The Leader’s Guide to Speaking with Presence 
by John Baldoni

Lucia A. Worthington

“Speech, like a piece of music, has melody, harmony and rhythm. Melody rises and lowers according to the words. Harmonies are facts and stories blended for meaning. And tempo, fast or slow, matches mood and meaning. Communication must have its own signature, a rising and falling according to meaning and a tempo dictated by emphasis.”

In addition to tips on delivery – knowing the audience and establishing rapport – Baldoni emphasizes the power of stories to connect others to the leader. We are reminded that stories inform, involve and inspire by creating a memory that people hold in their hearts and minds. Stories are situations that enlarge a person’s experience and grow to expand into other similar situations. They are the powerful essence of connecting as if one had shared the experience – if they are framed to suit a situation suitable for the occasion.

Finally, Baldoni reminds us to practice basic human skills, such as being prepared for an occasion by arriving on time to establish an interactive presence, or knowing the subject matter by having researched it to show expertise. Standing erectly without slouching shows confidence. We need to understand and practice the respectfulness of giving eye contact. We need to also know other cultures where eye contact is not commonly practiced and when to minimize this Western trait to be savvy globally.

Finally, the smile is human side of leadership today. We have moved into a new, less aloof era, than what was practiced in the past. The friendly smile that connects with others at all levels of society shows equity and can radiate genuine appreciation for the human bond that connects us all. A smile is the catalyst that radiates from the heart engages instantly and is all powerful.

Lucia Worthington teaches business management at Clark College and strategic entrepreneurship at Portland State University. To recommend a book for review, email

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