Winning Your Audience

Deliver a Message with the Confidence of a President


By James Rosebush

Read by James Rosebush

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President Ronald Reagan taught James Rosebush to be an impactful speaker. Now he’s going to teach you.

Public speaking isn’t easy. Just ask anyone who’s ever blown a sales pitch, failed a class, or fumbled their way through a presentation because they froze up or couldn’t find the right words. No wonder more than 75 percent of people in the United States suffer from Glossophobia, the fear of speaking in front of crowds.

Luckily, public speaking isn’t some innate ability. It’s a skill. And given the right amount of time, energy, and perseverance, anyone can learn how it’s done.

In Winning Your Audience, James Rosebush draws on several decades of experience working with presidents, politicians, and business leaders to write his own manual for delivering a message with confidence. He looks back on the lessons he learned travelling the world with President Ronald Reagan, whom he served under for five years in the White House, and lays out the keys to “the Reagan speech template”: Question, Inform, Inspire, Ask.

Rosebush also studies some of the great political orators of our time. Vital lessons from the likes of Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and President Donald Trump are distilled down to a few simple rules.

Among them are:
· Be authentic
· Know yourself
· Practice and rehearse…and then do it again
· Don’t care what your mother thinks of you

No matter what kind of speeches, toasts, or presentations you have to give, this book can help. Use it like a textbook. Write in the margins. Tear out pages. Winning Your Audience can make even the most timid speakers among us into a genuine leaders. Read it now and learn how to win your audience.


Of all the talents bestowed upon men, none is so precious as the gift of oratory. He who enjoys it wields a power more durable than that of a great king. He is an independent force in the world.

From The Scaffolding of Rhetoric by Winston Churchill


Public speaking is the most common and requisite skill for which we receive the least amount of training.

I wrote this book for you. As you read and study this book and practice its principles, you will become an accomplished speaker and win your audience. It is likely that you are a part of the 75 percent of the global population who are afraid of speaking in public. This includes princes and prime ministers, presidents and preachers. It also includes students, salespeople, parents, managers, philanthropists, factory workers, and just about anyone who is required or chooses to communicate with other people. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, one of the most composed, powerful, and self-assured world leaders of all time, told me once that at times even she was afraid on the podium. To imagine that a woman with all that worldly experience could be fearful of speaking in public explains why the humblest among us also grows nervous at the prospect of being called upon to stand and deliver in front of an audience.

For many of us this means that deploying even the most basic communication skills, like making a phone call, can be challenging. Not surprisingly, there is a name for this fear and affliction: glossophobia. This book is designed to help you conquer fear and free your ego of the constraints that may keep you on the sidelines and from having success speaking in public. As you read this book, learn from its examples, and adopt and practice the critical skills you learn, you will find yourself growing in self-confidence and success. There is nothing more personally affirming than gaining dominion in public speaking. It will affect all aspects of your life, because learning to speak effectively rests on gaining new levels of self-knowledge and personal confidence. It’s a game changer. I know this is true because it is how I started to unleash my own abilities. Let me tell you the story.

A few decades ago, as I walked the streets of Moscow in frigid midwinter, a perma-haze of low gray clouds dimming the atmosphere, I was aware that I was neither alone nor invisible. The intelligence agents assigned to trail me, admittedly a very low-value target, were not the elegant and shadowy figures I had seen in spy movies any more than the fat old women posted inside the hotels, “Babas” as they were called, were grandmotherly. These worn-out elderly “hosts” always collected my room key when I went out and held it until I returned for a night’s sleep at the formerly grand, and by then faded, National Hotel—a five-minute walk from Red Square and Lenin’s tomb. They said that they pocketed my keys so they could “clean” the room while I was out.

As I walked the streets, in between meetings with government officials, it was damp and freezing cold and yet it was hard to stop watching the mesmerizingly efficient mechanized removal of ever-present snow being cleared from the broad boulevards and then dumped into the Moscow River. I imagined this to be a massive socialist snow-removing operation far different than the haphazard snow shoveling near the Flint River, in the industrial Midwestern town where I was raised, which is now known more for its contaminated public water supply than its storied past as a major automotive manufacturing hub.

