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Best Public Speakers Series: Studying Dr. Ben Carson

Updated: Nov 5

Dr. Ben Carson is an American politician, author, and retired neurosurgeon who has served as the 17th United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development since 2017. He was a candidate for President in the 2016 Republican primaries.


Credit: ideastream



What we reviewed: Defending Housing Policy on ABC News


Strengths:


  1. Grand gestures: Starts with an open grand gesture by extending arms out and wide. Palms up and out is a very welcoming and inclusive gesture toward an audience (:59, 1:18)

  2. Physical poise: Keeps the frame of his body still and puts energy and movement into his gestures. (:59)

  3. Consultative vocal tone: Creates a sense that he has control of the situation and that we, as listeners, can overcome challenges. E.g., “This is America, this is the place that is the ‘can do’ place...". (1:02)

  4. Answers the question asked: He answers with a “yes” or a simple answer and then explains why. Listeners and interviewers appreciate a direct response up front to questions asked. If it takes too long to get to the point, you may lose your audience before you get to the answer. (1:30, 2:20, 3:10)

  5. Facial expressions: Ben “thinks a smile” when waiting for questions to be asked. This softens his presence and keeps his expression neutral until he is able to respond. (1:28, 2:58, 5:10)


Strategies for improvement:


  1. Eliminate hesitation and hedging language: When answering questions, Ben started with a “tsk”, used an “um”, and then followed with the word “probably”. This hesitation could cause listeners to doubt the response given. To minimize uncertainty, pause before answering, collect your thoughts, and then answer. (2:19)

  2. Vary vocal tone: Ben’s comfort zone is to remain in a consultative vocal style - slower pace, softer voice. While this helps give comfort to listeners, he could also benefit from using more assertive and motivational vocal styles. These styles add more energy and passion into our delivery to motivate and inspire audiences. (2:08)

  3. Posture: Ben starts to become more closed off to the interviewer. He has his hands crossed in front of his body. When he crosses his hands in front of his body, he looks smaller and not as confident. We recommend to reset to a neutral position with hands down and at your side to stay open to the audience. (1:28, 4:09, 5:10)

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