March 21, 2020

Cuomo Coronavirus Briefings: A Daily Lesson in Messaging

Business Communication , Public Speaking , Seen|Read|Heard


I just watched New York Governor Andrew Cuomo deliver another coronavirus briefing. I don't know a lot about the governor. But I do know he does an excellent job of delivering his message (in my opinion*). 

It was so good, in fact,* that this morning I took notes and grabbed photos from my TV.

Here's just some of what I saw and heard:

Plain speaking and short, easy to follow sentences

Even though his rate of speech is not slow (hello, New York), his message was easy to follow because of his use of short sentences and simple words.

At one point, he talked about some legislation related to Medicare. He prefaced his reference to the language in the legislation with "This is a little weedy," then unpacked it so viewers could understand it.

Took photos of my television to show Cuomo's March 21 briefing.

Numbers in context

Numbers don't mean much if you can't figure how to interpret them. We say this all the time when prepping and coaching for business presentations: Don't just dump the numbers on us!

It's even more important to understand the numbers in context here, when they're part of the critical decisions government is making and that we're all making, individually. 

See-and-say supporting visuals

He used PowerPoint to present his briefing and his visuals were simple and matched directly to his message.

The result is that you did not have to choose between listening to him or reading the slide. They worked hand in hand. 

Appreciate the distinctions between opinion and fact.

Clear distinction between opinion and fact*

With incorrect information and rumors a part of the daily "information" provided about the virus, Cuomo was clear about what was fact.

At one point, he talked about the importance of social distancing to slow the spread of coronavirus, citing the misguided opinions of some that fly in the face of the facts. Later, he flagged his own opinion on several matters—clearly indicating that these were not to be confused with facts.

"Andrew Cuomo is being very, very generous, saying such nice things about us."

– Donald Trump at a recent White House briefing on COVID19

Now, if only others can do the same

Karen Kalutz and I were discussing yesterday that we feel clear, reliable, accurate messages have never mattered more and that this is a time that calls for speakers who can put serving the message ahead of thoughts of themselves.

Of course, I'm not the only one appreciating Cuomo's ability to communicate in this crisis. Others have praised his demeanor, forthright speaking style and his ability to create a sense of urgency while also instilling calm.

As Cuomo wrapped up his remarks, he reminded us that we will get through this and that we'll learn some things about ourselves along the way.

I hope others will learn a few things about how to communicate in a crisis--and perhaps not wait until we've gotten through this to put those ideas into action.

If you want to watch Cuomo's latest briefing, you can see it here

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