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Best Public Speakers: Studying Frank Kim's Communication Skills for Leaders

Updated: Jul 19, 2023

We included Frank Kim on our “Best Public Speakers” list because of his top-down strategic messaging, great vocal variety, motivational vocal style, and use of grand gestures. Frank is a cybersecurity leader who has worked with Kaiser Permanente in security programming and as the CISO at the SANS Institute. He is the founder of ThinkSec, a security consulting and CISO advisory firm, which helps leaders develop business-driven security programs.

by Stephanie Bickel

We reviewed Frank’s interview at the RSA Conference 2017 titled, “Three Keys to CISO Success”, where he discusses catching the organizational culture, shaping strategies, and building the business case with simple messaging so that the security initiatives are understood by all and fit within the broader organization.

Frank’s greatest communication skills for leaders:

  1. Engaging Start/top-Down messaging: Frank is concise with his messaging, focusing on what is most important for his audience. He engages his audience by starting with a quote from Peter Drucker, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”, and then immediately leverages this quote to connect to his 3 keys to success. This is a creative start and a great way to engage his audience. He has 7 minutes to convey his broad message, and he skillfully engages the audience upfront and then conveys his 3 key points. (0:23 -1:55)

  2. Variety of gestures: He uses the open palm, the karate chop, the pincer, and the panther walk to emphasize key points and engage his audience. Many of his gestures are grand, in that they happen farther away from the body, which conveys passion and dynamics. The use of his gestures helps amplify his message and provides a natural start and stop to his key points. He also uses the three steps, pause, and turn (panther walk) to transition from point to point. Finally, his facial expressions are relaxed and open which translates to an engaging presence. (0:13 – 0:16, 4:36-4;41)

  3. No filler words: Frank is flawless in his delivery. He did not use one filler word throughout his presentation.

  4. Motivational Speaking Style: Frank's speaking style was motivational and enthusiastic. He showed high contrast in his voice with a variety of changes in pitch and volume. Great vocal presence, which elevates his presence, showcases his style, and also builds immediate trust with his audience.

  5. Simple Language: Frank excelled at keeping his topic light and easy to understand. He used simple, plain language in a topic that could have been heavy and challenging to understand. By using easy-to-understand language, his message resonated with all knowledge levels in the audience.

  6. Storytelling: When addressing his second key element “shaping the strategy”, he shares a story of a question he received from his CFO around how much better or worse they are relative to their industry peers. He then leverages this to another story about the bear in the woods. Both of these stories are effective tools of communication because they increase the audiences’ listening skills, create a picture in their minds, and enhance understanding. (3:35-3:55)

What Frank could do to improve his communication skills for leaders:

  1. Timing presentation of the slides: The video showcased the slides too long while Frank was talking, which can be distracting to the audience. At times it seemed that there was an issue with the recording, and that it was stuck on the slide vs. coming back to him on stage. In all messaging, it's important to find appropriate balance between the visuals being used and the presenter delivering the message.

  2. Pace of Speech - Frank started off on a quick and energetic pace. While the enthusiasm was engaging, the pace of his speech was a little quick to follow. Taking a moment to slow down and pause will allow the audience to keep pace with your message.


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