How can I learn to communicate like Bill Clinton?

Answer by David Mayes:

There are only so many legendary public speakers, capable of captivating an audience, holding their attention and persuading them to accept the speaker’s point of view. That said, we can all learn to be better communicators from the techniques of Clinton, Ann Richards, JFK, MLK, FDR, Churchill, Lincoln and others from history. I would underscore the importance of:

1. Knowing your topic so well that you could give the speech in your sleep. Make it from your heart.  It creates self-confidence and helps to diminish nervousness and stage-fright. If you can do nothing else, do this. Your audience will sense your competence, and wants to believe in you.

2. Practice, practice, practice and if you can, know your venue: the room, the acoustics, the sound system, the lighting.  Toastmasters makes this point and it is a good one. It too will improve your confidence and reduce your nervousness.

3. Anecdotes. Bring you message to your audience by making it personal, giving them a handle to grab on to, something to which they can relate.

4. Keep it simple, stupid. Clinton violated this rule because he is a master, and he knew he had the audience captivated and could pull it off. Don’t let you message become overly complex, or run over time as Clinton did.

5. Humor. Depending on the topic this can be a huge factor. Texas Governor Ann Richards used the phrase, “poor George…” repeatedly until it became the most memorable moment in her speech. But be careful with humor, unless tastefully done it can backfire.

You have to work at it, and the more help you can get the better.

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