I tell the president to start speeches in the most organic way possible. You wouldn’t start a conversation by saying ‘As John F. Kennedy once said…’, so you shouldn’t start a speech that way either.
It’s good to put in jokes that are really funny but not ‘appropriate’ for a politician to tell.
The personal stories that work tell people why you do the things you do. If you’re telling a personal story make it authentic – talk about tough times.
What might seem like a good needling of the opposition on paper sounds a bit harsher in reality and you won’t get the applause. So a little goes a long way – the press will always pick up on it when you try to ‘draw a contrast’ as we call it. Humour is a great approach.
“I’m no longer just a candidate. I’m the president. I know what it means to send young Americans into battle, for I have held in my arms the mothers and fathers of those who didn’t return.” These lines were going to be at the top of the speech, but we moved them to the end because it was worth having a dramatic moment …