How To: YouTube Your Way to Better Speaking

How To: YouTube Your Way to Better Speaking

The world's best presenters
are just a mouse click away.

By Carmine Gallo

I’m spending more time these days on YouTube. No, I’m not spending my hours watching the funny videos submitted by teens channeling their inner Will Ferrell. What I’m taking advantage of is a treasure trove of material that can help you become a better presenter and public speaker.

After CNN’s U.S. Democratic Presidential debate in July with questions submitted by YouTube users, jury consultant Jo Ellen Dimitrius evaluated the body language of the candidates. She was quoted as saying that Hillary Clinton stood confidently and maintained strong eye contact. Dimitrius also credited Barack Obama with using confident hand gestures.

Now, instead of simply reading about them, you can watch the speakers for yourself on YouTube by conducting simple Internet searches such as “YouTube” and “Presidential debate” and “Obama.”

While Presidential candidates often have body language that appears to be over-rehearsed and contrived, some of their techniques will serve you well in your next speech or presentation. For example, strong speakers will stand (or sit) with poise and confidence, use hand gestures, maintain eye contact and avoid fidgeting. Each of these qualities can be improved by watching professional debaters such as the candidates. (On the Republican side, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney offer good examples of confident body posture.) 

Having All the Answers
As I am a communications coach, I also watch and listen for how the candidates formulate answers to questions. They use a classic technique called “bridging,” whereby they answer difficult issues by using the question to segue – or bridge – to what they want to talk about. Done badly, it’s a disaster and looks phony. But when it’s done well, bridging is a powerful tool to advance the conversation to areas the speaker wants to talk about.

With YouTube, you can also search for famous speeches. We have all seen clips from John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address, but look at his “Man on the Moon” speech at Rice University. The language he uses, his sentence structure, energy and optimism lead me to believe this was one of Kennedy’s greatest speeches.

Politics is just one area in which YouTube can help you become a better speaker. You might be surprised at the proliferation of video clips showing persuasive business leaders in a variety of settings, including keynote speeches and PowerPoint presentations. I wrote a recent column on the effective rhetorical devices used by Steve Jobs in an iPhone presentation (reprinted in the Toastmaster, April 2007). Search for “Steve Jobs and iPhone” on YouTube and watch him for yourself. 

The Pros in Action
Today we’re enjoying an explosion in the availability of high-speed broadband connections as well as vast improvements in the digital delivery of video over the Internet. YouTube is just one of many resources available to watch the pros in action. Here are some of my other favorite sites: Google, which owns YouTube, is clearly attempting to capture a large share of the digital video market. The company recently entered into a partnership with Charlie Rose to archive 4,000 hours of programming. On (still in beta), viewers can now search for clips showing a collection of 6,000 guests dating back to 1994. Search the business category for some amazing people talking about how they approach business. Everyone from U2’s Bono to Lee Iacocca is represented. I watched a very interesting interview with two dynamic communicators, Cisco’s John Chambers and Intel co-founder Andy Grove. Both men speak with clarity and passion.

Cisco: In addition to Steve Jobs, another person I enjoy watching is Cisco Chief Executive Officer John Chambers. His body language is magnificent. He also works the crowd, maintains eye contact, speaks eloquently and rarely, if ever, reads from slides (reading from your notes or slides is a sure way to lose an audience). All of his keynote addresses, presentations and interviews are open to everyone on the “newsroom” section of Cisco’s site.

CNBC: Although much of the video material on CNBC is free, CNBC has compiled a king-sized video library called CNBC Plus. With a subscription, you can view archives of more than 40,000 video clips – from pundits forecasting the next moves of the market to CEOs discussing their companies. I find it instructive to watch business leaders who effectively answer difficult questions about earnings, announcements, competitors, lawsuits or recalls. Watch as the world’s top leaders handle themselves confidently and gracefully.

CNN: CNN’s access to world leaders is unmatched and the TV network continues to place more of its interviews online. I recently watched an archived interview with former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on Larry King Live. Powell answers tough questions crisply and succinctly. He also has great posture – a commanding presence he must have picked up in the military. The Video Views section brings you some of the most noteworthy authors and business leaders in Corporate America today. Business leaders like Avon CEO Andrea Jung, JetBlue’s David Neeleman, and eBay’s Meg Whitman are just a few of the guests who can help you explore concepts in business leadership that you can weave into your own conversations. Teach your listeners something new and you’ll gain their confidence.

Finally, have some fun and learn something about presentation skills at the same time. On YouTube, search for “Don McMillan and PowerPoint.” McMillan is a former engineer who does corporate comedy. He pokes fun at the PowerPoint culture by creating a hilarious PowerPoint presentation in his act.

Business leaders who are great communicators are constantly looking for ways to improve. Use the powerful tools at your fingertips to discover new, effective ways to electrify your audience during your next meeting or presentation.

Carmine Gallo is a Pleasanton, California, communications coach and author of the recently released book, Fire Them Up! (John Wiley & Sons).

Copyright 2007 by The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc. Reprinted with permission from BusinessWeek.