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Best Public Speakers: Studying Jack Welch

Updated: Apr 4

We identified Jack Welch as one of the best public speakers because of how he uses an emphatic tone and powerful gestures to drive home his values. Jack was the Chairman and CEO of General Electric (GE) between 1981 and 2001.

by Stephanie Bickel

best public speakers

The best public speakers event we reviewed: His final GE meeting (Part 1 of 3)

Jack’s greatest public speaking skills:

  1. Begins with humor: Jack’s final meeting focuses on important lessons he wants to share with his leadership team. Because most of his presentation is delivered in a serious tone, opening with humor provides a nice contrast. (:03-:56)

  2. Emphatic speech and great use of the pause: You can tell he is passionate about his values and strongly encourages, almost pleads with others, to embrace what he has learned. Jack has the mindset to teach and as he walks through these different values, he adds more weight and intensity to his words. He also uses strategic pauses to further engage the audience. Observe the changes in his voice in each of these segments: integrity (1:55-2:47), embrace change (2:49-3:29), customer-focus (3:52-4:35), size and structure (4:36-5:58), self-confidence, simplicity, speed (5:59-6:47).

  3. Physical poise and use of powerful gestures: Even though Jack is behind the podium, you can still feel his energy through his grand gestures. He has a confident posture and uses the pincer, fist, open palm, finger point, and football hold to support his messages visually. (1:55-2:47, 2:49-3:29, 3:52-4:35, 5:59-6:47)

What Jack could do to improve his public speaking skills:

  1. Maintain eye contact with audience versus reading or looking down: Notice the difference when Jack is truly engaged with his listeners (:28-:55) vs. when he continually looks down at his notes (:15-:28, 1:10-end). His message would be even more inspirational if he maintained that eye contact throughout.

  2. Increase consistency in vocal strength: Jack occasionally loses power when his voice becomes softer, scratchy, or even a bit raspy. (:38-1:10, 3:40-3:46) He is more compelling when he gets louder and adds weight to his words.


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