A Lesson on Presenting from President Obama

Dynamic communication is one of the keys to success that I discuss in Straight Talk for Success.  If you want to become a dynamic communicator, you have to master three skills: 1) conversation, 2) writing, and 3) presenting.

President Barack Obama is a great orator – so great that during the campaign his opponents tried to use his skills against him by portraying him as someone who can deliver a great speech, but who is untested in his ability to deliver results.  Regardless of your political leanings though, you can learn a lot about making effective presentations by watching President Obama.

I watched his inauguration speech again on YouTube this morning as I was getting ready to write this post.  I was as moved by his words and delivery as I was when I heard it on Tuesday. 

However, in this post, I want to highlight one of the techniques President Obama used to help make his speech so powerful.  Several times in the speech, President Obama spoke in the affirmative.  He didn’t say, “we will try to do this.”  He said, “we will do this.” 

“Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met… For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.”

See what I mean?  President Obama’s use of the word “will” greatly enhanced the power of his speech.  It is unequivocal and powerful.  Go back and reread the quote above.  Add the words “try to” immediately after the word “will” and you’ll see what I mean. 

It remains to be seen if the President can deliver on these promises.  But that is not the point here.  The point is that speaking in the affirmative greatly enhances the power of your words when you are making a presentation.  It helps you come across as confident and positive.  Audiences respond well to speakers who are confident and positive.

The common sense point here is simple.  Successful people are good speakers.  As President Obama demonstrated in his inaugural address, skillful speakers speak in the affirmative.  They say “we will;” not “we will try to.”  The next time you need to do a talk – in a sales presentation, to a small group of employees, or to the senior people in your company, take a lesson from President Obama: be unequivocal.  Use affirmative language.  You will come across as confident and positive, and this will help you sell your message.

That’s my take on the power of words in making presentations.  What’s your?  Please leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us.  As always, thanks for reading.


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