Jeff Kennett final speech as Hawks President

I was lucky enough to be invited to the President’s Lunch for the Hawks game against the Western Bulldogs last week.

Jeff Kennett spoke for the last time at this event as Hawks President. His stint ends at the club’s AGM on December 14, when Andrew Newbold takes over. The room was full with 600 members, guests and a large media contingent.

His speech was very good.

Why? Let’s focus on 3 reasons:

  1. He had a strong message.
  2. He connected with the people in the room.
  3. He used a couple of tactics for a great explanation.


1. The message

Even though the speech went for 20 minutes, if you asked all 600 people in the room what the key message was, you would hear a similar answer. Something like; ‘Tasmania’s sponsorship of Hawthorn gives a great return – about 4 times more than previously thought.’ The journalists got this. Here’s what they published:

Jeff Kennett said an independent piece of research undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers had shown Tasmania’s sponsorship of the club was worth $58 million a year to the state – not $15 million as previously suggested.

“I don’t know of any sponsorship in Australia that in percentage terms gives such a real return for the sponsor. It is an extraordinary partnership.” Kennett said.

By having a clear message, the audience feels they have heard something of substance.


2. Connecting with everyone in the room

It was a big room with bustling tables spread more than 180 degrees around the speaker – who is up on a raised platform with a fixed microphone on a lectern. The challenge; as people talk amongst themselves on these round tables, especially at the back and sides of the room, the speaker is overpowered.

The opposite happened. The room stayed quiet and focused on the speaker. One reason for this is that Jeff periodically turned his gaze – and entire body – to face every section of this large L-shaped room. Even though the microphone didn’t pick up his voice so we well when he turned his head, he connect with us all.

Everyone felt included. This helped spread the speaker’s presence and energy throughout the room. Many speakers shrink back to their notes on the lectern which makes them appear smaller in relation to the room.

The secret here is that you don’t have to look at every face, just every section of the room.


3. Tactics for a great explanation

Jeff used a couple of simple ideas to add impact. Firstly he had a prop, in this case a document from PricewaterhouseCoopers, which he waved in the air when setting up the story and while making his key points. It gave the audience something to focus on and added perceived substance to the story.

He used anticipation and curiosity by taking a few minutes to set up the value of what he found in the report (rather than just telling us in the beginning). This is what Spielberg does in ‘Jaws’. You don’t see the shark until late in the movie.

Finally, he involved another person in the room. Referring to someone in the audience always helps connect the speaker and audience. In this case, it was the Premier of Tasmania; “You are probably not even aware of what’s in this report!”



So this engaging speech was built on a clear message, evidence to support the message and a strong intention to connect with the audience. These are simple techniques that all of us can us to have more impact.


If you’d like to develop compelling speaking skills, consider:

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