Sunday, May 31, 2015

Interviewing: Historic Example of a Prominent American Left Utterly Speechless Because He Failed to Anticipate an Obvious Question

The video clip below should serve as a powerful and most enduring lesson to anyone and everyone who will ever be interviewed. The lesson: That if you fail to do your homework, such as formulating your thoughts on at least the most likely questions during a forthcoming interview, then you, too, could look like a “deer in the headlights” and, for a few moments, become the definition of “inarticulate”!

Background: My blog readers of a certain age will immediately recognize the video clip because it’s from a famous TV interview broadcast on CBS in November, 1979, when the late Sen. Edward Kennedy was about to launch his campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. You can see Kennedy is clearly stumped when the interviewer, famous broadcast journalist Roger Mudd, asks him an obvious question--“Why do you want to be president?” For whatever reason (hubris, or a sense of entitlement, or something else) the senator isn’t prepared for that query and freezes! [Incidentally, it took Kennedy several seconds to “recover,” and when he did, he began rambling hopelessly, which you can see at the 1:21 minute mark in the following clip on YouTube] 

Not surprisingly, Ted Kennedy’s miserable expression and inarticulateness in response to Mudd’s question instantly became airborne and, to this day, more than 35 years later, the then-White House hopeful’s fiasco still finds occasional mention in the media. In fact, that is exactly how the long-ago interview reentered my consciousness: Last month, while discussing the present crop of presidential candidates, a talking head featured the clip below to remind his audience of what can transpire when any interviewee is poorly prepared and lowers his or her guard. 

© Copyright 2015  V. J. Singal



“Scale of an Old Testament Miracle”; “a Leninist Assertion of State Power” -- Visual, Evocative Expression to Emphasize Something

Here are some recent examples of articulate people using a vivid, evocative expression while emphasizing something and thus making their assertion indelible--examples which, I hope, will inspire the rest of us into similarly imaginative use of the language, especially when we are trying to break through the clutter. 

  • About a month ago, when there was suddenly a high level of activity in the U.S. Senate—a body which seems to be permanently stricken with paralysis—a somewhat satisfied Bob Schieffer, host of CBS’s “Face the Nation,” had this to say in his weekly commentary: “By no means is it on the scale of an Old Testament miracle, but some progress is better than no progress.”
  • Referring to the “water rush” that is going on in California’s Central Valley, with people drilling wherever they can thanks to the absence of any regulation on how much water they can take out, a TV interviewer said to Jerry Brown: “You don’t know how much water there is and how much they are taking out… Surely in this emergency you need to get a grip on that more quickly!” To which the California governor responded: “Well, the complexity of California, stretching from the Oregon border to the Mexican border, doesn’t lend itself to a quick (pause) Leninist assertion of state power. This is a more decentralized, more private sector oriented world we live in, so we move at a pace slower than (what you are suggesting).”
  • Rebutting some detractors during a Sunday morning TV show, Peter Schweizer, whose recent book “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” saying: “I’ve given my findings to the New York Times, Bloomberg…these (news organizations) are not cupcakes! They are serious researchers and investigators.”
© Copyright 2015  V. J. Singal

Thursday, May 28, 2015

“The World Cup of Fraud”—The Speaker’s Misplaced Eye Emphasis While Uttering the Now-Famous Words

By now, you’ve probably seen the image of a top IRS official (Richard Weber, chief of criminal investigations) describing the deep and pervasive corruption among FIFA’s top ranks as “The World Cup of Fraud.” The moment those catchy words were uttered, which was during a U.S. Department of Justice press conference yesterday, May 27, they became airborne.

Now, watch the video clip below and ask yourself the following: How much more emphatic and impactful Mr. Weber would have been if, instead of looking down at his notes, he had been looking directly at the audience as he uttered those crucial words! Such a face-to-face connection with the audience would have enabled him to use appropriate facial and hand gestures--as well as other nonverbals--to accentuate that particular remark. [Yes, I use notes all the time for much of my public speaking but I make sure to look directly at the audience when uttering key words and phrases.] 

Take a look at my post of March 26, 2011, which has a better illustration of when to look at your notes and when not to while uttering a sentence. 

© Copyright 2015  V. J. Singal