President raises the bar for all public speakers

“We felt the president’s heartbeat in this speech”- CNN

“Speeches are not only spoken, but lived” – CNN

by Halina St James

These two quotes capture the essence of Barack Obama’s inaugural speech. His passion was palpable. He delivered every single word as if his life depended on it.

The speech focused on unity and ideas to bring America together. It was classic Obama. Students of presentation skills would do well to examine how he:

  • strategically paused after important phrases early in the speech, allowing him to build emotion slowly and deliberately.
  • built up the momentum until he was passionately engaged.
  • used the power of repetition to reinforce his message.

The signature line of the speech was “My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment”.  From there Obama talked about the economy, healthcare, climate change, peace and security, and civil rights. Each topic started with the phase “We the people….”

And even in that tiny three-word phrase Obama demonstrated his oratorical skills. Each time he spoke the phrase he used pause and emphasis – “WE – pause – the people”. He said the words with passion and power. His eye contact was unwavering.

Together everything riveted people’s attention on WE. In a nation divided, he sought to unite Americans behind a common purpose.

As one blog comment said, “Obama pulled this one of the the hat.” And he did. Obama looked like a leader, spoke like a leader and commanded our attention like a leader. Now he has four  years to prove he can lead.

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