinces and three territories one at a time, pausing in between to give audience members a chance to cheer for their favorite location.
Well, this memory trick seemed like a good idea at the time, anyway.
The young Prime Minister apparently got all caught up in all the excitement and accidentally left out Alberta. And people noticed. People from Alberta really noticed. Because the speech was being given on Canada Day.
Trudueau is normally a pretty good speaker. He’s earnest, displays a youthful exuberance, and has a good command of the King’s English.
Later in the festivities, Justin blithely played off the mistake, but that’s not the point.
The point is, that flashy gimmick wasn’t worth the effort.
Memory tricks are hard to, um, remember
I’ve certainly tried my share of speaker gimmicks. There are a bunch of YouTube videos of yours truly that document my public speaking snafus.
I once attempted to recite the Presidents of the United States in order. Everything was going fine until a guy in the audience interrupted me. Watch here or just click the graphic below.
Anyway, here’s our takeaway from the Trudeau Canada Day speech.
If you want to try the “the long list” technique, I recommend reading from notes or a teleprompter.
By the way, it could be that Prime Minister Trudeau was reading from a teleprompter, in which case I recommend good, old-fashioned proofreading.
If you’d rather be safe than sorry, avoid reading the list and just be okay with a general reference to the list as a whole.
And Trudeau was working with a short list. Consider the challenge for a U.S. President to mention all 50 states by memory. Heck, some politicians can’t remember three things when speaking in public.
Speaking gimmicks are great, when they work
In a nationally televised debate in 2012, Presidential candidate, Rick Perry, then Governor of Texas, couldn’t name the three agencies he promised to eliminate. Perry wasn’t using gimmicks in the true sense, but the mistake was tremendously embarrassing and Perry eventually had to drop out of the race. Watch here.
The moral is to stick to the basics when giving speeches or presenting. Get tips in this blog post.
Anyway, Happy 150th anniversary to Canada, Mr. Prime Minister.
I’m a fan, even if the citizens of Alberta are a little disappointed in you.