While Barack Obama’s political star has dimmed since his 2008 U.S. presidential election victory, his oratory and personal communication skill is still a benchmark of excellence, and one to aspire to.
Obama’s most enduring skill is how he takes time – through exploiting pauses when he speaks; through his body movement and gesture (smooth & coordinated); through tuning into the rhythm of a moment and choosing an apt action or non-action; through being ‘light’ about himself while taking his job seriously (in a group photo of leaders at the recent APEC meeting, Obama joked with Julia Gillard about her hair preening in preparation for the photo).
Obama delivered a workman-like (for him) performance in his address to the Australian Federal Parliament today. Before he started his address he demonstrated intelligent listening to Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s address, conveyed through his attentive eyes and face. His actual speech, like many of his set piece performance, is like a dance – where he starts with an easy light aside (eg. the joke about his prior mangling of Australian slang).
Following the opening he shifts his body much like a jazz musician who is getting into his rhythm and finding his groove. He starts extending final consonants in words a fraction longer and starts exploiting pauses for effect. He shifts up a gear in voice energy and acceleration for key parcels of speech, as demonstrated in his ‘We never forget’ repetitive phrasing during the speech.
He closed the speech with measure and certainty. I give him an 8/10 for the speech. By the way, Julia Gillard’s face and body language during Obama’s speech conveyed deep feeling and resonance for Obama – almost at the level of ‘hero worship’ status. Her numerous head nods during the speech were expressions of this deep feeling.
The ‘how to apply’ for this post: In your sales presentation meetings and interactions over the next seven days, in the manner of Obama, on purpose, intermittently ‘exploit a pause’ in your delivery for a ¼ or ½ a second, and note its impact on the certainty that you feel, and its impact on your listener.
p.s. Here’s a link from where you can download an Australian Financial Review article with my 2008 deconstruction of Obama’s speech communication, listening and body language:
http://www.kellyspeech.com.au/2008/10/measured-manner-a-winning-way-afr/tags | 8/10 for speech, Australian Financial Review, Australian slang, Barack Obama, benchmark of excellence, Body language, exploiting pauses, extending final consonants, Federal Parliament, finding his groove, hero worship, jazz musician Julia Gillard, measure and certainty, oratory, personal communication, political star dimmed, repetitive phrasing, speech communication, taking time, voice energy, we never forget