As a Rotary International Scholar, I had been invited to the Soviet Union at age twenty-one to conduct face-to-face meetings with ranking government officials who were three times my age and four times my girth. In America, I was just a budding philanthropic executive, and it took all my self-confidence to pretend I was talking to my equals and to hold conversations of substance through ever-present interpreters. The images of numerous Moscow meetings in massive communist office blocks, and in Leningrad’s more traditional historic buildings where our meetings were held, have never left me. While the meetings were all planned and orchestrated for me, I was left on my own to conduct them. Communication was challenging but ultimately informative and rewarding.

In the evenings I found cultural events and museums to visit. More than once I risked being noticed by the police when I agreed to tutor strangers who begged me to teach them English. I used a few books I had stowed away in my suitcase to train them, which was a violation of my visa conditions. I am not sure I understood the potential cost of my youthful indiscretions, and I was certain to have warranted the creation of a thin surveillance dossier of some kind. The next time I would negotiate with Soviet officials came a decade later when I was working for President Ronald Reagan. These meetings included their own measure of intrigue.

After three weeks of meetings in Moscow and Leningrad on this first trip, I boarded a Russian Aeroflot 747 jet bound for New York, complete with farmers holding their highly excited caged chickens as well as cold cuts and vodka—which they shared liberally with their fellow travelers. Now I faced something more frightening than my meetings with the portly communists I had become acquainted with on my trip, or the tinge of terror I felt flying across the Atlantic on a rickety plane with boisterous Russians.

Once I arrived back in the US from the Soviet Union, it was my responsibility to give a speech to the Rotary Club about my experience. The good news was that my dad was a Dale Carnegie speech instructor, and I had been his student. The bad news was that he would be in the audience to judge, and possibly inhibit, my performance. This would not be the first time I would suffer from his severe critique of my speaking skills. He was the master teacher, and I was less than a master student. I had learned and practiced the basic principles of the then-famous Dale Carnegie training—thinking and imagining key points, tricks of memorization, dramatic storytelling, and more. Contemplating the task ahead, I thought about the perils of not presenting well.

Making every effort to turn fear into positive energy, I began to realize just how important storytelling and communicating are to history, scientific discoveries, and human progress. I also began to imagine, for the first time, the power of my own voice and its potential to educate and enlighten the audience about conditions in Soviet Russia. After all, this was no ordinary tourist trip. For once I knew I had stories to tell, and they were plentiful, colorful, and controversial. This gave me the courage to surmount my insecurities and to relate compelling and picturesque tales in a speech that received an enthusiastic response from the audience—including from my dad.

Years later, I found myself on an auditorium stage where Ronald Reagan had had a similar experience when he was near the same age I had been on my trip to Moscow. For Reagan this was the place where he first discovered the power of his voice to win his audience—even though it was decades later before he officially entered politics. As a freshman at Eureka College, in rural Illinois, where Abraham Lincoln, our sixteenth president, had spoken during his first presidential campaign, Reagan, later to be our fortieth president, was an unlikely organizer of a student strike. It was the students’ goal to oust the president of the college, Bert Wilson, for his role in cutting the school budget at the onset of the Great Depression, thus eliminating popular courses at the college. In the vast, wood-floored, undistinguished gathering place for the school, then called the chapel, though not resembling one, Reagan launched his very first “political” campaign.

As he rose to speak, he had a full indictment of the school’s president in hand and he recited the man’s long list of failures as a leader. He was startled when his speech was interrupted with applause from his classmates. He later wrote of this occasion:

Giving that speech—my first—was as exciting as any I ever gave. For the first time in my life, I felt my words reach out and grab an audience, and it was exhilarating. When I’d say something, they’d roar after every sentence, sometimes every word, and after a while, it was as if the audience and I were one. When I called for a vote on the strike, everybody rose to their feet with a thunderous clapping of hands and approved the proposal for a strike, by acclamation.

