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Why Public Speaking Is Linked To Being Successful

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 12/10/2015 Richard Bradley

Worth magazine's Power 100, an annual list of the 100 most powerful people in global finance, features men and women from around the globe who work in a range of professions from banking to hedge funds to politics and punditry. Some of them exercise power through their investing, others through regulatory authority, others by the power of persuasion. But they all have one thing in common: They use public speaking to amass, solidify and extend their power, and then get things done. If you really listen to how they do it, you can glean several principles to help you do the same.
1) If someone hands you a microphone, don't be surprised.
Consider Marianne Lake, the CFO of JP Morgan Chase and #53 on the Worth Power 100. Known for her rigorous preparation and remarkable command of data, Lake has joined JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon on the bank's earnings calls for years--and has been so authoritative on those calls that, this year, Dimon essentially announced he would be turning this hugely important microphone over to Lake. It's hard to imagine a greater or more public vote of confidence from the boss.
2) Practice your public speaking skills in one medium, then transfer them to another. Anthony Scaramucci, the founder of SkyBridge Capital and #91 on Worth's list, excels at extending his professional brand. Scaramucci created SALT-Las Vegas, the biggest conference in the hedge fund world, and every year he takes to the stage as master of ceremonies, introducing guests and interviewing high-level financiers like John Paulson and Dan Loeb. I've been to SALT several times, and I've noticed that Scaramucci was actually quite good at the task--especially for someone who's not a professional interviewer. Originally from Long Island, Scaramucci is funny, casual, self-deprecating and instantly likeable.
So it made perfect sense when Scaramucci revived the iconic financial talk show Wall Street Week with himself as host. He'd prepped for the job at his own conference and was ready to try out his public speaking skills on TV.
HighTower founder Elliot Weissbluth, #89, did the same thing; Weissbluth was a trial lawyer, arguing cases in courtrooms, before he began speaking to conferences and going on television to promote his message of financial reform.
Other people--like Chelsea Clinton, when she tried her hand at TV--have tried to make this sort of transition without the same level of preparation. They rarely succeed.
3) Know your audience--and challenge it.
Number #82 on Worth's list is John Oliver, the comedian and host of the HBO show, Late Night with John Oliver. You might not expect to find Oliver on a list of people wielding financial power, but he made Worth's list for two reasons. One, he knows that his audience is largely millennials, who have a high bullshit detector and don't get their news from traditional journalistic outlets. So Oliver doesn't patronize them; he regularly devotes entire half-hour shows to a single topic-- student debt, predatory loans, paid family leave--to which network news would never devote more than 90 seconds. Oliver's connection with his audience, and his confidence that they'll stick with him as he explores serious subjects, make him more influential than any traditional financial journalist on TV.
4) Authenticity is essential, so write your own material.
With a small handful of exceptions--JFK, Ronald Reagan--all the best ones do. Take Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, for example. Number 11 on the Power 100, Warren is a compelling speaker, blending intelligence with passion and knowing when to emphasize one over the other. She brings the same potent combination to her writing. Last June, Warren penned a 13-page letter to SEC chair Mary Jo White accusing White of lax oversight of Wall Street. "You have now been SEC chair for over two years, and, to date, your leadership of the Commission has been extremely disappointing," Warren wrote to White. For a politician, that's practically a declaration of war. No one could have put those words in Warren's mouth, and as a result, the letter felt authentic and heartfelt--and received a huge amount of attention.
The same was true for Barack Obama, #2 on Worth's list, when he wrote Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope, two books that inspired millions of Americans. Compare that result with another politician, Hillary Clinton, who has relied on ghostwriters for her autobiography and recent State Department memoir--one big reason why those books failed to make much of an impression on the American public. They lacked an authentic, honest voice.
I'm continually surprised by how many public figures don't write their own stuff. I guess it's because writing is hard and takes time, and they want to get to the fun part--having an audience hear you speak. But if it's not really you speaking, your audience is less likely to be impressed.
5) Be honest--but leaven your candor with empathy.
Sometimes public speakers have to convey hard truths. If you do it right, you can win new respect from your audience. Do it wrong, and you can alienate them fast and, possibly, permanently.
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor who is #3 on Worth's Power 100, made a rare public gaffe over the summer while speaking with a young Palestinian girl, a refugee living in Germany. The girl told Merkel that she dreamed of going to college and making a life for herself. Merkel answered by saying that Germany couldn't handle all the immigrants coming into the country and that "politics is hard sometimes." True, but.... The girl burst into tears, making Merkel look like a heartless jerk.
6) Remember--everything you say will be on social media eventually, but probably much sooner than that.
See #5, above.
7) Sometimes, less is more.
Fed chair Janet Yellen, #7 on Worth's list, doesn't speak in public much, nor should she: An ill-chosen word from her could cause chaos in the world's financial markets. So when she does speak, her carefully chosen language is much more likely to have the impact she wants it to. Public figures who won't stop talking--we'll get to you, Donald Trump--eventually make you want to change the channel.
8) Stay on message because you believe your message.
Tony Robbins, the famous life coach and author of the bestselling Money--Master the Game, is #49 on Worth's list. One of the world's best public speakers, Robbins speaks to audiences in the tens of thousands at arenas across the globe; he also speaks to billionaire hedge fund managers sitting across the table from him.
But Robbins doesn't say one thing to one group of people and then another to another. Because he believes in what he says, and because his words are based on certain fundamental convictions, he's consistent whether he's speaking to a truck driver in New Jersey or a hedge funder in Connecticut. So Robbins is never going to get caught on a videotape, like Mitt Romney in 2012, speaking to an audience of fat cats in a way that undermines what he says in public. He doesn't say things in public that he doesn't believe.
9) Be humble. Not fake humble.
Nobody likes a braggart--at least, not for very long. So when Donald Trump, who is not on Worth's list, talks about how rich he is, or what a successful businessman he is, he might, in the short term, appeal to people who find this self-professed candor refreshing. What's really happening, though, is that listeners are reacting against false modesty or bland, hyper-cautious speech that they hear elsewhere. It's not that they love what you're saying.
Truth is, bragging alienates as many people as it attracts, and it doesn't age well. It's like a pyramid scheme: As the old believers wise up, you're constantly having to find new dupes.
What does add gravitas and credibility to your public speaking is authentic humility, and the best example of it is Pope Francis, who is #1 on Worth's list of the most powerful people in global finance. You probably don't think of a pope as a financial figure, but this pope has used his pulpit to evangelize about the impact of climate change on the poor and the failings of global capitalism. What brings extra credibility to the Pope's words is that he walks it like he talks it. Francis shuns the riches of the Vatican and lives in a modest apartment; he's chauffeured around in a Fiat; and he makes a point of breaking bread with the poor and the homeless, demonstrating that his words go beyond empty rhetoric. Nor is the Pope afraid to admit that he doesn't know everything; asked recently about the conditions for the global middle class, he acknowledged that he had given more thought to the plight of the poor and that he needed to study more about the middle class. Admitting what you don't know makes it more convincing when you talk about what you do.
None of these rules will guarantee that you wield power, or even that you'll be a great public speaker. But you won't get there without them.

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