Colin Powell executed the most incredible communication example I have ever observed. I have studied I have a Dream Speech by Martin Luther King. I have listened to FDR’s fireside talks, Winston Churchill’s evening radio talks in the UK during the London Blitz and read the Gettysburg address.
Colin Powell’s interview topped them all because I was able to watch it unfold rather than in old footage. This is a review of Powell’s communication style, not the endorsement, not the substance.
Exactly the way he conveyed the message he wanted America to hear. His use of what I identify as the Seven Cs of Communication:
3. and 4. Complete and concise
1. Clarity I speak on the scalpel of clarity; Colin Powell proved how it sounds to speak clearly. In this interview, he took the most complex questions and answered them in what I call the time it takes to cross the room. The question about Sarah Palin’s qualifications as vice president was answered with a clarity that surprised even the most veteran political experts. He made it clear that the only job a vice president has is to be prepared to be president. Does it respond in the time it takes to cross a room?
2. Trust Confidence is defined as belief in yourself and your abilities. Powell mastered a calm and seemingly unshakable confidence in himself and in the decision he made. Senator Joseph Lieberman is another example of a well-known figure who switched sides in support of a presidential candidate. Lieberman announced his support for McCain in front of a larger live audience, and he did so with more words and a great stage. Powell communicated his support with more confidence. Confidence isn’t necessarily about drama or a big stage. The most powerful trust is an inner trust. Do you communicate with inner confidence to move things forward?
3. Integral and 4. Concise Powell’s comprehensive approach to answering all the unspoken questions about his endorsement was mind-boggling. In moments, he verbalized his logical reasoning for why he was voting for Obama. He was understanding but concise when he identified McCain’s Supreme Court nominations, Barack’s intellectual curiosity, and the assertiveness, ability, and desire to be inclusive. Did you know that you can be complete and concise?
5. Conviction Brokaw asked Powell some challenging questions, particularly towards the conclusion of the interview. Whatever the question, Powell gave his answer and endorsement with a calm, strong, determined and focused conviction. It wasn’t a fire and brimstone approach, it wasn’t a teacher, and it was only said with quiet conviction.
6. Comfort Powell was obviously so comfortable in his own skin. Too often throughout the debates, McCain has been uncomfortable. It’s interesting, in the last debate McCain didn’t look comfortable, but later that night he was a guest on Letterman and he looked comfortable and he was a great guest. Even admitting that he had been wrong a few weeks earlier when he turned down Letterman’s invitation that he had previously accepted. Visuals are very important to any speaker, and how comfortable a speaker looks with himself becomes an important factor. If the speaker is comfortable, the audience is comfortable. When the speaker is uncomfortable, the audience is uncomfortable and will seek comfort by avoiding the source causing the discomfort. Do you communicate that you feel comfortable in your own skin?
7. Charisma Charism has been defined as “the ability to develop or inspire in others an ideological commitment to a particular point of view.” Powell told a story, so effective that tears ran down my cheeks. By using this story, he was able to inspire me with an ideological commitment.