In fact, Reagan’s description of his very first speech and the audience reaction sounds more like what happens at a Donald Trump rally than the way we remember Reagan’s distinguished and relatively calm and grandfatherly perorations as an American president. Both Trump and Reagan, in their speeches, grasp the importance and value of being in a synchronous cadence with their audience, feeding them what they want to hear, and driving to an outcome or an important takeaway. Every speech for both leaders has been a value play—Reagan’s designed to achieve policy gains, and Trump’s more political.

Trump is a master at knowing his audience, having absolute confidence in his beliefs, defining good and evil, using repetition, and being consistent, loud, and simple in his use of words. These tactics have won him loyalty and large, boisterous crowds that show excitement about his points of view and appreciation for his sticking with them. A friend of mine who has been in Trump’s audiences told me that she likes his bold and direct word choices because “he is verbalizing what I am thinking and yet reticent to say myself. President Trump does it for me.” The impact of those plain-speaking words of Trump is intentional and is not lost on the media and the broader audience in general.

This book focuses on the spoken word and its effective delivery in any format—webinar and podcast presenter, Shark Tank competitor, political candidate, introducer, Toastmaster, preacher, professor, YouTube or TikTok videographer, TEDx inspirer, and professional lecturer. It is designed for every person who needs or desires to become an inspiring, impactful, and productive speaker, whether a salesperson, student in a classroom discussion or defending a dissertation, or a corporate leader who is participating in a stressful media interview following an oil spill, an airline crash, or failing corporate earnings.

My goal is to help every speaker win their audience and to achieve a desirable outcome, leaving the audience better educated, informed, or more inspired for having made the effort. This book includes a detailed guide to every conceivable element critical to effective public speaking; an assessment of the dynamic and highly competitive marketplace for presenters and speakers today; the historic and fundamental rules of rhetoric and examples of how these can be learned and applied; practical tools for performance; and stories about and examples of memorable presentations.

The original art of public speaking, called rhetoric, was introduced in ancient Greece largely for political purposes and to support embryonic steps to establish a democratic government. Down through the centuries oratory has been expressed and employed most in fields of education, law, religion, business, and politics. Because of the interrelationship of oratory, politics, and democracy, I have interwoven into my instruction and coaching in this book examples and stories about the crucial things I learned from my boss Ronald Reagan during my years at the White House. I have also included my analysis of President Trump’s style and practice of communicating—a style that reflects the disruptive patterns and practices introduced by social media platforms and their effect on public speaking. Other noted leaders, some of whom I have met, and their own stories make appearances throughout this book to help us achieve our goals based on their examples.

My hope is that you will use this book like a handbook or field guide. Write in its margins. Highlight passages to return to. Tear out or copy pages. Make it a workhorse for you. Its design is to show you how to bring you, the speaker, and your audience together for a specific purpose or desired outcome. After you master these precepts, you should leave your audience wanting to hear more from you and appreciative that you made the effort.

If I have failed to answer any question you might have about presenting or speaking, please email me at and I will attempt an answer.

I have written this book based on what I have learned and put to the test as a frequent public speaker and speaker coach myself. I have drawn upon lessons from a wide range of speakers I have heard, watched, analyzed, and tutored. This ability I owe to my own teachers and guides in communication, my dad, the Dale Carnegie instuctor, and my former boss, President Ronald Reagan, the Great Communicator.


Words Power the World

Launching a Competitive Message in a Crowded Marketplace

Imagine, for a moment, a round-the-clock cacophony of sound emanating from the packed streets of Manhattan, America’s largest and most densely populated urban territory. It used to be that a city like New York slept at night. There was a cooling off and quieting down after midnight. Maybe people were sleeping, talking on their phones, relaxing, reading a book, finishing homework, having quiet conversations, or watching television. Whatever they were doing, there was more listening and a somewhat slower pace at night. It doesn’t happen as much anymore.

