What can we learn from Phil Davison about public speaking?

I’m sure most of you have already seen the hilarious video of Phil Davison, a US Republican candidate, delivering his speech for the Stark Country Treasurer nomination.

If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and check it out below.

Reading through the blogosphere, everyone is quick to make a joke of Phil’s “Master of Communications”.

Phil Davidson - Master of Communication

Phil Davidson – Master of Communication

But no-one has talked about what he has done well from a communication point of view, so here is my take on it.


I have lost count of the number of speeches I have sat through delivered by brilliant people who lack anything more than a monotone voice. I prefer to refer to these types of speeches as “nap time”

On the other hand, Phil Davison’s passion about his subject grabs your attention and keeps it. No sleeping through Phil’s speech.

Memorable Hooks

Whenever I do public speaking engagements, I work to the rule that people will only ever remember three things at most about your presentation, so you have to come up with some memorable hooks to help them take out what you desire.

Phil Davison’s speech has these hooks in spades, with such lines as “I will hit the ground running, come out swinging, and end up winning”.

This is also a key reason the speech has become a remix sensation on YouTube. These sorts of hooks are also Tweetable.


The old public speaking axiom is “tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them”. Basically repetition is key, especially for the three points you want your audience to remember.

Phil makes a point to repeat himself preceded by “I’m going to repeat that so I have clarity tonight”.


Using famous quotes is a tried-and-true technique for speech writing. Someone has probably already said what you are trying to say, and better, so quote them.

In Phil’s case, Albert Einstein’s “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity” quote is a good one. Unfortunately Phil’s Freudian slip of  “In the middle of opportunity…” made this one not go over so well.


Public speaking is more about body language than we refuse to acknowledge. Personally. I believe that if you stand at a podium for an entire speech, the only thing you have achieved is being a better target for a thrown tomato.

Phil Davison owns the stage. He walks from side to side, emphasising his points with hand gestures. Unfortunately these hand gestures are a little too aggressive for the type of speech Phil is delivering, but he is on the right track.

Owning the pauses

Another common mistake with public speaking, is speaking too fast without pausing. Pauses don’t have to be awkward, and are extremely powerful, if you own them

At times in this speech Phil absolutely owns his pauses. My favourite is when he is listing his credentials (at 0:45) and pauses before “Masters of Communication”. You are left hanging on what he is going to say.

Not reading all the time

I hate scripted speeches. Let me repeat that…I HATE SCRIPTED SPEECHES! Whenever I speak publicly, I restrict myself to 3-5 bullet points then just talk naturally from those.

Phil’s speech is scripted, but at least he isn’t reading all the time. A few more practice runs and Phil would have nailed it.

Referencing people in the crowd

This is one of my public speaking secret weapons. I always make a point of mingling before the presentation, then mentioning people I meet in the crowd as I am speaking. It makes that person’s day, and shows the rest of the crowd that your speech is  not scripted (see above).

Phil pulls this off nicely with “I hark back to what my friend Alex has said”.

In Summary

I think everyone needs to stop hating on Phil Davison. The guy clearly is a Master of Communications.

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Categories: Public Speaking, Viral Marketing


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