What Makes Sir Bob Geldof Such a Powerful Communicator?

June 24, 2013

Bob Geldof has always come across as a great showman. He’s charismatic, passionate and forceful. But how does he do it?

Last week, I had the pleasure of chairing the opening morning of GAIM, the hedge fund conference.  Sir Bob was guest speaker, talking about the fund he chairs, 8 Miles.  This fund invests in African businesses.  He won over the whole room of serious hedge fund managers and investors.

I want to share some observations about what makes him so successful as a speaker and advocate of causes.

Bob Geldof at GAIM hedge fund conferenceFirst, he’s disarming. He started modestly saying he’d just flown in from the Isle of Wight where he played to 100,000 the night before. He made a joke about not wearing the snake-tight suit he wore the day before.

Next, he gave the big picture. Quickly demonstrating he understood the investment world with some careful references, the audience was quickly comforted that he knew what he was talking about.

Bob kept his messages simple and did not try and pack in too much data.  A few facts dotted throughout added credibility, but it was definitely a data-light talk.  There were just a few key messages that were reinforced throughout the talk. (Africa is a great place to invest; China is investing huge amounts there; western investors are missing out on a great opportunity).  These messages illustrated and repeated throughout formed the backbone of his talk.

Stories and anecdotes played an important role.  Whether they were about specific investment successes in Africa, or illustrations of the fast-growing young cheap workforce in Africa, each story was clear, interesting and memorable.  He did not use any PowerPoint.

He’s serious and passionate.  You sense he really cares about Africa.  This was reinforced by every aspect of his langage, his voice and his body.  There was no corporate distancing.  He was not afraid of criticising the audience and of telling us we were wrong.  He also was not afraid to say some home truths (“It’s criminal”) when referring to the lack of arrests of bankers.

His language was simple and accessible.  Without using any jargon, he came across as really understanding his subject.  He did the classic of short words, short sentences, short phrases. And he spoke directly to us.

Finally, he had clearly done his research.  Speaking without notes for 40 minutes he demonstrated an understanding of what was important to those in the room.  He made us think and he helped us see the world differently.

In many way it was a classic carefully orchestrated talk.  But, because of his powerful delivery and his passion, this talk stood out amongst the four days of investor talks, presentations and discussions.

There were lessons for us all – not just about Africa, but about how to make a real impression when pitching for investment.

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