George Bush: Communicator in Chief
Steve Adubato, Ph.D.
President George Bush has dramatically improved his public speaking
since September 11. After being seen as a sometimes awkward and
ineffective communicator, the President has evolved under pressure
into a more passionate, compassionate and comfortable presenter.
Clear on his message, Bush has been free to speak from his heart
and more often off the cuff. For the past four months Bush has communicated
the way we would hope all Presidents might. Last week, the President
faced a difficult and complicated communication challenge-his first
State of the Union Address with the nation at war and millions of
Americans anxious about the economy.
Yet, presentations aren't just about what you say, but how you
say them. So, how did the President do as communicator in chief?
BREVITY. First, the speech was too long-50 minutes plus. Not only
did the President seem to tire, so did his audience who politely
(and occasionally enthusiastically) applauded where they were supposed
to. One of the things I don't miss about Bill Clinton was his ridiculously
long speeches to the nation. While George Bush is nowhere near as
long-winded as Bill Clinton, he was getting close last week. My
advice to the President? Next time, keep your address to 40 minutes
or less-30 would be really appreciated.
ORGANIZATION. Overall, the President made smooth transitions and
comfortably segued from one topic to the next. The speech was easy
to follow. I liked that he focused on what he called the three great
goals for America; "we will win this war, we will protect our
homeland and we will revive our economy." Three is the maximum
number of themes most audiences can handle.
DELIVERY. Not bad, but not great either. Bush stepped on a lot
of lines. His timing was off and he didn't seem sure if the audience
was going to applaud or not. When they did, it denied him the opportunity
to get into a comfortable rhythm. I thought the President could
have shown a bit more passion and enthusiasm at certain times throughout
CANDOR. There were two issues most Americans wanted straight talk
on-Enron (and the bankrupt company's relationship to the White House)
and fear over the economy. The President never mentioned Enron by
name, but rather talked in general about protecting employee's pension
funds. What about if the President said, "I'm really disappointed
in my old friend Ken Lay, it was wrong for him to tell everyone
to keep buying Enron stock while he was pulling his out. We all
have to learn from this and make sure it doesn't happen again."
Two more points: I know the State of the Union is always delivered
off of a teleprompter, but wouldn't it be great to see a President
talk from key bullet points or themes which would allow for a much
more conversational tone? In fact, a few years ago, the teleprompter
malfunctioned on President Clinton and many say he was at his best
until it started working again. Another thing, is it just me or
isn't it odd that our President consistently pronounces the word
nuclear as "nucular"? Shouldn't he know the difference?
But you know it's funny. Even though the President made a few communication
faux pas in his speech, I'm not sure it actually matters with most
people. They like the guy. He's real. Real people make communication
faux pas. I know I do. Don't you? I'd love to know what you thought
of the President's speech. Write to me and let me know.
Dr. Steve Adubato coaches and speaks on the subjects of communication
and leadership and is the author of the book "Speak from the
Heart." Write to him at The Star-Ledger, 1 Star-Ledger Plaza,
Newark, NJ 07102, visit his Web site at www.stand-deliver.com,
or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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