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Lesson learned from the Bush ‘Bullhorn Speech’

Twenty years ago today, with much of the nation still reeling from the 9/11 attacks, Pres. George W. Bush went to Ground Zero and delivered one of the most dramatic impromptu speeches ever given by a leader. What has become known as “the Bullhorn Speech” and the imagery of that moment are iconic — but it certainly didn’t start that way.

As Bush began his speech, things weren’t going well logistically. It was difficult for most in the audience of Ground Zero workers to see or hear the president, and that can be disastrous for any public speaker.

A fireman standing atop a burned-out firetruck in the rubble from the Twin Towers offered a hand up to Bush so that he could get elevated enough for his audience of Ground Zero workers to see him. Bush began to speak again, but some still couldn’t hear him, and those who could hear him didn’t seem particularly moved by the prepared remarks he was trying to deliver.

And then, Bush did something extraordinary that all speakers can learn from – he adjusted his message to fit the needs of his audience.

“We can’t hear you,” someone in the distance had just yelled. That’s when Bush departed from his prepared remarks. He went authentic. He went impromptu. “I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.” The crowd burst into cheers and then began chanting “USA, USA, USA!”

Although his words were an impromptu reaction to the audience, the speech structure he used wasn’t. He used the “Power of Three” technique, with each phrase building to a crescendo: (1) I can hear you. (2) The world can hear you. (3) And soon, the bad guys are going to hear from all of us. 1-2-3 — pow! Even when you are speaking impromptu, you can employ tried and true speech techniques to add a powerful punch to your message.

When the initial chanting had subsided, Bush continued with some of his prepared remarks. At one point, someone in the audience yelled, “God bless America!” Bush, now in complete solidarity with the audience, picked up on the phrase and used it to conclude his remarks, again using the “Power of Three” technique. “Thank you for your hard work. Thank you for making the nation proud, and may God bless America.” The crowd again burst into chants of “USA, USA, USA!”

Another speech technique Bush employed was allowing the audience to voice its approval. When the crowd roared, Bush went silent; he didn’t try to yell over them. A good speech rule to follow is: don’t step on your own applause. Talking over your audience makes it hard for them to hear you and, more importantly, it robs the audience of an important emotional moment.

Throughout the speech, Bush didn’t, scream or overuse bravado. He did speak into the bullhorn louder but in a determined, controlled tone. He didn’t need a long speech to connect with his audience or convey the message that he was trying to deliver. Bush said the right words, in the right tone, at the right time and that’s what made this a great speech.

Many believe the Bullhorn Speech was the moment that the nation transformed from grief to resolve; a resolve to take the fight to the terrorists and avenge the attacks. Had Bush stuck to his prepared remarks and had he not pivoted to the needs of his audience, that moment wouldn’t have come on that day. Watch this short video of the actual event and note how the audience responds.

Here are the simple but powerful lessons public speakers and business presenters can learn from the Bullhorn Speech: Be seen. Be heard. Be authentic. Use powerful speech formulas and techniques even when speaking impromptu. And always, always, always, make your message about your audience.

How to Reduce Zoom Fatigue

In a Zoom meeting, you’re always on, even if you’re only a silent attendee. Unlike an in-person meeting, you can’t hide out in the back row. There’s a loss of anonymity. Everyone is in the front row and it feels like everyone is watching you.

That visibility causes you to be on your guard and to adjust constantly. Sit up straight. Change that goofy expression on your face. Fix that wrinkle in your dress. No scratching your head. No nothing that might cast you in a less than favorable light. Oh, and be sure to make eye contact by looking at the camera lens, constantly.

The Cause of Zoom Fatigue

We spend an excessive amount of time looking at ourselves in a typical Zoom meeting. All this self-awareness is exhausting and I believe the primary cause of Zoom fatigue.

One solution would be to turn off your camera, but then we lose much of the human connection in an environment already starving for connection. Of course, turning off your camera makes it easy to lose focus on the meeting and start multi-tasking. And finally, the meeting presenter and others speaking can’t see and react to your facial expressions and body language. We’re simply not being good audience members when we turn off our cameras.

Hide Yourself

Here’s another option that I’ve recently adopted. Leave your camera on, but right-click on your image and chose the option of “hide myself.” That way, you aren’t seeing yourself constantly, but the speaker and others can still see you. Think about it this way: in an in-person meeting, you don’t carry a mirror around to look at yourself, but you are aware that others can see you. So, knowing that you can be seen by others, you act appropriately, but you don’t obsess over yourself.

Try hiding yourself on your next Zoom meeting. Be a good meeting participant and be good to yourself. Most of all, be human.

