GREAT COMMUNICATORS:
BORN OR MADE?


Richard Edwards

I grew up playing sport amongst boys I considered naturally gifted, playing music with children described as innately talented, taking A Levels with friends who were apparently “just good at exams”.

It was an attractive concept to someone easily bored by the idea of homework and practice. It didn’t help, I suppose, that my father was a hugely accomplished musician, who could pick up any instrument and play it to a bewildering high standard, with his eyes closed.

But my dad also told me back then, what I’ve only now come to believe: no one in today’s world makes anything look easy without first having done the hard yards. Practice, dedication, graft. And more practice.

At the 100th Monkey, we believe communication and speaking is a skill you can learn. No one is just born charismatic. They have learned the skills of being an orator, of how to deliver what they say with greater impactby using simple devices such as pacing, pausing and eye contact.

Perhaps the best example is Steve Jobs, whose legend at creating the all-powerful Apple brand was in no small part thanks to his ability to sell it to the world in keynote presentations.

But he did not begin his career as a brilliant presenter. Far from it. And to prove it, just watch our videos of him moving from nervy novice in 1980 to expert presenter in 2007:

Steve Jobs learnt to be a great communicator. He became accomplished in skills anyone can learn – techniques we teach our clients on ‘what to say’ (compelling content), and ‘how you say it’ (furnishing you with stronger vocal tools and visual language skills).

Further reading:

  • The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane expands on this theory in brilliant detail, deconstructing the idea that charisma is an innate gift
  • Having learnt the techniques, Steve Jobs practiced them. He was known a meticulous planner behind the scenes, going even further than the actor’s rule of one hour of rehearsal equating to one minute on stage delivery. Read more about the build up to his presentations in Adam Lashinsky’s book Inside Apple (you can find a summary in this excerpt here) https://www.quora.com/History-of-Apple-Inc-How-did-Steve-Jobs-prepare-and-design-his-keynotes).

Finally, if you do see someone speak who appears (unfairly) gifted at standing up off the cuff and delivering a witty, charming, clever speech, then console yourself with this line from Mark Twain: “It usually takes me three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech”.