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Larry King - how to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere

French Ben

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Larry King - How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere 

The first time I had to speak in the microphone at the radio, nothing came out of my mouth. Three times. The manager kicked the door open and yelled “This is a communication business!”. 

I said “Good morning, this is my first day every on radio. I have always wanted to be on air. I have been practicing all weekend. Fifteen minutes ago, they gave me a new name. I had a theme song ready to play. But my mouth is dry, I am nervous. And the general manager just kicked the door open and said This is a communications business” 


Let listeners share your experience and how you feel. 

If someone grabbed you from the street and put you in front of a microphone, what would you say? 

I would say “Someone just grabbed me front the street, handed me papers and told me ‘You’re on’” 

Will Rogers once said “Everyone is ignorant, just on different subjects”. And everyone has at least one thing they like to talk about. 

Reveal information about yourself, where you come from, what you like and dislike. 

If I were a stutterer, I would share that. I would say “It’s n-n-n-nice to meet you, my n-n-n-name is Larry King. I have this problem of stuttering but I am happy to talk to you.” 

Breaking the ice 

Even if they are stars, they will enjoy the conversation more if you are enjoying it too. Keep in mind most of them started as middle-class families too. And many of them are shy too. 

The WW2 veteran was extremely shy talking about his past, but had no problem talking about the present when Larry asked him: “What would you do if there were 5 planes in front of you, etc?” 


It’s easier to break the ice with personal subjects, like children – worked very well for Al Gore, or situational openers about the environment: pictures on the wall, etc. 

Avoid yes/no questions 

Use: “what do you think?” 

“What are the chances that ...?” 

First rule of conversation: listen 

To be a good talker, you must be a good listener. 

Quayle was anti-abortion- King asked him what he would do if his daughter needed one. This led him to say he would support her. 

In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Carnegie writes: “To be interesting, be interested. Ask questions that people will enjoy answering. Encourage them to talk about themselves and their accomplishments. A person’s toothache means more to someone right here and right now than millions dying in Africa” 

Body language 

It’s really important to make eye contact while listening. 

Social Talk 

The greatest question of all times: “why?” 

It is a great way of keeping the conversation interesting and lively. 

How to quarterback a conversation 

  • Choose a topic everyone can join in on  

  • Ask “what do you think?”, especially to the shy ones 

  • Don’t monopolize the conversation 

  • Use what-ifs / what would you do stories 


What if your dying friend gives you money for his son’s education, but your own son works harder. Would you spend the money on him? 

One minor in the cave is too far to squeeze through the hole- should he die so his friends can live? 

If you were invisible, what would you do... 


Pay attention to the physical setting 

Make sure guests are sitting close together 



Don’t say “I know how you must feel” or “This is such a tragedy”. It’s not up to you to gauge. 

Say “I’ll never forget when I was in hospital and he came to visit me” 

Or “Do you know he pulled the best prank I ever saw in high school?” 

Or “I’m sorry, we will really miss her” 


How to talk to celebrities 

Don’t say “I’ve been a fan of yours since I was a kid” or “My father used to take me to your shows” (implies they are old) or “I have always thought I could be an athlete too” (diminishes their accomplishment) 

Just approach them as normal people, they enjoy it like everyone.  

Do not only speak about what they are famous for. Try to speak about something else not related to their profession: talk to Woody Allen about the NY baseball team or Paul Newman about his charity work with kids. 

8 things the best talkers have in common 

Successful people all have the ability to express themselves well. Truman wasn’t a great orator and spoke very little but he made himself clearly understood. 

  1. They look at things from a new angle 

  1. They have broad horizons 

Their childhood in Brooklyn becomes a window on an era in American history 

  1. They are enthusiastic, show passion and interest 

They pick a topic they are passionate about: your kids, hobbies, charity 

  1. They don’t talk about themselves all the time 

  1. They are curious and ask why 

  1. They empathize, try to put themselves in your shoes 

  1. They have a sense of humor, and use it on themselves 

  1. They have their own style of talking 

Edward Bennett Williams spoke very softly and forced you to lean forward to hear him, thus paying more attention. He was compelling, but never loud. 

Find your own style 

Trendy talk and political correctness 

Avoid pompous language.  

Remove “basically, like, uh, um” and “you know” from your vocabulary. 

Business talk 

The art of selling 

The 2 golden rules of sales:  

1. know what you are selling 
2. Once you have closed the deal, don’t keep selling 

Don’t sell the features of your product, sell the advantages. Don say this toaster has a microchip for doneness. Talk about sitting down for breakfast to a steaming cup o coffee and a golden-brown English muffin. 

