Henry Kissinger’s Presentation Techniques

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Recently, Henry Kissinger, the distinguished advisor to presidents and other leaders, celebrated his 100th birthday. He worked directly with Presidents Nixon and Ford for eight years, and led the negotiating team that opened relations between China and America. He published a book this year and is working on two new ones to share his expertise and insights.

Since he’s an Age Brilliantly “Trailblazer” – seeking to lead a fulfilling as long as possible, instead of confirming to self-restricting norms related to mid-life and retirement – we noted the enormous attention he received for being a statesman committed to making the world safer, and the positive comments about his presentation techniques. We thought we’d share some of them:

  • Always humble and respectful.  When he disagreed with a leader (e.g., Nixon), he never said “you’re wrong”. Rather he’d gather the facts, and introduce them in a non-contradictory manner, so as to diffuse any potential confrontation (e.g., “my staff reports show”) or with self-deprecating humor (laughing at his own strong German accent).
  • Rather than speak quickly as many people do – which forces the audience to try to keep up with the speaker), he made each word count and eliminated extra verbiage to increase impact. His slow vocal tempo and succinct delivery gave him extra gravitas.
  • He avoided blurting out impulsive comments he might later regret, by developing a deliberate manner of speech when serving as a diplomat. (See his you-tube videos to appreciate his style).
  • As a student of history, he sees the broader patterns that most people miss, enabling him to provide context to complex problems. 
  • He focused on getting a fundamental understanding of an issue and disregarding the way the people expressed themselves with verbal fireworks, so he could stay on course to reach an agreement.

In 1972, Time magazine told him they were going to name him man of the Year along with Nixon. He replied “Couldn’t you make it just Nixon?’” He understood that as two men with big egos that could create a problem, and didn’t do anything to get in the way of what’s important to the world. They still recognized both of them, and their relationship continued.

May he continue to use his passion, skills and commitment to world peace for many more years.