Charlie Rose, A Great Communicator, but Not Always | Media Training

I’ll state my biases right up front. I like Charlie Rose and his show. I think his program is one of the few places on TV where actual intelligent, coherent thought is expressed. Only a political ideologue could contend Charlie Rose is not a great communicator. Whether it is his signature show, his anchoring of the CBS morning show or his reports on 60 Minutes, Rose is a communicator’s communicator.

So when the video of his recent commencement speech at Georgetown University showed up in my RSS feed, I was quite excited to watch it.

Here it is; you can see it for yourself.

The speech is, in a word, horrible. It sounds like a smart 23 year old intern wrote it the night before, having only used Wikipedia as a source.

It turns out, that asking thoughtful questions is an entirely different art form then creating a 20 minute speech/presentation with your own ideas. Rose’s speech, which he read, was filled with mundane facts about what famous people graduated Georgetown (Note to Charlie: everyone in the audience knew this except for you) and that we live in remarkable times because there is science and technology and stuff (things anyone who reads the news already knows)

Granted, commencement speeches are hard things to do well; how many of us truly have insights that are original and interesting to 22-year-olds? Still, Rose’s speech in my view was a flop. He failed to do the one thing that would have made his speech come alive: sharing highly surprising personalized stories about life from the famous people he interviews.

Here is the lesson: just because you are good at communicating in one format, doesn’t make you good at communicating in other formats. You must adapt.

The other lesson here though, sadly, is that it pays to be famous. 38 people have thus far given a thumbs up to Rose’s speech on YouTube. Nobody has yet voted thumbs down.

TJ Walker is president of Media Training Worldwide

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