11 Speaking Techniques of the Great Communicator

President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev meet for the first time. Here, walking towards each other to shake hands. Reagan would later implore, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."
Photograph and Audio Clip Courtesy Ronald Reagan Library

As he approached the microphone at Brandenburg Gate, with a wall of bulletproof glass behind him, I wonder if Ronald Reagan knew that the words he would speak that day would be heard by billions of people spanning across multiple generations, into the future.

 

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” These words might represent the pinnacle of the Great Communicator’s impact through words. Though his advisors continually tried to temper his words, President Reagan had a sense of history, public sentiment, and timing.

Here are 11 techniques Ronald Reagan used that can help you become a great communicator:

My 3 Favorite Speakers of 2014

My 3 Favorite Speakers of 2014. A picture of Major Dan Rooney and Garrett Scanlon after Major Dan's presentation for the BBB of Central Ohio, in Columbus

All I can say about My 3 Favorites Speakers of 2014, who I’ve been able to see in person, is … Wow!  (Founder of Folds of Honor, Top Gun award recipient, & PGA Golfer, Major Dan Rooney)

My 3 Favorite Speakers of 2014:

Major Dan Rooney, Chad Hymas, and Fr. Robert Barron

Here is the criteria for my list:

  • Are they genuine people with an authentic message?
  • Do they leave you uniquely inspired with tangible ideas you can use to improve your life?
  • Are you still reflecting back on their message 3, 6, 12 months later?

It helps too if they are:

  • Entertaining
  • Have a great sense of humor, and
  • Are fascinated by the important things in life

These 3 have it all!

Be Described A Gentleman

Image of Ronald Reagan in a tan suit walking and waving to the crowd. The president would always be described as a gentleman.

Photo courtesy of Ronald Reagan Library

Be Described a Gentleman is an excerpt from Lead Like Reagan, Principles of Dynamic Leadership
In doing research for my book on the leadership style of Ronald Reagan, time and time again I recognized in Reagan some of the same strengths and attributes I saw in my father, James Scanlon. They were both gentlemen.

Those who were closest to Ronald Reagan are very consistent in the words they choose to describe the type of person he was, and the type of person he was not. There seems to be a wide consensus of what Ronald Reagan was not, by those who worked with him, wrote about him, protected him, fought for him, and lived with him. Ronald Reagan was:

You’re Never Too Old to Lead

Imagine that you are Ronald Reagan when he was 65 years old. You have just spent the last 20 years of your life dedicated to implementing a policy of political leadership that you believe will help your country and the world. All of your efforts to touch hearts and garner support for your vision comes down to a single vote at the national convention in 1976. The vote is 1,187 to 1,070 … and you lose.

Ronald and Nancy Reagan holding hands and smiling at Camp David
Ronald Reagan at Camp David with Nancy Reagan, Photo courtesy of Ronald Reagan Library

Smile When They Say You’re Too Old to Lead

Excerpt from Lead Like Reagan – Principles of Dynamic Leadership:
One of my favorite quotes from Thomas Jefferson is when he said, ‘We should never judge a president by his age, but by his acts.’ And ever since he told me that…

                           – Ronald Reagan, Annual Salute to Congress Dinner, February 1981.

Losing the Primary at Age 65

This is what happened to Ronald Reagan. He had just lost the convention vote to be the nominee for president of the United States to incumbent president Gerald Ford. He was 65 years old and had the financial security to retire in style. He had a large family, lots of friends, good health and many interests. He loved to spend time on his beautiful ranch in California, riding horses and working chores. I often wonder if Ronald Reagan was tempted to ride off into the sunset and spend the rest of his days in well-earned retirement.

Jellybeans!

Jellybeans!

As cabinet members and advisors debated various issues, there was a reason why Ronald Reagan reached for the jellybeans.

It was Reagan’s management style to listen to his advisors argue all sides of an issue. With no shortage of egos among these strong-willed and talented people, things could sometimes get heated during these discussions and debates. At these moments, Reagan was likely to sift through the assorted jellybeans searching for his favorite flavor, licorice.