In the world of politics, perception is reality and the perception of President Joe Biden as an underperforming and aging leader is now a harsh reality according to public opinion polls.
Surveys have reported that a majority of Democrats do not want Biden to seek re-election, due to the perception of old age and mental decline. A Gallop poll puts his job approval rating at 40% even though the president has brought back honesty, integrity and civility to the office he holds and has had many major accomplishments on the foreign and domestic front. A prime example is the historic, bi-partisan infrastructure bill which provides Massachusetts with $3.4 billion for massive improvements to roads, bridges, waterways and high-speed internet access.
The reason Biden is not tracking higher in the polls is in large measure due to his ineffective public speaking skills which strengthens the perception that he is an old man who is not as sharp as he once was. Perception is reality!
I say this as a communications professional who has helped organizational leaders deliver effective and important speeches and presentations before friendly and unfriendly audiences. The ability to communicate with polished verbal and non-verbal public speaking skills is paramount to how an audience perceives you and if you are ineffective at delivering a message, the perception is more negative than positive which is Biden’s problem.
While delivering remarks before a live audience or at a press conference, Biden is an ineffective communicator, oftentimes exhibiting garbled and mumbled words and malapropos, non-sensical utterances and grandpa-like colloquialisms. He is also guilty of incomplete sentences before moving on to the next topic. He has delivered confusing statements on the COVID-19 pandemic, Taiwan and even seeking re-election — forcing his staff to issue statements of clarification.
Biden reminiscences about his days as a child and his father saying, “Joey …” only reinforces his 80-year-old age. He recently asked an audience whether a member of Congress, who was killed 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 messaging is either going too fast or slow, which results in Biden stumbling over words or losing his place resulting in distracting and uncomfortable pauses.
The time has come for Biden to course correct, especially with two years left in his 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 non-verbal delivery and persuasive and motivational messaging. It is clear to this Biden supporter that his White House staff is not capable of providing this essential training. The public speaking coach must be a real master of the art of communications, with a successful track record of helping the country’s leading CEOs become more polished, convincing and relatable speakers. Important practice sessions on verbal pitch, clarity, speaking rate, pronunciation and articulation will go far to help erase the image of an octogenarian president.
It’s no longer appropriate for Biden to be Biden. The time is now for Biden to become a more effective communicator-in-chief; the future success of his presidency depends on it.
Billerica resident Rick Pozniak, who spent decades as an organizational communications leader, now teaches public speaking and professional presentations at several colleges including the Lowell campus of Middlesex Community College.