Video clip NYT Thomas Friedman’s Own the physical space masterclass

 In Journalist, Learning from Luminaries

In the 4 minute 44 second clip below, of an interview with Charlie Rose, NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman owns the physical space through body movement and gestures that are seamlessly coordinated with the points he


This performance by Friedman’s is mesmerising, and an impressive example of a highly expressive, visual communicator.*

Overall comment of Friedman’s performance

Friedman’s performance is ‘all of one piece’. That is – his words, voice, body language and feeling tone ‘sing in tune’.

Below are my body language and speech analysis of certain sections of the clip

First 22 seconds

After a speech stumble at the start, note at the 12 second mark, how Friedman shift gears, punches the space with hand gestures, accelerates his cadence, and increases his voice and body energy – when repeating the phrase ‘At this time’.

This high energy and speed counterpoints the slow, low energy and speed opening.

He continues with the accelerated cadence, finishing this section in a flourish with hands moving from high to low paired with ‘its 30,000 feet and then come down.’

22 – 45 second section

Note how he sweeps one hand away from the other to demonstrate passage of time. He marks points on the table with specific gestures to accompany the geographic places he had visited.

With both hands in tandem, he then marks out three areas from left to right in coordination with three separate events in time. That is, ‘from iron empires to iron fists to iron domes’. (this triplet of phrases beginning with iron is the literary device, anaphora).

1:47 – 1:55 second section

Note the superb ‘hand puppetry’ explaining the ‘iron fist leader being surrounded by intelligent services’.

2:14 – 2:16 second section

Note the sharp, karate chop gestures coordinated with ‘I’m going to protect you, from you’.

2:16 > end of clip (things to note, in sequential order)

Sway and swagger of body and arms.

Vertical hand slice paired with decapitating.

Interlacing fingers with ‘people come together’.

Vertical hand chop.

Hypnotic voice acceleration and deceleration with sudden pausing.

‘Don’t come to a hockey game prepared to play by the rules of touch football’ metaphor.

Strong point making, expressed through hands in tandem, up and down karate chops, with staccato cadence ‘it’s not how it works . . . real force on the ground’.

Summing up by returning to his opening point, ‘It’s the problem from hell’.


It needs to be said that when we observe the Face-to-Face communication of any person we don’t make those observations in a vacuum. We make judgements about a person – overtly or latently cognizant of the person’s reputation.

Friedman is a luminary journalist in foreign affairs and on the Middle East. If we know of the luminary status prior to observing him – we’ll more readily give him our initial attention due to this reputation.

But even if we didn’t know him, (and leaving aside whether we are interested in the topic or not) after 12 seconds of viewing, due to his performance, we’d mark him as a luminary. He speaks, present, handles and conducts himself in a manner consistent with that of a luminary.

My only improvement suggestion for Friedman is that he should sit taller by lengthening his neck and extending the crown of his head toward the ceiling.

*Powerful communicators come in a variety of ‘flavours’. Friedman is just one of those. In future deconstructions I’ll cover less expressive, powerful communicators.

Here is the link for the clip.


Own the Conversation

Choose a short section of the clip that resonates with you.

Repetitively – watch that section, perform it (the words, voice cadence, body language) into at video camera, watch your video performance, compare it to Friedman’s – until you can ‘own’ it. That is, you can perform it at a high level, while putting your individual mark on it.

p.s. Here’s link to a prior post where you can read my analysis of, and watch another inspiring, animated speaker, Caroline Casey.

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