I watched with interest tonight as Obama gave his last speech; well his last one as President anyway. I’m sure there are many, many more speeches in his future.
It reminded me of the first time I met Barack Hussain Obama in person. It was 2004, in Chicago and the event was a fund raiser during the run up for his first Senate candidacy.
Before I continue, let me rewind. See, in my past (the early 90’s), I spent almost seven years doing sales training. A big part of what we practiced on daily was public speaking.
We practiced, drilled, and trained, over and over again. We video taped, reviewed, critiqued, and then did it all over again.There were subtle things we drilled on- like voice intonation, pace, and projection.
There were subtle things we drilled on- like voice intonation, pace, and projection.
There were more advanced items like a planned pause, step forward for emphasis, and left right brain pacing.
But, most of all, focused on crutch words. These are the ums, huhs, ok’s, etc. that people often repeat over and over again when giving a speech or interview.
The ability to deliver a rocking, amazing, soaring, and well-paced speech is, well, an art.
The skill to do so with perfect timing, no crutch words, and pauses at just the right points in again, an artistic marvel.It is something that can be learned with lots of practice.
This good new is, great speaking is something that can be learned with lots of practice.
What is the point of all this?
The 1st time I met Obama, I watched him give a speech. Then, I watched him work the room. Then, I had a brief opportunity to speak with him in person.
My thoughts? Wow—One day THIS guy will be President.
He had all the hallmarks—charismatic, energetic, dynamic, and engaging.
Plus, when giving a speech from the teleprompter he was FLAWLESS! This meant, while reading the teleprompter for speech, he hit all of his marks.
The subtle change of pace. The planned pauses of 1-3 seconds to let a point sink in. The ability to raise, lower, and intonate his voice. The pure energy and capacity to create a soaring rhetoric.
To that end, while giving a speech, again Mr. Obama is a master.
While I watched his speech tonight I found myself moved to tears on a few occasions. I was wrapped up in the tone and delivery. The poignant way he looked at his wife Michelle. The LOONNNG pause he gave while speaking about her to let the moment sink in, and give time for the crowd to cheer for her. Further (planned or not—though I think it was faked), he grabs a tissue from his pocket and with perfect timing, wipes away a tear.
Yes indeed, Mr. Obama can deliver a speech.
Now, let me say also (and this comment comes with an “I am NOT a racist” qualifier which is unfortunately needed in today’s politically divided state), that while I think Mr. Obama is a great orator, I am no fan at all of his policies. Even more, most of his rhetoric tonight I thought (again personal opinion) was fluff, overblown and distorted to his view of reality.
See, I can disagree with someone based on a difference of views or opinions, without being a racist in doing so.
Further, I can appreciate and admire someone who has excelled at their craft.
If you didn’t see his speech tonight, you should watch it. You will be able to see someone who has mastered giving a speech.
You can judge for yourself his delivery abilities. How he moves the crowd. How he creates applaudable moments, and then let’s the points hang in the air. In some cases, he makes a point and waits long enough, that there is a subtle bit of uncomfortableness until, as if off que, the crowd rises to a standing ovation.
You can judge for yourself as well the “tissue” issue when he talks about Mrs. Obama.
In so many ways, I may not miss the man, but I will certainly miss the speeches.
(As a side note, if you want to get better giving speeches, you should track down two of the great TED speaking coaches, John Bates and Mark Lovett)
However, all that being said, Mr. Obama was also an exercise in frustration to watch while doing interviews.
Indeed, if he’s not on a teleprompter, he is a stuttering, blubbering, crutch worded mess.
I used to watch in wonder about how someone who does so well on stage, looked so incompetent during an interview.
If you haven’t seen what I’m talking about, there is a compilation of his but, but, but, but, but’s here.
Now again, before someone jumps on the “racist” comment, this has nothing to do with color or class.
It has to do with delivery. To be so good on stage, and so poor off, was just something of a fascination for me.
Which leads me back to where this started. During our training, we used to tape our sales sessions. Why? To eliminate crutch words, create pauses and more.
For a total flashback, here’s a speech I gave in 1993. There are a couple of Ok’s, and so’s, but overall it wasn’t too bad. Especially considering it was in front of an audience of over 30,000 people.
Indeed, the first time I met Obama, I thought he could be President—and I was right.
In closing, and if anyone actually made it this far—there is only ONE other person whom I’ve ever met and thought the same thing; wow, this guy could be President one day.
Any guesses on who that is?