Monday, June 23, 2014

5 Questions with Simon Maier, author of "Speak like a President"

What's a quick tip to speak more like a president immediately?
Have one proposition and stick to it.

Which president was the best speaker? Clinton was excellent, Lincoln wasn't. George W Bush was actually extremely good too (as a speaker) but got little credit. That will change. Washington was excellent, but had problems with his teeth. Kennedy was fabulous and had a terrific writer (Ted Sorensen) working with him. FDR was measured and very good. If you want one only, then I'd pick Kennedy.

What's the greatest speech you've seen? A speech made in 2009 by Stephen Fry. And, as an option, a speech made by James Rubin who was President Clinton's Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Chief Spokesman for the State Department. A third option was a speech made by Lord John Browne as CEO of BP. Barack Obama’s speech on November 10th 2009 at Ford Hood was extraordinary rhetoric. Brilliant – and that’s probably the greatest I’ve ever seen and heard from a politician.

What's a big mistake a lot of new speakers make?
Not understanding the people who comprise an audience, not knowing what your audience knows or doesn’t, not knowing what an audience needs or wants. Not understanding period. The other big mistake is that business speakers use vast quantities of PowerPoint. PowerPoint doesn’t make a bad speaker good or a dull subject more interesting. None of history’s great orators used PowerPoint. Also, many new speakers think that speeches are for themselves, not their audiences.

What's the best way to get back an audience if you're losing their attention? Tell a story that's relevant to your proposition and one that you know unequivocally will press people's buttons - and make it one that amuses; if the story’s slightly tilted against yourself, then that helps.

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