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Public Speaking Tips: Lessons From Former US President Ronald Reagan

If you want public speaking tips, what are the ten insights you can learn from former US President Ronald Reagan who was known as 'The Great Communicator'.

The news of the death of former US President Ronald Reagan at 93 in June 2004, has again focussed the world's attention on both his achievements and great communication skills.

So what can we learn about life, business and success from Reagan?

Well, after reading the tributes that have poured in for the man they called 'The Great Communicator', here are my 10 insights.


While most people are enjoying retirement, others are just reaching the height of their power and influence. At the age of 69, Reagan was the oldest person ever to become president of the United States.

What do you plan to do at that age?


There's a saying that behind every great man, there's an even better women. Reagan knew his strengths and importantly his weaknesses, such as a lack of attention to detail. His wife Nancy made up for this and they became an 'unshakeable and unbreakable couple'.

This highlights the power of a good relationship with a life partner.


Reagan had a rich and deep well of life experiences on which to draw from. The shoe salesman father, the economic reality of the 1930s Depression and at 25, the excitement and drama of being a slick sports broadcaster.

All these experiences helped shape his values, beliefs and ability to communicate with audiences.


Despite the early success and attraction to Hollywood as a B-grade actor, Reagan never forgot his roots.

On the assassination attempt on his life in March 1981, he turned to his wife in the emergency room afterwards and said, "Honey, I forgot to duck."


Like many people with charisma and charm, Reagan had that rare ability to build instant rapport with people he met. He connected with people on a personal level and people liked him for that.

How can you use charisma to build your personal brand?


While many have criticised his lack of detail and intellectual rigour, Reagan's great gift as a communicator was to take the complex, like a solution to the Cold War, and make it appear simple to the masses.

Like Clinton's often quoted comment, "It's the economy, stupid', Reagan was a master at delivering simple concepts that everyone could understand.


Reagan know how to dress, network with the right people and manage his image. Skills learnt early in the cut-throat world of the Hollywood movie industry.


There are reports that Reagan's reign as President was tightly managed and scripted. So what if there were chalk marks on stage outlining where to stand and his use of cue cards as memory joggers prior to important meetings. His background had taught him the importance of attention to detail. Sports broadcasters around the world are meticulous to their approach to big matches. Reagan approached presidential duties no differently.

These are the little things that can make a big difference to the impact of your message.


Out of the millions of presentations given every day, few achieve this goal. Yet, I believe it should be the outcome of every speech.

Reagan had it. An online biography from 'The New Book of Knowledge' takes a deeper look at this rare skill.

"As a freshman, Reagan took part in a student strike that resulted in the resignation of the college president, who had proposed cutting back the curriculum and the teaching staff because of a shortage of funds. Reagan made the main speech at a rally that won support for the strike from nearly all the students. He later said that he learned then what it was like to succeed with an audience. His skill with audiences was to be a major factor in his successes in later life." (Source:


Research shows that optimism is a learned skill and optimistic people achieve more from life.

This is the one quality I admire most in Reagan. He had it until the very end, as this quote delivered on November 5th, 1994, announcing he had Alzheimer's disease, demonstrates.

"In closing let me thank you, the American people, for giving me the great honor of allowing me to serve as your president. When the Lord calls me home, whenever that may be, I will leave with the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future. I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead."

Thomas Murrell MBA CSP is an international business speaker, consultant and award-winning broadcaster. Media Motivators is his regular electronic magazine read by 7,000 professionals in 15 different countries.

You can subscribe by visiting Thomas can be contacted directly at +6189388 6888 and is available to speak to your conference, seminar or event. Visit Tom's blog at

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