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Senior Leader Communication Skills: Studying Ann Curry

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

We included Ann Curry on our "Best Public Speakers" list because of her vocal variety, visual engagement, skilled storytelling, and stellar leader communication skills. Ann Curry is a journalist, reporter and former TV anchor of NBC's the Today Show and Dateline NBC. She has worked in journalism for 40 years and is the recipient of the Edward R Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award.

By Anu Bhatt and Madina Behori

Leader Communication

We reviewed Ann Curry's 2012 interview with CNBC's The Big Idea host Donny Deutsch, where she discusses determination as the key to success, honoring your identity, persevering despite all odds, and the Japanese concept of "gambaru".

Ann Curry’s greatest leader communication skills:

  1. Vocal Variety: For most of the interview, she demonstrates a motivational vocal style. This means a dynamic variety in volume, pace, and pitch. You can see this when she is talking about how determination leads to success (1:50-2:15). There are times when she is more assertive (louder volume, slower pace, lower pitch), specifically, when she talked about embracing her Japanese side (4:09-4:49). She also has moments that are more consultative (lower volume, slower pace, lower pitch) like when she talked about feeling like an outsider (7:02-8:01) before ending assertively by saying, "Oh yeah? Watch me."

  2. Visual Engagement: She engages the host with her eye contact, facial expressions, and gestures. She is very expressive, using her eyebrows to communicate concern, confusion, and even importance. We know that she is actively listening to the host in the way that she maintains eye contact and leans in. She also uses definitive gestures meaning they match and emphasize what she is saying rather than being random movements. Some examples of this are the key point gesture to highlight identity and connection (1:15, 2:45); the karate chop to define success and determination (1:45, 9:07); and open arms to express magnitude (9:59).

  3. Storytelling: Each personal anecdote she shares about her family is tied to an important life lesson (1:08, 2:55, 4:08, 7:05). This not only makes her points more interesting to listen to, but also makes them more memorable to the audience. As a storyteller, she has the gift of both educating and entertaining.

What Ann Curry could do to improve her leader communication skills:

  1. Soothing Habits: There are times when she tucks her hair behind her ears (1:40, 8:42). This can make her appear nervous or uncertain. We all have habits to soothe us in these cases. This could be rocking side to side or rubbing our hands together. It's important to recognize this and ensure that it doesn't become a distraction.

  2. Body Language: In the full body shots, we can see Ann crossing her arms in front of her (1:15, 6:50, 7:05, 10:45). This posture can make the speaker appear closed off or tense which the audience can often feel. If this is not the intention of the speaker, we recommend resetting to a neutral position in between gestures. This would be sitting with her hands comfortably resting on her lap.

  3. Filler Words: When we are speaking more conversationally -- which feels like the case in this interview -- we might let a few extra filler words slip through (2:32, 3:22, 9:38). Sometimes, we think it makes us sound more relatable, but more often it can can detract from the focus of the message. Here are some strategies for eliminating fillers.


Great leaders and speakers start with Speak by Design. Learn the techniques and build the skills with us. Speak by Design University is the only leadership communication program in the world that gives you access to self-paced learning, group coaching and training and, most importantly, private one-on-one coaching. Learn more and register.


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