Monday, May 25, 2009

How To Speak Like Obama

One of the main reasons why Obama is so popular and effective is his oratory skills. Yes, oratory skills can be honed. You can actually improve your public speaking skills by joining Toastmasters. You will learn how to develop the necessary skills in engaging your audience, build on your subject matter, learn about delivery, phrasing, etc... To get to Obama-level, you need natural charisma, much like JFK and Martin Luther King. Leadership qualities, to a large extent can also be honed, but to be a natural leader where people instantly look up to you is a quality that is hard to find. I have come across a few articles that tries to look at how Obama works his oratory skills. Here are the main points:

a) Always know your audience, their expectations, their anxieties, their concerns. When you speak to a group of parents-teachers, its different, when its with union workers about to lose a lot of jobs, its different, when its in front of TV, its different, when you are speaking to political reporters, its again different.

b) Following on the first point, you then broadly define the issues at hand, bring up the context of issues in the audience's perspective, show that you know what they are concerned about. Anticipate what they are thinking. Bringing up points on both sides of the issue and clarify your stance. Justify your stance. At the same time, you must not be seen to be playing your audience - hence you must show integrity, honesty, pragmatism and be realistic about the issues.

c) You have to learn to pause, to allow the audience to reflect and absorb the points. You need to build up your argument and thesis and let your words resonate. When you rush past prepared text, you will lose the impact key words and phrases can have on the audience... e.g. "yes, we can" long pause...

d) Use short phrases. Use phrasing techniques to bring your audience along, like a boat ride, riding out each wave of euphoria and reflection.

e) Be aware of your body language. No fidgety movements. Eye contact and facial expression must be correlate. You have to rehearse how to maintain calmness. If you have to flip pages, do it slow and deliberate. Always look out to the audience as if you were commanding the troops.

f) Always have a good beginning, a casualness (or light hearted humour) to embrace the audience to your side before you launch into your speech. Be aware that you do not climax in your speech too soon, you need to b uild it up, much like a conductor writing the various parts for his orchestra - you want to bring things to a crescendo.

g) Always end well, with the key phrase or what the audience should get from your speech.

A person even of Obama stature cannot do all things by himself. In Obama's case, he has a very very good speechwriter in Jon Favreau. Though only 27, he has the necessary energy and idealism to act as the sounding board. He has the tenacity to understand various tough issues, and drive through the points in a clear way in line with Obama's political views and leanings. That is not an easy task. He has to write the way Obama is thinking, and even the way he usually speak, because if not the speech will sound contrived and regurgitated.

Its not easy to speak well with integrity and class.

p/s photos: SPEED is an all Okinawan female J-pop group



You know of any Malaysian toastmaster's program?

Naysayer said...

Wow! I thought Speed has disbanded after their Speed Moment : The Best Album circa 1992 during their zaman kegemilangan of J-Pop.