We were excited to work with Steve Grove from Google on his recent speech at the Personal Democracy Forum 2013 in New York. Steve did a phenomenal job on so many levels. Check out how still he remains throughout his speech. Resisting the temptation to wander around the stage is one of the trickiest things […]
Our work at the Guthrie for the past 4 years has confirmed our faith in a story-centric approach to training. Placing the Guthrie’s story-telling expertise at the center of these Ethics and Elimination of Bias CLEs turned an otherwise boring compulsory course into an engaging examination of human interaction–what it’s meant to be. Instead of […]
President Obama’s words have impressed many, but it’s his silences that have cemented his oratorical preeminence. This is especially clear when you compare his speech to Congress to Governor Jindal’s response.
One of the clearest marks of a good speaker is the amount, duration and placement of pauses. Ironically, these silence, more than any other audible characteristic of speech, that underscore the poise, thoughtfulness, and careful construction of an expert speaker.
A rudimentary graphic representation of the President’s speech shows this. Pauses as consistently significant and well-placed as these give listeners a sense of confidence. This makes physiological sense as well—the adrenaline and other by-products of the fight-or-flight reaction that washes over us in public settings forces voices faster and higher. Speakers who are able to maintain a steady pace and tone have effectively coped with this surge of adversity.
You ever wonder why instead of the weekly presidential address being broadcast on YouTube, the White House doesn’t just send out an email? It’d be faster, more people could read it, and the ideas could be more complex.
Or why instead of a video greeting to Iran, didn’t Obama just order leaflets dropped over Iran, wishing them happy new year and well wishes? Again, more people could get the message.
Or, why do we still have a constitutional right to confront our accuser? Or, why it’s so important for big business deals or mergers to be sealed with a handshake or at a meeting?
At every significant stage of politics, our legal system and business, there is still no acceptable substitute to face-to-face communication.
One of the primary goals of public speaking-or, whenever we speak-is to be understood to mean what we say.
Yet, one of the funny little ironies about speaking in public is that most often speakers sound different, disconnected even, when repeating words they very well may have written. I’m constantly amazed at how alienating speakers can sound when they essentially force pre-packaged phrases on an audience thirsty for authenticity and meaning.
One of the most effective exercises that demonstrates this is to ask someone to explain what they just said (or read). Automatically, the mind and body shifts into their most efficient communication “gear” and you often hear someone genuinely try to explain something to you. What you hear then is more their “real” voice than a “speechified” or ill-prepared delivery. The goal for a speaker is to match the reading voice and the speaking voice so that they’re indistinguishable. The solution is to “own” your words. “Owning” in this context requires an investment of time to first memorize the carefully crafted words and then embodying the specific intent of the message. This is what professional actors do with their lines, essentially duplicating the natural process of conversation.
Time magazine declared Rush Limbaugh good for Republicans. Whether or not you agree with Mr. Limbaugh’s views, there is little doubt that, when he speaks, you understand and appreciate what he’s saying. There is little about the way he expresses himself that-again, on a technical level-distracts or detracts from his message.
In a previous post, I contrasted the styles of the President and the Republican reply highlighting the strengths and deficiencies of each speaker. On a technical level, Governor Jindal is not as capable at maintaining as clear and measured a delivery as Barack Obama is. As with all good speakers, in addition to speaking without distraction, Mr. Obama is able to finesse his delivery to support the content of his speech.
However, despite the technical capability of the Democratic President, good speaking does not obey party lines.