Advice to the President on Giving the State of the Union Message

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

If President Obama were to ask me for advice on his State of the Union message tonight, I’d tell him to keep it simple. Limit yourself to one critical issue that you want the US Congress and the American public to support over the next year. Give two points if you really must. And if you get to three or more points, you’ll lose your audience.

The problem is that Presidents, for as long as I can remember, have delivered veritable shopping lists of things of things they want to accomplish over the coming year. There is usually something in the list for everyone. “And for little Billy, a new bicycle.”  State of the Union night is the one night of the year that insomniacs can get a good night’s sleep. Just turn on the TV and let the President (any president) lull you into dreamland.

As a leader of change, listen to the speech tonight and see if it grabs you and makes you want to do something (other than reaching for the remote). Corporate leaders, like Presidents, cover too many things when they are trying to influence their audiences. The ancient Roman orator, Cato the Censor, said, “Stick to the point and the words will take care of themselves.” And, you’ll note that Cato said point – not points.