Skills for Success: Public Speaking Tips from President Obama

Whatever your political persuasion, there’s no denying that President Obama is a powerful public speaker. And although you’re not likely to be speaking as the leader of the free world any time soon, anyone can make use of some of the best techniques that Obama uses in his speeches. Check out our favorite tips for speaking like President Obama, and share your own in the comments.

  • Slow down

    The most common mistake in public speaking is rushing through your material. Sure, you may be nervous, but it’s worth the effort to slow down and really make it count. Barack Obama is not in a hurry, and it helps him to stand out. He never rushes when he’s speaking, taking pauses and giving time to let things sink in before it’s time to move on.

  • Make them laugh, then make your point

    We see a lot of smiles and wit in President Obama’s speaking, and it works for him. Even when you’re listening to the President of the United States speak, it can be difficult to focus and give your uninterrupted attention. Obama takes advantage of spontaneous moments, like comments from the crowd, and uses lines that will get a laugh. But he doesn’t linger on the comedy, moving on to make his point as soon as the laughter quiets down.

  • Tell a story

    Barack Obama’s speechwriter, Jon Favreau, has shared that storytelling is one of the most important parts of every Obama speech. Favreau makes sure that every speech tells a story from beginning to end. This takes Obama’s speaking beyond the modern soundbite. Obama is talented at using stories to make a point, sharing the personal experiences of people he’s met or learned about to really bring messages to life.

  • Share a message of hope

    One of Obama’s most powerful tools is hope, a message that things can and will get better. People love to hope, and you don’t have to be the President of the United States to instill a feeling of hope in others. Discuss issues beyond the immediate, share the big picture, and remind your audience what they have to look forward to.

  • Share different moods

    Obama is great at showing light and shade, offering different moods that help create contrast and keep listeners engaged. Show a full range of emotion, building joy, humor, and seriousness into your speech.

  • Share the ideas of others

    Not even the President knows everything. Obama often brings in relevant quotes and insights from others. Quotes are especially useful because they can bring in expert support to really drive your point home.

  • Use imagery

    You could stand up with a PowerPoint slide and show a picture, but it’s much more poetic and powerful to paint a picture with imagination. When Obama says, “Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us,” it tugs at the heart strings as we imagine bleary-eyed soldiers uncomfortable and in harm’s way. These are the elements that make listeners pay attention and care about what you’re saying.

  • Make offerings, then move on to demands

    As the President, Obama has to speak to people who may not agree with everything he says, but by making offerings early on, he’s able to speak effectively and still keep their attention. Offering agreements or concessions can help bring a difficult audience over to your side.

  • Address your real audience

    Who are you really talking to? During the 2012 presidential debates, Obama looked more at the camera, while Mitt Romney focused more on the President. Although the conversation was technically between Obama and Romney, the real audience was the American people, and Obama spoke more directly to them.

  • Bonus: Own the room like Michelle Obama

    Barack Obama isn’t the only powerful speaker living in the White House these days. First Lady Michelle Obama frequently displays grace and poise in public speaking, offering a great example of how you can own the room. Even if you’re feeling rattled, be cool, calm, and collected to present your best self and instill a sense of confidence in your audience. Take your time, look at the audience, and deliver your speech with power.

Posted on 12/18/12 | by Staff Writers | in Resources | No Comments »

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