A Little Taste of Abraham on the Stump: Substance and style from a master communicator

William Henry Herndon was a law partner and biographer of President Abraham Lincoln.  They were a study in contrasts, opposites in temperament.

Despite a poetic streak, Lincoln’s mind was logical, and he longed for the day when “reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason,” would rule the world.

Herndon was intuitive; he fancied that he could ‘see to the gizzard of things’ and could predict the future because he “felt it in his bones.”

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Political Gesture du Jour

There was the “Clinton thumb”–which most likely originated with John F. Kennedy.

Nixon’s “V for victory” at the helicopter door. Although he used it a few times before 1974.

And the “Dole pen”–a prop he carried in his right hand. His arm sustained an injury in WWII.

Now, there’s a new political gesture du jour. Learn more about the Hillary Clinton “Hand over the heart.”

 

 

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On playing possum and peacock preening

When a possum is threatened, he contracts into a ball, while bears do the opposite.  They stand on their hind legs to make themselves look bigger. Chameleons change color and remain perfectly still, while peacocks expand their tail-feathers to assert their dominance.

It happens in the animal kingdom, and it happens to us when we get anxious, and especially when we have stage fright.  We can either freeze, tighten up,  or overdo it, none of which is optimal.

If we freeze or ...

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Stand still when you speak

I just met a client, a young woman new to the work force and recently hired by a consulting firm, who had studied oratory and debating in high school.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a client with similar experience in my 20 years working with speakers. She had a remarkable ability to be still in front of the crowd. Not just still on her feet, although she was good at that, but still in her composure.

She had the ability to ...

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Communication skill includes words, voice, and body language

Here are two excerpts from an article in The New Yorker.  The article is entitled Words on Trial,  and its author is Jack Hitt.  It appears in the June 23rd, 2012 issue.

The key idea is that words, by themselves, are necessary but not sufficient to create meaning.  The listener creates meaning through hearing the word, passing it through a filter composed of her prior experiences, and then interpreting the cues that are coming from the speaker, such as voice, and body ...

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What do I do with my hands when I present?

Mike Blechar of Gartner is a powerful speaker.  He recently sent me this note after he read one of our Presentation Pointers on the subject of how to point to data on slides.

It seems he has programmed his arm and hand to gesture to slides, which is something that he and I debated years ago.  I based my recommendation on the Principles of Cognitive Guidance, one of which stipulates that words and pictures that are contiguous ...

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