Good presenters are like good bloggers — both speak "in a human voice." Those who speak in a human voice are not afraid to show some emotion. Good presenters emphasize logic, reasoning, and evidence, but they never forget that both they and their audience members are emotional beings. What got me thinking about this (again) was a post on my buddy Sebastiano Mereu's blog. Seabastiano has a video of Bill Clinton laughing it up at the podium with Boris Yeltsin in 1996. As Dan Pink points out in A whole New mind, true laughter can have an amazing impact. Says Pink,
"Laughter is a form of nonverbal communication that conveys empathy and that is even more contagious than the yawn..."
— Dan Pink
This video clip below is a true example of that. I have shown this clip to a few groups now and each time it causes the room to crack up.
Bill Clinton and the art of the connection
No matter your political leanings or what part of the world you may be from, there is no denying that former US President Bill Clinton is one of the most gifted communicators on the planet. There are many reasons why Mr. Clinton is so effective at the podium. Some of the aptitudes that make him so effective are his engaging, "naked," human style, his verbal presentation of clear logic and evidence, as well as his solid storytelling skills such as providing clear examples and painting pictures with his words. Whether it is a speech or an interview, he comes across as articulate and extremely intelligent but without being aloof or pedantic. His style is his own. I am not suggesting you copy his approach or his style, but I am suggesting that you speak in your own natural "in a human voice."
Ideas matter. Evidence matters. Thinking and reasoning matter.
Last week Mr. Clinton gave a speech at his alma mater Georgetown University. You can watch the entire speech in QuickTime on the Georgetown website or watch an excerpt below on YouTube. Here you'll find the transcripts of the talk as well as a link to a longer YouTube version.
What I like here is Clinton's style of speaking from notes rather than reading. The notes keep him on target yet allow him to speak from the heart in "a human voice" while giving many short stories and examples along the way. Those interested in debate or politics, etc. may be interested in the content of the Georgetown talk. As my undergraduate degree was in Philosophy, I am particularly fond of this quote:
"We believe in a politics...dominated by evidence and argument. There is a big difference between a philosophy and an ideology on the right or the left. If you have a philosophy, it generally pushes you in a certain direction or another. But like all philosophers, you want to engage in discussion and argument. You are open to evidence, to new learning. And you are certainly open to debate the practical applications of your philosophy."
"The problem with ideology is if you got an ideology, you already got your mind made up, you know all the answers, and that makes evidence irrelevant and argument a waste of time, so you tend to govern by assertion and attack. The problem with that is that discourages thinking and gives you bad results."
— Bill Clinton
Keeping your cool under fire
Take a look at this short interview between a Fox News interviewer and Mr. Clinton. After the interview the media focused on Clinton's irritation, characterizing Clinton as being "furious" and of "losing it" and "having a complete meltdown." So I watched the entire interview to see what all the fuss was about. But I could not see any evidence of a man letting his emotions (anger) getting the best of him. Yes, he got emotional, but did he "have a complete meltdown"? The loaded question was designed to provoke. “Why didn't you do more to put bin Laden and Al Qaeda out of business when you were president?” he asked. This question assumes guilt and is a very different question than, say, "Do you think you did enough?" or "What would you have done differently?" etc. Clinton clearly was not happy with the implied assumption of guilt in the reporter's question (among other things) and he showed his emotions. He's human (what a shock!). But he also gave lucid, clear logical answers. Frankly, I was amazed he could remain so articulate, frank, and informative while being clearly provoked. Watch the interview and decide for yourself. The majority of the interview is in the two parts below:
Clinton interview part I
Clinton interview part II
The sad thing is that the American media did not focus on the content of Clinton's answers, only the "fact" that he "went nuts." Jon Stewart provides some perspective on the fox interview (see the video) as does an editorial piece on MSNBC (see the video).
Jerry Weissman has a great book and DVD with useful tips for keeping your cool under fire. Many of Weisman's video examples are from the world of Washington politics. If you like examining the good and the bad communication styles of US political figures, you may enjoy Weissman's DVD, In The Line of Fire (the book has the same title).
Finally, you may enjoy this Bill Clinton interview with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show from a few weeks ago. Bill Clinton is truly one of the great, engaging "presenters" of our time.