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Best Public Speakers Series: Bill Clinton

Political beliefs aside, there is so much to learn from the style of Bill Clinton. In our surveys with clients, he is always a top rated speaker. We included former President Bill Clinton in our “Best Public Speakers” list because of the relatable way he shares ideas, his warmth, and use of language.

Best Public Speakers

Let's look at how he started his presidency. This is Clinton's inauguration speech when he succeeded George Bush as President of the United States of America.

What are the main communication takeaways?

  • Use of Metaphors: He compares the current winter into a new spring (0:33) to the new era of the United States. Addressing those who grew up during the cold war of oppression, he compared it to the sunshine of freedom (2:30). Metaphors are effective as they compare two truths, which fortifies the speakers point.

  • Generosity: He acknowledges former President Bush and the Armed Forces for their service. As the most powerful man in the free world, showing humility and to putting himself on the same level as the men and women who are put on the front lines, Clinton re-humanizes himself. Trying to even out the playing field, particularly in politics is a good way to create a connection to an audience.

  • Physical and Vocal Confidence: Clinton speaks here with a generally slow pace and a very still body, using his gestures sparingly. Audiences associate slowness and stillness with high status. Clinton has already been assigned the highest status in the country. However, the way in which he uses his body and voice adds an even higher status and a deep confidence.

How He Could Improve:

  • He could break expectations. Clinton is a polished speaker and, at the time of this election, already a lifelong politician. We expect certain things from politicians, particularly in historic moments such as this: we want them to be positive, lift our spirits with a sense of hope, without leaving out the challenges we face, all while speaking in plain language. Clinton lives up to those expectations—almost too well. To further humanize himself, he could do or say something that moves out of the realm of those expectations, into a more original approach.

  • He could use more passion. Clinton is cool. We knew him in this moment as a young, saxophone-playing, charismatic man who smoked marijuana as a kid (although he never inhaled). He remains cool throughout this speech, and it would be more uplifting to see him show some emotion and passion about something that he believes in and wants to change.


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