There used to be neighborhoods where you could escape the noise. Now there is a permanent restlessness on almost every city block. Too many people in too few spaces, and it feels like they are all in motion—physically and mentally. Walking, biking, on scooters or skateboards. In one sense, the tension that arises from this physical proximity to the action is stimulating and, in another sense, it’s stressful. Everywhere on the streets are sounds, almost like a muted Bruno Mars concert or the rappers Eminem or Tory Lanez all in the shadows and audible but mostly indiscernible and unrepeatable. Individual words might not be detected but the constant distant roar, the horns, and footsteps become the rhythm, cadence, and the beat of the symphony of a crowded city. Indeed, it’s a lot like language!

Now, instead of people and their proximity in a city like New York, imagine the crowded world of words and their collision with one another in some type of frenzied, incoherent transmission. So many words are spoken and broadcast on expanding and multiplying platforms today that we risk being drowned in the traffic while possibly missing the meaning altogether. To compete in this crowded word-metropolis by delivering or broadcasting a speech or making a sales pitch is increasingly challenging.

While speech-giving has never been easy for most people, finding a pathway to make your voice heard in such a competitive environment in person, or over so many web-based platforms, has become an even greater challenge. Imagine the thousands of speeches, talks, messages being delivered every single hour of every day around the globe. Persuasion and storytelling—and the words that make this happen—power the world. Schools, universities, community centers, hotel conference rooms, stadiums, concert halls, government and political forums, web-based platforms—all are alight with words in front of both live and remote audiences.

In the realm of verbal communication, it is estimated that women speak an average of 20,000 words a day and men 7,000. Between them there is a lot of talking, recording, performance, meetings, writing, speeches, broadcasting, all pushed out in vast quantities unimagined only a few years ago. Will we ever reach a saturation point at which time audiences stop considering certain issues because the marketplace in words has flooded the imagination? In fact even the security and safety of words have been compromised to affect acts of aggression and manipulation. Will this make us reticent to send more words out into an insecure environment, uncertain about how they might be franchised and manipulated?

Observers also sound alarms about the possibly excessive amount of information pouring out in front of audiences in relation to what they feel are requisite pauses required for deeper analysis, meditation, and contemplation, especially of profound or complex technical, educational, or even artistic material. It is difficult to know what would arrest this ultra-advancing trend, when more and more content is available, delivery more urgent and competitive, and the symphony of word-sounds is more difficult to penetrate. This makes a marketplace for any public speaker, business or government, and their content, more dense and challenging.

It is tough, for sure, to be an effective messenger and have your voice heard in such a complex market and at a time when audiences are becoming less apt to listen to a live presentation. It is more convenient to explore information pulsed on social media and available at all hours and in all settings. Add this to an audience more accustomed to processing data than contemplating ideas, and it is a steep hill to climb. This is a very serious issue for culture and human progress in general. Rapid advancement in the use of artifical intelligence or AI will complicate the deployment and analysis of information and word messages sent through impersonal machine messengers.

It is this disruptive word-climate that gave rise, in part, to the Trump style of speaking, one that he honed at the real estate negotiating table and the Apprentice reality television show. It was unconventional by political and governmental standards, but was reflective of a high-stakes win-or-lose proposition at the business bargaining table. It reinforces the principle grounded in ancient Greek culture that all public speaking is selling and persuading.

Do Words Always Deliver Their Intended Meaning?

The widely accepted standard bearer of word definitions and derivations, the Oxford English Dictionary, contains 171,476 words and adds approximately 1,000 new words every year. On average, however, today an individual English language speaker uses only 3,000, or approximately two-tenths of 1 percent, of these words in writing or speaking. But words by themselves are one-dimensional and inert until they are spoken, written, exclaimed, or sung—and placed in a context along with other words. Thus joined, they become messages or missiles that can have impact, be educational, or even result in disruption or consolation. Words well chosen and paired with effective delivery can form a compelling compact resulting in meaning and enlightenment; anger and threats; entreaties, proposals, and deals; as well as explanation, instruction, and inspiration—just to mention a few intentions from words well placed in relation to the listening ear and discerning mind.

