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Blog : Time for a stump speech?


Time for a stump speech?

by Jane Sunley, CEO learnpurple


The American’s have gifted the English language many phrases, but one of the timeliest is the term ‘stump speech’.

This expression comes from the rousing speeches 19th century American politicians delivered as they travelled the campaign route. In lieu of a stage or platform, the politician’s would make a pedestal from a sawed off tree stump. Repetition was the key – although the speech was often tweaked to suit local audiences the key message stayed the same, making sure everyone who heard it knew the call to action.

I thought of stump speeches again when, following on from market panic since the USA’s downgraded credit rating, I heard an economics expert on the Today programme talking common sense.

He said that unless people stopped panicking and kept up with their consumer spending, they will actually cause a double dip in the recession. According to said expert, it’s time for everyone to pull together, keep positive and spend our way out of recession. In very simplistic terms, if people start worrying they’ll lose their jobs, they’ll stop spending and thus contribute to economic downfall, we need people to keep calm and carry on. If ever there was a time to keep people on message and consistently make certain points it is now.

Whilst a stump speech’s main purpose is to enthuse an audience with a call to action which they can believe and aspire to, they are also an effective way to deliver a challenge or congratulations. Saying that, however, it is in times of change they are at their most potent.

With uncertainty creeping back upon us, now’s the time for leaders to give people renewed confidence. Every individual needs to be aligned with the right mindset to really go for it in order to contribute to the UK’s recovery.  Every little helps.

Barriers to keeping everyone ‘on message’ sometimes come from within. There persists a belief that people need information on a need to know basis. Sad to say that in many organisations there are managers who feel knowledge is power and are loathe to relinquish information down the line. There are also those who believe that they just can’t find the time to communicate with care, consistency and clarity. However there is nothing more important than letting your people know that an organisation’s doing well. And even if they could do better, they’ll only be able to do that if people feel secure and committed to making their contribution.

It is so important for leaders at all levels to fully understand the extent of their responsibilities when it comes to communication. It is also crucial that they have the attitude, skills and knowledge to enable them to deliver. This is where a corporate stump speech comes into its own, the body message will always be the same but it can be tweaked to the individual audiences. In times of change – a clear directive is key.

It should be noted though, however great the message, when it comes to stump speeches, it is all about the delivery. The person rousing the troops must possess the right skills and attitude to be able to inspire. A poorly executed speech can have the opposite effect.  If not they should take professional advice or let someone else deliver the message – there’s often only one opportunity to make the required impression and get all your people behind you.

Now is the time to inspire.


Who do you know who’s an inspirational leader when it comes to the stump speech?

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