Public Speaking

I recently came across this frank confession from former President Gerald R. Ford:  “If I went back to college again I’d concentrate on two areas:  learning to write and to speak before an audience.  Nothing in life is more important than the ability to communicate effectively.”


This from a man who attained the highest office in the free world – yet he failed in his bid to be elected President largely because of his ineffective communications skills and one memorable gaffe in a televised debate.


Certainly, the President of the USA has a highly skilled staff on hand 24/7 to write the speeches and provide briefings and coaching – a luxury that most of us do not have.  And he still came up short – ultimately President Ford was not able to maintain control during Question & Answer sessions.  And he never acquired the skill – or perhaps the desire – to effectively communicate with an audience.  Certainly, we remember him for his non-verbal communication – tripping down staircases, shanking golf balls, etc.  Ford was not trained to turn these pratfalls to his advantage, but the comedian Chevy Chase was – and it launched his career!


It is my observation that the majority of people that I meet do not put enough effort into improving the communications skills – making an initial impression, speaking up in a meeting (or being afraid to speak), just “winging it” when real preparation might have given them the opportunity to really advance their career, etc.


While I was flying back from Australia I read an excellent book: “10 Simple Secrets of the World’s Greatest Business Communicators” by Carmine Gallo.  I had just delivered a couple of speeches and I was scheduled to deliver two speeches a few days after my return.  As I read the book I self-critiqued my recent performance.   Doing so, I feel, helped me to deliver a much more powerful speech when I returned.


I highly recommend this book!  You can learn more about it – and even view video clips of some excellent presenters, e.g. John Chambers of Cisco Systems and Prime Minister Tony Blair on the author’s website –


You don’t have to go back to college to learn how to improve your communications skills – there are many resources available that offer great tips.  If nothing else, you can immensely improve your communications skills by observing outstanding communicators – especially if you know what to look for – and trying to apply what you observe to your own skill set.


Consider the words of the late Peter Drucker, “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”

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