John Kerry's Calamity-A Failure to Communicate

Words are powerful. John Kerry learned that lesson when his comments were plastered all over the news.
What was his intention? Only he knows. But the meaning of communication is not the intention. It's the effect.
And in this case the effect was negative.

Here is what Kerry said during his speech,"Education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart,you do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

He later said he would not apologize because it was an attack on Bush and not on the soldiers. When you read the words it sounds like he's denigrating those serving in Iraq. Today there is no draft and the soldiers serving in Iraq volunteered for service. So the public heard it as an attack on the intelligence of the armed forces. Kerry's rebuttal was that his joke was misunderstood.

There are two public speaking principles that were violated here.

First, don't tell jokes. In my book, Knockout Presentations, I dispell the myth that you should tell a joke during a speech. This only works if you're a comedian. For most of us the joke bombs and we go down with it.

Secondly,do your homework. It appeared that Kerry hadn't read or practiced this comment. To deliver a line effectively it must be practiced out loud and timed. When it comes to public speaking, don't wing it. Know your message points and practice the delivery and timing.

Words can leave lasting scars. To recover, the quickest path to healing is to take responsibility and do it quickly. Kerry should have apologized immediately in order to secure his political position and to make the problem go away. The longer the speaker delays taking responsibility the more you can be sure of a crisis in communication.

Remember: The meaning of the communication is the effect and not the intention. Don't let the need to be right make you wrong.

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