Words can be used, intentionally or unintentionally, to manipulate, control, and mislead an audience as well as to inform, inspire, or entertain. Words alone can change the outcome of a court case, land a person in jail, make a marriage proposal or lose one, establish a friendship or end it, raise or lower the equity value of a company, result in a job or be fired from one. Words and delivery can be hurtful or helpful, powerful or pitiful. But words must be heard and intellectually or emotionally processed to acquire meaning and import. When offered ineffectively, even words that flow from the heart, mind, and mouth of the speaker might not be received in a way that the words are meant to be heard. What remains from the transmission of words, in terms of value or impact, is how the hearer processes them. Without that delivery of meaning to the listener’s mind, why make the speech in the first place?

Alf Rehn, a popular writer and professor from Finland, has retold a poignant story in his article “The Art of Keynoting” about how what is said may not be what is heard. This is illustrated by what happened one day after he delivered a keynote speech.

I felt it had worked rather well, and the CEO was very appreciative. I hung around afterwards, listened to a few other speeches, and then joined in the lunch buffet. As I was walking around with my plate of salad and various meats, I walked straight into a heated argument. Two men, who both worked at the host company, were already raising their voices at each other. It seemed they had very different opinions regarding the key way to make an organization more creative, and in addition they both agreed that I was right about this. Both had heard the exact same speech but came away with diametrically opposed ideas regarding the central problem, and were now quite thrilled to see me, as both assumed that I would side with them. With a sense of dread, I asked both to recap their core take-away, which they did, placing me in the somewhat awkward position of having to tell both of them that they’d (both) misunderstood what I was trying to say.

This seems like a relatively harmless, yet possibly costly, lack of accurate message transmission; but the stakes, in political and especially multicultural, multilateral organizations and negotiations can be downright dangerous. More than that, these misunderstandings can appear in our conversations at work (as in this story) and at home and among families as an everyday occurrence.

As an example of what is spoken by one person that may not be heard in the same context by the listener, I have my own potent memory from a high-stakes encounter. It comes from my negotiations with Chinese officials on behalf of the US government. Every position we articulated and every request we made of our Chinese counterparts at the bargaining table in central Beijing was met with an emphatic “No!” This continued over many days and in lengthy and tedious meetings. We began to wonder if they even heard what we were asking for. We also wondered if their “no” actually meant “maybe” or even “yes.” We learned that in some Asian cultures people may not react well to requirements for face-to-face acceptance or denial in a negotiation. They may prefer to deliver their real answers in sealed letters or impersonal documents, quite literally “saving face.”

And that is precisely what we experienced in the Chinese capital.

Tired and tested by repeatedly long days of unsuccessful talks and a steady diet of exotic foods like monkey brains and sea slugs, we left the bargaining table in the State Guest House and climbed aboard an official US Air Force plane and flew back to Washington. Prepared to accept defeat from our efforts, we were pleasantly surprised to find our Chinese counterparts had acquiesced to all our demands—after we left! They delivered their acceptance in writing to the Secretariat of the National Security Council which announced the about-face as soon as our team was all assembled in the fabled Situation Room in the basement of the West Wing.

Pride had figured largely in their ancient communication protocol, and by our physically leaving the bargaining table, as we did, it gave them a safe way to accommodate us formally in writing—while maintaining their pride.

Westerners tend to be more direct, impatient, and demanding in their face-to-face negotiating styles. It is critical for any negotiator or speaker to learn these cultural distinctions in the way words are conveyed, understood, and, most critically, acted upon. You don’t have to be negotiating with a foreign power to risk creating a gap between what is said and what is heard. This may be like telling a child to stop speaking with a mouthful of food and they keep right on doing it! They might interpret your command as meaning to “someday” stop talking with a mouth full of food. Your perception of what a person with whom you are speaking is hearing—and what that person believes you are saying—will always be just that. Your only test of validity is if the other party takes action as a direct result of what you have asked of them.

Transferring information from one human mind to another requires the passage of words, either in writing or speaking. This transfer may be precise or imperfect, and the initiator may not ever know how the message is actually received. Teachers may be in a unique position to discover the degree to which their lecture content reaches their targeted goal by requiring students to take a quiz or write an essay afterward. This usually determines to what degree the message migrated from the teacher to the students. For politicians, pollsters typically measure the degree to which campaign or policy messaging reaches the voting population. Ultimately, the success of the messaging is measured at the ballot box. To be judged effective, the speaker’s message has to not only reach the ear of his listener but also his mind, his consciousness—and then, most importantly, affect his action at the ballot box.

