Below is a very insightful analysis of Barack Obama’s inauguration speech, from the folks at PowerSpeaking. (Normally I’d simply link to an appropriate blog post, but since PowerSpeaking doesn’t have one, I’m reproducing the content below.)
PowerSpeaking is a firm that conducts clinics on how to enable business people to present more effectively. I’ve attended their “Speaking to the Big Dogs” program in the past, and I highly recommend their service.
With the swearing in of Barack Obama, Tuesday January 20th was a historic day. Here at PowerSpeaking, Inc., we eagerly watched our new President’s inauguration speech. What about you? What were your thoughts as you watched our 44th President address the nation (and the world)? Did it have the impact that you expected it to have?
The reviews have been mixed. New Republic writer John B. Judis called Obama’s speech “unusually abstract” and “a disappointing hodgepodge”. While historian Michael Roth declared the speech “brilliant, deeply felt” and containing “echoes of the great speeches of the past”.
This e-tip is our brief analysis of his speech. As you read it, think about how you can incorporate some of these ideas in your business talks.Here are some strategies that we think worked:
Imagery: The President used imagery six times in his nineteen-minute talk. “… gathering clouds and raging storms”. “…extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” “… brave the icy currents, and endure what storms may come.”
Series of Three: He organized some thoughts in a series of three at least ten times. “… humbled by, … grateful for…, and mindful of…” “Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered.” “… we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.”
Repetition of Words / Phrases: Three times he used repetition. “For us, they packed up their worldly possessions… For us, they toiled in sweatshops…” For us, they fought and died…” “This is the price… This is the source… This is the meaning…” “… all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance…” Use of
Pronouns: Obama’s extraordinary use of inclusive pronouns engages and inspires. Obama used the pronoun “I” twice in the speech. In contrast, he used the pronouns “we”, “our” and “us” 142 times.
Here’s what we believe was missing:
A core message: We conducted an informal survey asking people what they remembered most from the talk and what his main message was. Not one person could repeat a phrase. We’re not alone. CNN analysts Jeffrey Toobin says: “I thought that this was a speech with a lot of ideas but no theme and most importantly, this was a speech without a single memorable phrase.”
As you watch the eloquence of our new President, pay attention to the strategies he uses in his speeches. Imagery, organized thoughts, repetition and inclusive language can all increase the chance your business audience will remember your talks. And don’t forget to have a core message that you repeat three times! Let ‘er Rip!