Politicians and Public-Speaking Tips

Politicians are among the relatively few professional groups where reliance on public-speaking training and body-language coaching are a given. One of their key motivations, of course, is to improve the overall likeability,  general appeal and the so-called public image. Maybe even conjure up a trace of charisma, where previously there was none to be seen or expected. And yet, after years of public speeches delivered on various occasions and countless hours of in-studio camera exposure, it often feels like the combination of ego and overtraining remains one of the most enduring obstacles to real progress. The more interesting question, however, would probably be: what do the lessons learned (and unlearned) by politicians tell us about our own habits and inclinations, especially when preparing for a once-in-a-blue-moon public speech or a presentation?
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Overtrained or smug?

Regardless of political views, values or preferences, even with the most seasoned politicians out there, chances are you are one of those people who often feel annoyed watching and listening to the way so many "frontline" politicians speak. If we add an extra layer of just about everything to do with body language and mimicry, developing one form of allergic reation or another at the listening/watching end of the spectrum can almost be taken for granted, often at first impression or shortly after.

The common denominator of politics

Irrespective of the country one takes as reference, it is a puzzling question, isnt' it: How is it even possible that despite countless hours of exposure to the invaluable lessons of in-studio interviews, dozens of hours of expensive public-speaking coaching, so many politicians appear to be so stubbornly oblivious to what is actually wrong with the way they speak, the way they stand, the way they gesticulate or otherwise (so easily) annoy their respecive audiences? 

Having said that, it is also worth noting that in the age of Donald Trump, words like style, standardsprotocol or etiquette in politics are in need of a serious update. The fact remains, however, there is something quite unique about people who go to politics in the first place (CAUTION: stereotpes, tread carefully! ;-) Elusive as any and all effots at defining those qualities can be, and eventful as the life of politicians has been for centuries, this is not what this short article is keen to explore.   

Back to school

So yes, many of us will surely agree politicians are annoying, more often than they are trustworthy, credible or even likeable. From a (public-speaking) training perspective, while some of their most notorious behavioural traits and qualities can be easily "rectified", once brought to their attention with sufficient force (e.g. exaggerated gestures, infantile mimicry, even content quality/discipline), other sources of self-observational blindness have much deeper roots (ego, self-perception, overconfidence, poor analytical and language skills, inability to identify important tendencies and key opinion-forming behavioural patterns).

So what's in it for you?

Think about it this way: if experienced politicians, after years of training and practical exposure, fail to acknowledge (and rectify) so much of what their respective target groups may (quite likely) find irritating, annoying or otherwise better avoided, what are the chances that you yourself are aware of all the things you should be aware of before (or after) your public performance, whether it's a presentation, a speech or an important leadership role your professional career may have thrown you into.

Do it once, and do it well!

The market for public-speaking training is as diverse as it gets: all the way from aspiring students and young coaches about to land their first client (or victim, depending on perspective), to professional actors, news journalists and top-tier body-language and presentation advisers (few people even know exist). Not to mention their contribution to many a success story of many a business leader, head of an institution, president or politician. 

If you ever wondered if public-speaking training is one of those things you should try in life, at least once, my short answer would be: ABSOLUTELY! The next question to ask would then be: How do I make sure I find the right coach for me and my needs?

There are two ways to answer this question:

  1. Once your chosen training programme/session is over, ask yourself these questions:

    Do I now know how to go forward without (much, if any) assistance?

    Do I know how to improve my skills continuously, on my own and what to pay attention to?
    Am I a much sharper observer (when it comes to specific performance variables, the things that were soooo wrong for sooo long, and yet I didn't see any of them, let alone recognize the possible impact)?

  2. As you look for the right coach, tread carefully and trust your instincts! Remember, the goal of some of the best training programmes out there is not to turn you into someone else, to make you stand, wave your arms and move your hands in a particular way, or put on a gorset of universally accepted poses, gestures and faces. The goal is to explore some of the deepest and most authentic positive potential that may have been lying dormant for years, if not decades, burried underneath one layer upon another of what is often referred to as inferiority complex and lack of confidence (the right type of confidence, mind you!), not to mention dozens of other factors that have the power to affect the way we feel about ourselves.    

Public speaking vlogs

Here's an easy way for you to start on a journey of public speaking self-exploration: just type in a couple of key terms around this topic on YouTube, like: public speaking tips, public speaking skills, learn public speaking, nonverbal communication, body language, mimicry, facial expression and the likes. You will be surprised by the wealth of interesting material you will find there.

And if you still feel you haven't had enough by then, here's the last episode of "Public Speaking Black & White", a spontaneous little vlog I contribute to every now and then, whenever I have a little extra time and an inspiration to record a little something. I sincerely hope you will find it useful...in a way that matters.


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