Don’t; talk about the premiums and payout of the insurance policy. Talk about the security your client will feel and about the gratitude of his or her spouse and children in knowing that the cornerstone of their financial future is in place. 

In job intereviews, you should also ask questions. It shows you are prepared and that you care. 

If the company isn’t doing too well: “Which company would you like to look like? How do you plan to achieve that?”. And listen to the answers. 

Talking to the boss 

“I have the feeling that I could be doing my job more effectively. Could you help me understand what areas I should concentrate on?” 

“I am not sure I understand how to go about this project. It would help me if you could explain what steps I should be taking first.” 


Important people do everything through their assistants. Be extra polite to them, they can help a lot 

When negotiating 

Always try to negotiate from a position of strength even if the odds are stacked against you 

King and his friends were about to be expelled for pretending one of their classmates had died. His friend said “You will kill your career if you do that. You took the word of three 13-year-old boys and only called their house once before writing Deceased in your books. We may be suspended, but you are out of work.” and after a while: “Why don’t we forget the whole story?” 

Make it clear that you have other options 


Come prepared, with an agenda. Start on time. Be decisive 

Be firm - “sorry we have to move on to the next item” 

My Best and Worst Guests 

The best guests have 4 things: 

  1. Passion for their work 

  1. They explain things clearly and in an interesting way 

  1. They have a chip on their shoulder, something bothering them 

  1. They have a sense of humor 

Many leaders in government, business and entertainment have the self-assurance never to take themselves too seriously and not to stay serious too long. 

Sinatra liked to tell the story when a man asked him to greet him in front of his in-laws who were about to arrive. When he did so, the young man said “Fuck off, Frank, this is personal”. 

Empathy: when a mom called Danny Kaye on a radio show and said her son (who was a big fan) had been killed in the Korean War, he asked what the son’s favorite song was and sang it a capella for the mom. 


Speak about something you know. If you don’t know about the topic, (Israeli conflict), speak about your experience as a Jewish boy in Brooklyn. 

  1. Tell them what you are going to tell them – it will be easier for them to follow 

  1. Tell them 

  1. Tell them what you told them 


Never say “I’m going to tell you a joke” or “Something funny happened to me today” 

After the joke, connect it with a real topic 

Know your audience 

Hit them where they live. Before speaking you should ask: 

  • What is the organization? 

  • Who are the members? 

  • Where are they from? 

  • What are the big issues facing you? 

  • What would you like to hear about me? 

  • How long do you want me to talk? 

  • Will there be questions after I finish? 

Make sure they know you 

Especially if you make a joke about Jews when the audience doesn’t know you are Jewish too. 

Say something slightly offensive 

To a crowd of policemen: “Mr. X just spoke against crime so in accordance of the fairness doctrine, I will have to speak in favor of it. How many of you would like to live in Butte, Montana? They have the lowest crime rate ever, but nobody wants to live there. What are the top cities in America? LA, SF, et. The conclusion is crime is a tourist attraction. People go where crime is. And if we listen to Mr. X, we will wipe crime in America. And you all will be out of a job” 

Be brief 

Lincoln’s Gettysburg speech lasted only 5 minutes and is still remembered today. Kennedy and Churchill also practiced brevity 

Speaking on TV and radio 

It’s just a conversation. Make it personal. 

King asked Bush: “Do you dislike Bill Clinton?”, to Nixon: “When you drive by the Watergate, do you feel weird?” and Reagan: “What is it like to get shot?” 

When you are on the hot seat 

You should keep control of the conversation when you are being interviewed, whether it is an interview or a job interview. If you don’t remember, say so. But don’t lie. 

Ways to deflect: 

  • “It would be premature to answer that question now” 

  • “That is a hypothetical question and I don’t deal with hypothetical issues” 

If you are walking in an uncomfortable situation and have to do it anyway, be honest. During the Tylenol scandal, officials apologized and decided not to take a PR approach. They said something awful had indeed happened but the product remained safe, they had taken extraordinary precautions and people could continue buying it without fear. 

Stick with what makes you comfortable 

If you do not want to be interviewed, do not do it. 

Avoid negatives: “Listen, there are a billion people living in China, and tomorrow morning, none of them will know that I missed that baseball game” 

Slow yourself down 

It will tone down your voice and calm you down 

Being honest 

When inmates escaped from prison, the warden didn’t say “No comment”. He showed journalists around the cell, said they were investigating and making recommendations to prevent future escapes. Major win. 

When debating 

Never disrespect your opponent. Look at them in the eyes, remain firm in your responses, never lose your cool. Look relaxed and confident. Speak with assurance. Show you are primed and ready for debate. 

Edited by French Ben
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