CEO’s should learn the art of oratory

Why do more people with law degrees than MBA’s run for President? Is there something about the cut-and-thrust of the courtroom which prepares a person for politics, versus an ability to deliver an annual report or run a PowerPoint presentation?

I’ve always been impressed by senior managers whose skills at the podium light up an audience. Being a success as a presenter, however, does not guarantee advancement in business. Many top managers were clearly promoted in spite of, not because of, their public speaking abilities. So it is worth an executives time to invest in improving their rhetorical skills?

Michael Skapinker argues in his column in Tuesday’s FT that chief executives should learn the art of oratory. He hits the nail on the head when he highlights the fact that lawyers are better prepared for politics because they are used to being interrupted (by the judge or opposing counsel) when they speak in public. CEO’s, on the other hand, might give plenty of presentations, but no-one answers back when they speak. Poor preparation for Prime Minister’s Question Time, what?

Skapinker notes the contrast, on a panel at Davos last week, between Tony Blair and his new employer, James Dimon, head of JP Morgan Chase as being “like watching the new Australian Open Champion…warming up with a ballboy.”

View the first 5 minutes of the opening panel at Davos and judge for yourself if Skapinker is being too harsh:

But, again, why should CEO’s bother to improve in this area?

Chief executives are there to do, not speak – to make decisions, conclude deals, damp down crises. (But) if you are going to speak on so many platforms, you might as well do it properly.

So, as always, the advice is deceptively simple:

  • When you present on a podium, keep it simple and keep it concrete
  • Avoid abstract proclamations

Simplex sigillum veri.

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Public Speaking Blogosphere: Week in Review [2008-02-02]…

It is Saturday, and that means it is time to review the best public speaking articles from throughout the public speaking blogosphere.
Themes featured this week include:

marketing yourself;
body language;
PowerPoint, Keynote, & slideware; and
Toas…



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