New Perspectives for 2021

Phoenix Public Speaking owner and founder Paul Barton presents new perspectives and strategies to move forward in 2021 at the Maricopa Corporate College Virtual Impact Breakfast. He covers tips on how to spot emerging opportunities, how to manage remote work teams, how to approach training, and how to manage employee activism.

Using Your Voice to Engage

Vocal expert Sharon Marrell sits down with Phoenix Public Speaking owner and founder Paul Barton to talk about how to use your voice in public speaking and business presentations to engage your audience.

For more information about Sharon, see her website and her LinkedIn profile.

Speak Well Without a Script

 

How do you speak in a structured, conversational way, stay on point and on time, and do so without a script? This video unlocks the simple but powerful secret that can supercharge your public speaking and business presentation skills. Give it a tumble and let us know what you think.

Hey, keep your pants on!

 

A lot of tips have been written for Zoom hosts and presenters, but what about participants in the audience. You can’t hide in the back row like you can at an in-person meeting. Watch this video for some participant pitfalls to avoid during a Zoom meeting.

Don’t blow your credibility

 

In communication, especially personal communication like public speaking, credibility is everything. Want to know the fastest way to blow your credibility as a public speaker or business presenter? This video will tell you the pitfalls to avoid when making presentations.

You can drag and drop in Zoom

 

Did you know that you can drag and drop in Zoom? Do you know why, as a business presenter, you’d want to? This tip will help you to better connect with your audience on Zoom.

Making Public Speaking Fun, Less Scary

Can public speaking be fun? How can you conquer public speaking fear? Should you use a green screen when presenting on Zoom? What role does storytelling play in public speaking? What are common mistakes to avoid? These and other questions are answered in the lively podcast interview I did with Book Marketing Mentors recently.

Book Marketing Mentors is a first-rate podcast and I am very thankful that Susan Friedman, CSP, asked me to join as this week’s guest expert. I’ve been a huge fan of Susan and her podcast since it began about four years ago. I always get a few actionable tips off of every episode. So, this time, I was the one giving tips.

Give it a listen and let me know what you think.

LISTEN NOW

 

Oh, and you can also download a PDF transcript of the entire podcast. Hey, it makes great bedtime reading! LOL

DOWNLOAD THE TRANSCRIPT

 

Equipment to Look and Sound Your Best to Engage a Virtual Audience

By Paul Barton
Principal Consultant

Lights, camera, action! If you’re going to present frequently in a virtual world, you need to look and sound your best to be an engaging speaker. That may require an equipment upgrade to get the right look and sound.

When the COVID-19 virus hit and the lockdowns began, like most everyone, I had to pivot quickly. I had been a public speaking coach on the move. With my rolling computer bag and MacBook Pro laptop, I went from client to client, from Starbucks to Starbucks. When my home office suddenly became my sole place of business, I tried several “do it yourself” solutions to look and sound professional. I experimented with lighting, green screens, and the built-in equipment, but I just couldn’t get the quality I needed to be an effective presenter.

Eventually, I decided to make the investment to upgrade my equipment. I wanted high-quality but budget-friendly equipment. And once I made the switch, it became one of those decisions where I thought, “Why didn’t I do this before?”

I have since qualified as an eSpeakers Certified Virtual Presenter and I’m now fully prepared to present high-quality virtual workshops for corporate teams or virtual conferences.

The following are the equipment choices I made for a total of $347. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, no one is compensating me in any way for these endorsements.

> Lighting: After consulting with my professional photographer friend, Patrick Rapps, I chose the Neewer Ring Light. It has a dimmer control that adjusts from 1% to 100% and it puts off very little heat. It does not come with a stand, but as a speaker and musician, I had an extra mic stand. It is now mounted so that it is shining head-on at me. My Neewer also has come in handy for casual family photos elsewhere in the house. Cost: $66.

> Camera: The built-in FaceTime HD camera on my iMac just wasn’t cutting it. I chose the highly recommended C922x Pro Stream Webcam, a full 1080p HR camera. It clips on top of my iMac and also can be mounted in a wide variety of places. It has built-in light correction and a 5-foot cable, so it’s versatile. It also has built-in microphones that are better than the iMac built-in microphones, but not as good as my next choice. Cost: $151.

> Microphone: The webcam mic was better than the iMac built-in, but not nearly as good as my Blue Yeti. You can hear the difference between the built-in mic and the Blue Yeti. The Blue Yeti has settings for cardioid, bidirectional, omnidirectional, and stereo. That makes it good for Zoom meetings, podcasts, and even recording my guitar for those random “public speaking blues” songs I post on my Instagram occasionally. The Blue Yeti also has a volume control, a mute button, and zero-latency headphone output. Cost: $130.

So, those are the equipment choices I made. I encourage you to shop around and discover what works best for you. And when you find the right fit, you’ll be well on your way to being a virtual business presenter that can turn heads, win hearts, and get results.

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