Community & Government

Public Speaking

Bill Clinton

Lesson time 14:04 min

Few people can inspire a crowd like President Bill Clinton. Discover the importance of delivery, how structure affects the way a speech is received, and how to tell stories that inspire action.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Make It Conversational · Don’t Be Imprisoned by the Text · Use Stories to Humanize Your Topic · Be Yourself · Consider Structure


[MUSIC PLAYING] BILL CLINTON (VOICEOVER): When it comes to public speaking, making the audience feel that you are speaking directly to them is crucial. - Now, why is this true? Why does cooperation work better than constant conflict? Because nobody is right all the time. And a broken clock is right twice a day. Every one of us and every one of them, we're compelled to spend our fleeting lives between those two extremes. BILL CLINTON: So I've always favored, whenever possible, the maximum amount of conversational style because it's just like you and I are talking now. I've got a fair chance that whether you like me or not, or you agree with my politics or not, or whatever that if I'm just talking to you, that you'll probably listen. And it also shows respect to someone, if you're just talking to them. You don't think about it. But if I'm having a conversation with you, I'm saying several things. First of all, I'm interested in talking to you. I'm interested in you hearing me. And I'm interested in your response. You're important. You matter to me. Whereas if I get up and tell you, not since the dawn of time have we ever faced a challenge like this, and you're in a room full of your friends and you can't wait to go out, and walk the streets, and have dinner at night, the last thing you want to do is to be burdened with the end of civilization. There's a good chance that you'll turn me off about three minutes into the speech. The good news about this is that the microphone revolutionized the possibility of public speaking. A lot of the old habits of public speaking-- even when you listen to John Kennedy, who was a fine speaker, speak back in 1960, for example, he still was the product of a speaking style developed at a time when people were used to speaking to large crowds without adequate microphones. So you had to speak in a clipped way, which re-emphasized his Boston accent. - On that unhappy island, as in so many other arenas of the contest for freedom, the news has grown worse instead of better. BILL CLINTON: You had to have big lines and then pronounced silences. The whole thing, it didn't flow. It was supposed to have a certain rhythm, but not a flow. And there's a difference. - Any unilateral American intervention, in the absence of an external attack upon ourselves or an ally, would have been contrary to our traditions and to our international obligations. BILL CLINTON: So you have to think about all that, I did anyway. And I found out fairly early in life that the more people felt I was talking to them, the more likely my words were to have an impact. [MUSIC PLAYING] A lot of people focus only on the literal words of the speech. There's a fair amount of academic research which shows that communications by speakers is only about 20-plus percent the words spoken. The rest of it is the tone of your voice, the look in your eye, the way your body moves or ...

About the Instructor

Commander in chief from 1993 to 2001, Bill Clinton has spent a lifetime navigating complex challenges and bridging deep divides. Now the 42nd president of the United States teaches you how to be an effective, empathetic leader. Learn how to assemble, inspire, and empower diverse teams, mediate conflict, manage criticism—and create a personal framework to guide you and your team toward a shared vision.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Bill Clinton

Drawing from his career in politics, President Bill Clinton teaches you how to inspire diverse teams, manage criticism, and mediate conflict.

Explore the Class
Sign Up