The Winning Voice

Best in class communication techniques from Michael Kelly

Owning a scene – James Spader

‘If you wish me to weep,

you must first show grief yourself’Horace.

Top performing actors – own scenes.

James Spader is one actor who does this over, and over again. In relation to the Horace quote, Spader can make the characters he portrays, feel an emotion deeply.

And that feeling is realised in compelling, believable performances.

Here is a link to a Charlie Rose interview with Spader. The clip runs for 27 minutes.

Watch as much of the clip as you want.

The section of the clip I want you to watch is at 23:42 > 25:03 second mark. The interview cuts to a scene from the series, The Blacklist. In the scene Spader’s character Raymond Reddington talks to Dembe, his security detail.

Starting on a sombre tone, note at the 24:04 point where Spader makes a seamless shift to an anguished facial expression and vocal tone. This is a tier one performance. Spader makes us feel his anguish, because he first himself, feels anguished.

The point for you is this.

If you want your peers, reports, seniors, clients and stakeholders to better retain and/or act on your spoken messages – before you deliver them, first yourself feel/reflect on the importance of the messages.


Own the conversation

Over the next seven days, consider an important message you need to deliver. Then, before delivering it feel/reflect on the importance of that message. Consider the impact your delivery had on the audience.


p.s. I maintain that Malcolm Turnbull’s best performance as Prime Minister of Australia – was his first performance. Check out this post where I deconstruct Turnbull’s first press conference as PM.

p.p.s. Last week I visited the Van Gogh and the Seasons exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria. This month’s Vivid theme is apt for the work this master produced. I highly recommend the exhibition. Various pieces of Van Gogh’s prose were printed on the walls of the exhibition. Here is one that particularly struck me.

‘One must work long and hard to arrive at the truthful. What I want and set as my goal is damned difficult, and yet I don’t believe I’m aiming too high. I want to make drawings that move some people. . .Whether in figures or in landscapes, I would like to express not something sentimentally melancholic but deep sorrow. 

In short, I want to reach the point where people say of my work, that man feels deeply and that man feels subtly.’

Vincent Van Gogh. The Hague, 1882

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