In a world of boring, bland speeches, good ones stand out. I recently had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Kansas’s always-eloquent governor, Mark Parkinson. His keynote speech for the Wichita State University Alumni Association’s annual Shocker Honor Scholar Banquet enthralled the 550 high-school juniors and parents in attendance. I’ve been thinking about both what he had to say – and how he said it.
Governor Parkinson certainly makes use of years on the WSU debate team. He is fast on his feet. No written notes or PowerPoint slides for this pro. Instead, this native Wichitan speaks from his heart. He connects with his audience. The Governor spoke about the joy that comes from choosing a career based on passion rather than the hope of future wealth or fame.
More than just a speaker
The Governor took a personal interest in the students honored at the banquet. While the rest of the room was enticed by dinner, the Governor left his plate to make the rounds and congratulate students individually. Stopping for a picture. Pausing for a hug. He also listened to what they had to say. He used that recent, relevant knowledge to tailor his speech and make it even more interesting. He peppered his comments with anecdotes: “A student I just met is majoring in such-and-such,” or “So-and-so plans to make a difference by tackling this issue.” Governor Parkinson reminded me that what makes a good presenter, is the same thing that makes a good friend. Or a good leader. Someone who listens and learns.