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Critiquing Speakers: A Great Way To . . .

Improve Your Presentations!

Recently, I attended an event hosted by the St. Louis Speaker Series. Since 1998, the speakers have been some of the world’s most celebrated and influential personalities of our time, a virtual Who’s Who of National and global figures – heads of state, political leaders, newsmakers, innovators and cultural icons, each sharing their unique experiences and perspectives. If there is a similar venue where you live, I strongly advise attending it.

Since I speak, coach, and write about networking, public speaking and presentation skills, I go to these events not only to learn from experts, but also to critically observe and listen to their presentations.

The speaker that night was John Bolton, the former National Security Advisor to President Trump and United States Ambassador to the United Nations. He is known for favoring a strong U.S. foreign and defense policy and his presentation centered on that topic.

A Presentation has Two Components: Content and Delivery. Let’s look at each for this speaker.

For all presentations, Delivery surpasses Content, I’ll review his talk in that order.

Delivery. *  What I liked:

  1. His talk opened with a statement that grabbed our attention and was timely! (This is an excellent way to open a speech!) Mr. Bolton opening statement was: “In the news this morning, a Pentagon official said the Islamic State in Afghanistan could be able to attack U.S. in six months.” (That got our attention!)

  2. He customized the talk to his St. Louis audience by saying, “A powerful international ballistic missile does not have to directly hit the St. Louis Arch to do a lot of damage.” (Customizing to your audience shows them you did more than present a canned talk.)

  3. Mr. Bolton was easy to understand and used all the elements of verbal communication. including pausing and inflection, to deliver his talk. (Too many speakers use buzz words, acronyms and techno-speak to, theoretically impress their audience. They do the opposite by making them feel stupid. No one likes that feeling.)

*  Opportunity to Improve.

  1. He stood behind the lectern for the entire presentation.

  2. He would have come across better to the audience had he not used a lectern. (A lectern forms a physical and emotional barrier between the audience and the speaker.)

Content: *  What I liked:

  1. Mr. Bolton’s knowledge of his topic was extensive.

  2. He used facts and statistics that reinforced the points of his message.

  3. He impressed us with the many countries and leaders, whose names I would struggle to pronounce, he mentioned.

*  Opportunity to Improve.

  1. Some of his answers during the Q&A session following the presentation left many wondering about his responses, and in tune, his presentation.

  2. Specifically, Mr. Bolton seemed to be a climate change denier. One of his remarks was, “Who wants more cold in the winter?”

  3. For me, denying science, cast a cloud over his entire talk. Certainly, he is entitled to his opinion and I would not expect him to give answers to questions just to placate attendees. But after expressing that view, I’m inclined to research and get other opinions on US foreign and defense policies and see how they align to Mr. Bolton’s opinions.All speakers should be aware that when delivering remarks others might not agree with, it will likely raise more questions about the their talk. And that’s OK! We should never accept everything we see and hear as gospel fact.

Bottom Line: Watch, listen, and learn from the presentations of others. Do this, and I guarantee your next presentation will be absolutely, positively – NO SWEAT!


Three ways to keep the attention of your audience.

About the Author Fred E. Miller is a speaker, an international coach, and the author of the books, “NO SWEAT Public Speaking!” and “NO SWEAT Elevator Speech!”

Businesses, Individuals, and Organizations hire him because they want to improve their Networking, Public Speaking, and Presentation Skills.

They do this because they know: Speaking Opportunities are Business, Career, and Leadership Opportunities.

They also know: We perceive really great speakers to be Experts. We like to work with Experts.

He shows them how to: Develop, Practice, and Deliver Fantastic Presentations! with – NO SWEAT!



  1. Lessening The Fear of Public Speaking with – NO SWEAT!

  2. Speaking Opportunities are Business, Career, and Leadership Opportunities.

  3. We are All Self-Employed!

Subscribe to my YouTube ChannelPodcast Channel, and connect with me on LinkedIn and Facebook.

My books can be purchased on NO SWEAT Public Speaking” NO SWEAT Elevator Speech!”

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