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How to hold an audience: Santiago gives surefire tips

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Start with a joke, keep it short, and leave ‘em laughing.

That, according to Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, is the secret to getting a big turnout and keeping an audience interested.

Santiago, who isn’t even running for office, has remained the most sought after public speaker today and that’s because of her humorous speeches, said Tom Tolibas, the senator’s media coordinator.

“It’s both the jokes and her deadpan style of delivering the punchline. Her timing is very professional, and nobody can come close to her ad libs. That’s her real and patented secret,” Tolibas said.

At a gathering of some 3,000 participants at a convention for entrepreneurs on March 1, Santiago played to the crowd by starting her speech with her signature jokes.

“It has been confirmed. I am sick,” the senator said. “This disease compels me to become more beautiful as I grow older. But don’t worry, the disease is not infectious. Unfortunately, I will never be cured.”

The crowd roared its approval, scoring another hit for the senator whose reputation for playing up her looks in her jokes precedes her.

Santiago said her speeches were successful because “they are short, humorous and, as much as possible, inspirational.”

And that was just for starters.

As soon as she had her audience’s full attention, the senator launched into the main points of her speech, which was gender equality at that gathering on March 1, the start of International Women’s Month.

Santiago gave a masterful analysis of gender equality and told her audience that the value of entrepreneurship lay in its being an option for poor unemployed women.

She ended her speech with a scathing attack against political dynasties, and a message of hope by reciting the first stanza of “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” a poem written by Julie Ward Howe.

As she stepped off the stage, Santiago was besieged by screaming fans requesting a photo opportunity with her. As always, security guards had to pluck her from the crowd.

She shrugged off the adulation. “Another day at the office,” she told reporters when asked how she felt about being mobbed.

Santiago, a champion debater at the University of the Philippines during her student days, has been on a speaking tour of the country since 1992, when she ran for, and almost won, the presidency. Her work week, she said, has always included at least one speech, most often on a university campus.

The senator had to refuse invitations to Bangkok, Thailand, and Doha, Qatar, because she is still unfit to travel abroad, according to her social secretary, Sandy Schala.

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Tags: Miriam Defensor-Santiago , People , Philippines , Politics , public speaking

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