The November 18 edition of the Los Angeles Times featured an article entitled “Fires bring mayor’s oration skill to fore.” In the article, the Times pointed out how important it is for the mayor to take the public stage to issue reassuring messages in times of crisis, such as the fires that ravaged Southern California during the past week.
I agree with the Times that a key role of a mayor – actually any leader – is to communicate quickly and frequently during catastrophic times. It sends a message that the leader is in charge and is doing everything possible to remedy the situation.
Being an observer of the charismatic Mayor, I watched his press conference several days ago during which he gave a 58-second update. His laudatory comments notwithstanding, I found his “oration skill” in need of improvement. The issue was his repeated use of the filler word “uh”, which he used 19 times. Here’s how he began: “I’m very uh grateful uh that President Elect uh Barack Obama called last night uh and said that he is uh uh ready, willing and able to do everything he can.”
Considering that he spoke for 58 seconds, that’s about one “uh” every three seconds. His repeated use of “uh” makes him sound unsure of himself or like he is grand standing – or both.
If he were to eliminate fillers from his presentations, Mayor Villaraigosa could become one of the great communicators of our time. He has excellent vocal quality and passion and he looks good on camera. Uh, hopefully someone will uh give him uh the message.