Public speaking with the world watching

I’ve been in a role that required speaking publicly for the last 13 years or so and while I’ve been in front of some large audiences (one in particular in Sao Paulo with translators was very interesting and sort of funny), my experiences pale in comparison to what high public officials have to subject themselves to.  We should know that they all have speech writers, speaking coaches, and all manner of support personnel to ensure their events go as smoothly as possible.  But despite all the preparation and rehearsal, it still comes down to that one person having to deliver that speech with clarity, passion, and authenticity.  Which leads me to this.

The New York Times provided video examples today of how U.S. presidents in the last 50 years have dealt with events of national mourning caused by (with the exception of the Challenger explosion) individuals committing violent acts.  The piece called Executive Consolation is an excellent primer for anyone interested in understanding the power and peril of leading through words and their delivery at that level.  I was only a young boy but my parents were strong political observers and I can remember seeing Lyndon Johnson give his speeches after each of the Kennedy assassinations.  Perhaps because he was not a great public speaker (his strength was in privately securing legislators’ votes; twisting arms), I had a good baseline for my lifelong interest and appreciation for the craft of public speaking.  No matter your political leanings, the videos do a good job of re-capturing those terrible, emotional, and risky periods, where words made a difference, even if they were mostly read from notes and teleprompters.  But you can tell that even in those types of situations, sometimes the most impact comes from the unscripted.  Watch George Bush give a masterful off-the-cuff performance at Ground Zero.  The cowboy knew instinctively how to raise up the people at that moment.  Or watch Bill Clinton at the end of his 9-minute speech and you can tell he’s not looking at his notes anymore as he delivers what are probably his most powerful lines.  Words matter and they matter even more when they can be delivered with honesty and conviction.

About Peter Armaly
I get jazzed by automation, big data, and blockchain tech. Business, technology, and fitness are things I understand. Scotch, wine, food, and fiction are things I appreciate.

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