In the small hours of last night, President Obama took to the stage in Washington DC to deliver his acceptance speech. 37 emotional minutes later, he stopped and though we were moved, we might have thought “well how does this change things for us in Blighty?” there’s a lot we can learn from him. Not about moving forward and overcoming the worst financial crisis known to man and introducing a health service or anything, but delivering a good speech!
Here are some things we’ve learned from him and his speech:
1. Pausing is power
Take your time when you talk. Although you want to get everything said, the faster you speak, the more it seems like you’re letting everyone think that what you’re saying doesn’t deserve their time. Although you’ve gone over the speech a billion times, this is the first time your listeners will have heard you, so take. Your. Time.
2. Eye contact
Barry O gets a bit of criticism for not making eye contact with the camera in front of him, but there are reasons behind this. Firstly, he wants to gee up the crowd who are actually there – when they cheer, the audience at home will respond likewise. Secondly, looking straight to camera usually happens when presidents muck up. Though most of us are never going to be politicians, take heed of the first suggestion – know who your audience is and know that they are to be engaged with.
3. Body language
Politicians, even Barack, fall into clichés when it comes to body movement. They hold imaginary basketballs, they do that weird holding their thumb thing and sometimes they jab their fingers about. Be engaging, using your hands sparingly, but just enough to get your point across. Waving your hands around and using bunny fingers doesn’t actually present ideas well, it just looks like a lot of flapping. Have the confidence to remain calm and measured in your movements.
4. Short and sweet
Barack is allowed to make a long speech, because he’s v important. However, you’re not Barack. Although everything you have to say is important, and totally credible and pressing, there is no need to repeat absolutely everything. If you speak steadily (pace-wise, not tone-wise, be careful to lift and drop your voice, like a gradual yodel, so as not to bore people) and slowly (see point #1) then people will understand what you’re saying the first time around and there’ll be no need to keep them hanging on. It’s widely believed that people stop concentrating after 10 minutes, but with information constantly available to us and news moving and things happening faster than ever – try to keep it under that limit.
5. Mind your words
Although Barack is good with jokes and slang and his coolness makes up a lot of his appeal with youngsters (he won over 69% of them in the election), It goes without question that swearwords are a no-no. It’s not that you’ll look too cool or edgy to be accepted by your audience of normals if you swear, it’s just that swears come to mean a lot of things, and there are so many other, more appropriate words to use in a swear’s place.
Also, ‘literally’, ‘like’ and ‘um’ are bugbears among many people, and don’t help get your point across unless they’re correctly used. If you want to um, just take a pause, a deep breath, and move on. Clarify the sentence you’re saying before you say it.