What Barack Obama Taught Me About Public Speaking

Opinion

No one has been more consistent than President Barack Obama in showing the modern day world that public speaking is serious business. The moment you attain success, or as you get closer to the highest levels of leadership, you don’t choose public speaking. It chooses you. When the young Senator approached the lectern at the…

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No one has been more consistent than President Barack Obama in showing the modern day world that public speaking is serious business. The moment you attain success, or as you get closer to the highest levels of leadership, you don’t choose public speaking. It chooses you.

When the young Senator approached the lectern at the Democratic National Convention in the year 2008, Barack Obama started out as an intrepid individual on a path to change the ideas of America, reform its image and alter forever the way the modern people of the world view the art of public speaking. Everyone got a feel of the “Yes We Can” message which signalled Barack Obama’s arrival in the hallway of greats and formed the basis of renewed resilience, hope and ambition in the United States of America.

Against the odds of politics and colour, President Obama emerged victorious in two electoral cycles, serving eight years as President and leaving behind a legacy punctuated by a trail of eloquent speeches that have made the world a better, beautiful place. Following Obama’s exit from the Oval Office in his ebullient nature, we dig deeply to draw out lessons from his well of oratory.

Private Preparation

To develop the skill of public speaking, commitment and consistency are essential requirements. Barack Obama understood the golden rule of Eloquence that posits you should practice in private and display in public. He is known in inner circles to put in a great deal of effort, long practice hours, independent research, tasking of communication assistants and a truck load of personal passion into his message before heading into his public speaking outings. As the most powerful President in the world, his every word meant a lot to markets and Nations. It is immaterial that you lead a small group or a large organization, there is someone looking up to you for inspiration. Be sure to taste your words before pouring them out and always remember that when opportunities arrive, preparation becomes late.

Preach Personal

As Maya Angelous said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.

It is never really about the speaker, but the listener. Obama was a President who could relate to the everyday struggles and rewards, the joys as well as the miseries of his beloved led. The stories of the poor and the glories of the rich were within his awareness reach. Obama in his “long walk to the White House” and during the course of his eight years tenancy positively plagued the world with a series of masterly crafted speeches which was always interwoven with stories suitable for the particular situation. He knows Hope never goes on recession and preached it at every junction. It is a message we all embrace.

“You were the change.  You answered people’s hopes and because of you, by almost every measure, America is a better stronger place than it was when we started”

– Barack Obama, January 2017.

Integrity

One striking attribute of Obama’s Presidency was the lack of drowning controversy. It is hard to make a distinction between the public and private life of the American President.  Barack Obama practiced the open book policy and thankfully emerged near scar free at the end. He ensured there was a consistent connect in what he did and said. That is integrity.

Smile

In between the serous talk about nuclear weapons or improved healthcare, Barack offered snippets of jokes and a consistent charismatic smile that kept the audience relaxed and trusting his ability to handle matters no matter the complexities. That is the way to go!

Diplomacy and Dialogue

It is known world over that Obama places premium on jaw jaw over war war. This shaped the foreign policy direction and actions of his administration. The withdrawal of American troops in Iraq, renewed cordiality with the people of Cuba, the recent complex deal with Iran are all signposts of Obama’s bet on dialogue and Diplomacy. The outcome of his preferred methods involved compromise but the alternative is worse. The world is the worthy winner.  As the number one leader of the world, he was bound to draw blood as was the case when he delivered justice to Osama Bin Laden. However President Obama is excellent at applying tact when force is the inevitable single choice.

Be Spontaneous

In the public speaking journey, persistent practice may in certain instances not be the perfect fix for particular situations.  Barack Obama often in the heat of all the seriousness took the lane of spontaneity. He made his mess his message, shared a mouth opening account of his life’s events and strikes a long lasting cord with his audience.  Don’t be too hard on yourself or try to be someone else. Do not sound phoney or force the tongue to acquire a foreign accent. Do your public speaking in a way so pleasurable and comfortable that it is clear that you speak from the heart.

__________

Barack Obama has tendered evidence of his excellence. His communication strategies has won over saints and sinners alike. As he departs the White House, it is clear that he would in other ways remain relevant and keep rendering salutary service to the world.  He also leaves us a lesson. One that says public speaking is a skill we can all have and is actually a muscle we are all equipped with and just need to get in the habit of training and using it.

Yes we can!

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