In the world of politics, perception is a reality, and the perception of President Joe Biden as an underperforming and aging leader is now a harsh reality, according to opinion polls.
Polls have found that a majority of Democrats do not want Biden to seek re-election due to perceptions of age and mental decline. A Gallop poll puts his job approval rate at 40%, even though the President has brought back honesty, integrity and civility to the office he holds and has made many great achievements abroad and at home. A prime example is the historic, bipartisan infrastructure bill that provides Massachusetts with $3.4 billion for massive improvements to roads, bridges, waterways, and high-speed Internet access.
The reason Biden isn’t ranking higher in the polls is in large part due to his ineffective public speaking skills, which reinforce the perception that he’s an old man who isn’t as sharp as he used to be. Perception is reality!
I say this as a communications professional who has helped organizational leaders deliver effective and important speeches and presentations to friendly and unfriendly audiences. The ability to communicate in public with sophisticated verbal and nonverbal skills is paramount to how an audience perceives you, and when you’re ineffective at conveying a message, the perception is more negative than positive, which is Biden’s problem.
While making remarks in front of a live audience or at a press conference, Biden is an ineffective communicator, often displaying garbled and mumbled words and malapropos, nonsensical utterances and grandfather-like slang. He is also guilty of incomplete sentences before moving on to the next subject. He has made confusing statements about the COVID-19 pandemic, Taiwan and even re-election – forcing his staff to issue statements of clarification.
Reminiscing about his days as a kid, Biden’s father says, “Joey…” only reinforces his 80-year age. He recently asked an audience if a congressman who died in a tragic car accident was actually in the audience: “Jackie, are you here? Where’s Jackie?” Biden seriously asked the stunned audience. What perception does this create?
When the president reads from the teleprompter, the message delivery either goes too fast or too slow, causing Biden to trip over words or lose his seat, leading to distracting and awkward pauses.
It’s time for Biden to chart the right course, especially with two years left in the presidency and a possible re-election campaign on the horizon. Biden needs a public speaking coach to help him become a more polished and effective communicator through improved verbal and nonverbal delivery and persuasive and motivational messages. This Biden supporter is aware that his White House staff are unable to provide this essential training. The public speaking coach must be a true master of the communication arts and have a successful track record of helping the country’s top CEOs become more polished, persuasive and relatable public speakers. Important practice sessions on verbal pitch, clarity, rate of speech, pronunciation and articulation will go a long way in erasing the image of an octogenarian president.
It’s no longer appropriate for Biden to be Biden. It is now time for Biden to become a more effective chief communicator; the future success of his presidency depends on it.
A Billerica resident, Rick Pozniak, who served as director of corporate communications for decades, now teaches public speaking and professional presentations at several colleges, including Middlesex Community College’s Lowell campus.