After every Reagan speech, our pollsters were busy tallying the rise and fall of the president’s public confidence polling numbers. Did the speech do its job? Did his speech resonate and reach the targeted audience? In a White House like Reagan’s that revolved around communication, poll numbers were like fuel—to just about all of us, but with one big exception: President Reagan himself.

Reagan understood that in any polling, the critical question is who is doing the polling and who is doing the interpreting. Are they influenced by people with an interest in what people should think of what is said? Are polling answers affected by the ways questions are asked? Does whether or not the sun shines that day affect polling results? And what about the slice of the population that happens to be in the polling audience—is it properly representative? As scientific and sophisticated as polling has become, these potential variables may have been part of why Reagan paid little attention to polls, always questioning their reliability and susceptibility to manipulation and interpretation.

Reagan was known as the Great Communicator in part because of his authentic character and sincerity.

The Evolving Use of Words and Their Impact on Culture

Any person who has a phone or an individual communication device can become a broadcaster of their own ideas ranging from the truly inspirational to the mundane or manipulating and disturbing. And those ideas can be conveyed with a fervor ranging from the mild and acceptable to malicious intent. Each person can be his own network to broadcast information—with few restrictions. Becoming an influencer and monetizing your own beliefs, styles, opinions has been a successful strategy for thousands who have found a way to build large groups of followers willing to take their advice or mimic their lifestyle and make purchases as a result. That is why commercial networks and storefronts are increasingly challenged and strained for ways to earn revenue from the traditional channels of communication and advertising paid for by retail advertisers in the past.


  • Praise for Winning Your Audience:

    Finally, after a lifetime of waiting, there arrives a book for all of us who've dealt with the dreaded prospect of having to stand before an audience and deliver a speech. And what a wonderful book it is. It would have been the perfect complement to the most valuable class I took in college. —William F. Marshall, The Epoch Times
  • In Winning Your Audience, Rosebush shows the aspiring speaker and student of history how to ground words in reality. Better still, he does so in a way that is both informative and entertaining. This is a vanishing talent. How Rosebush preserved it inside the Beltway deserves another volume.—Jack Cashill, American Thinker
  • Praise for James Rosebush's True Reagan:

This book fills an important space in the Reagan literature. It gives readers an exciting understanding of the pace and texture of life in that dynamic President's White House.—George F. Will, Syndicated Columnist
  • This up-close, personal account by a real White House insider gives us the best insight yet into who Ronald Reagan really was and what made him tick.—Bob Schieffer, CBS News
  • Rosebush understands Reagan-what motivated him and what made him great. We need a whole lot more of Reagan's powerful moral courage and Jim Rosebush has shared what the President revealed to him on this subject during the years he worked in the White House. A must-read for anyone who loves Reagan and wants to understand him better. A blueprint for our current and future leaders. They could learn a lot from this book.—Larry Kudlow, CNBC Senior Contributor, Radio Host of the nationally syndicated Larry Kudlow Show
  • This book leaves no doubt that Ronald Reagan was the most consequential President of the second half of the twentieth century. He was my model as Mayor of New York. The book should be required reading for all presidential candidates and voters.—Rudolph W. Giuliani, former Mayor of New York City, and Associate Attorney General and U.S. Attorney appointed by President Ronald Reagan
  • On Sale
    Apr 7, 2020
    Hachette Audio

    James Rosebush

    About the Author

    James Rosebush was a Deputy Assistant to President Reagan, the Chief of Staff to First Lady Nancy Reagan, and a Senior Advisor at the White House. For over twenty years he has been CEO of an international consulting firm, GrowthStrategy, Inc., advising on management strategies, finance, marketing, and communications, throughout the world. He lives in Washington, DC, with his wife, Nancy.

    Learn more about this author