Sunday, 15 January 2012

HOW TO GIVE A BETTER SPEECH THAN OBAMA and change your world - (A Lesson From GW Bush) Darren Kelly, Kellcomm, Blog - Day 55


Can you imagine having to motivate a team of extraordinary but crestfallen heroes while standing on the crushed remains of a fire engine? That was the task that faced GW Bush after 9/11 as he inspired his country while speaking through a megaphone at Ground Zero. Bush and New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani proved that passionate words at desperate times can be the simple fuel to inspire and reassure people. However, Bush generally struggled when he faced the media, and that was his fault or the training he received. It was definitely a “midsunderestimation” of the art of public speaking.

His defenders may claim that a great public speaker does not equal a great person. It could be said that Steven Hawking’s inability to speak clearly does not represent his intelligence and Adolf Hitler’s ability to persuade was not a sign of his integrity. However, leaders are judged at times by their public speaking skills. Sadly for Bush, he always looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights when he read from a teleprompter. Obama admitted that he likes Bush for his emotional intelligence and his ability to lead with conviction. It’s interesting to note that Obama understands that you can admire qualities in people you completely disagree with.

So with Bush’s speaking skills so weak, I often wondered how Al Gore did not romp to victory in the presidential election in 2000. I thought he would have beaten Bush with or without the Florida voting scandal. After all, Bill Clinton had left the economy in very good shape. I also wondered how Bush beat John Kerry in the 2004 race. After all, the war in Iraq wasn’t going well, oil prices were high and Bush was being lampooned on every democratic leaning TV channel.

Let’s look at Gore, firstly. If you watch the TV Presidential debates with Bush in 2000, Gore came across as too high brow and too aggressive. He was impatient with Bush and argumentative. Bush looked like a guy in control, and the sort of guy Joe Public would enjoy a pint of beer with. Well, Bush doesn’t drink anymore, but I hope you know what I mean. He spoke in everyday language, and he simplified and personalised his message. Gore offered convoluted evidence that suited the ears of a Harvard Professor rather than an average voter. Gore also made the fatal mistake of invading Bush’s space in an aggressive manner. Bush remained calm and dismissed the approach. In the week before the election, Bush wore an Al Gore, Halloween mask on the Jay Leno TV show. Once again, Bush came across as open and he proved he didn’t take himself as seriously as Gore. There is a difference between taking your job seriously and taking yourself too seriously.

Let us look at 2004. John Kerry served his country with distinction, but he too missed the point about how to win against Bush. His language was colourful and his points were extremely valid, but you needed a manual at times to understand his beliefs. Bush shows us that an audience will forgive mistakes if they feel a connection with the speaker. Keeping things simple is a great way to maintain the connection. I don’t mean simple as in basic. I mean the art of taking a complex issue and making it simple to understand. Bush reminded us that when you speak in public, use your emotional intelligence and unlike Gore and Kerry, keep it simple.

Starting tomorrow, for seven days, I will reveal the major PR disasters that could have been less harmful if the person speaking to the press had communicated more effectively. I start with Alan Schwartz of Bear Stearns on Monday and Tony Hayward of BP on Tuesday.

Take care,


PS: 'HOW TO GIVE A BETTER SPEECH THAN OBAMA and change your world' - is available on iTunes and Amazon NOW!
Audio Version only.
Text version out January 31st.

Kellcomm, Princes Exchange, Princes Square, Leeds,LS1 4HY

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