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putting the FAN in evangelism – spreading your messages by daring to share what you are a FAN of

How Obama looks so relaxed when speaking – and what you can “borrow” from his technique pt 1

Ever wondered how Barack Obama looks so “natural” and relaxed when he speaks?
He doesn’t have to look down at notes. He keeps good eye contact with his audience and shares his attention around many parts of “the room” (the venue).

Obama recently spoke at my old university (The University of Queensland) during the G20 in Brisbane.

O UQ speech

I wasn’t lucky enough to win a ballot or get an invitation to be in the audience to see him speak live – but being a “Barak-ademic” and communication commentator and studying his communication techniques since 2004, I carefully studied telecasts and videos of his “Brisbane Address”.

Lots of people in the audience captured stills and video and many videos were uploaded to Youtube. I watched lots of videos shot from different angles.

Yeah, I’m a “speech nerd” – but my nerdiness can help YOU!

U Q Obama speech

I’m often asked: how does Obama speak without notes and look so casual and “conversational”?

Well, he has become very, very smooth at using a dual teleprompter system – with 2 screens – one on either side of him.

He looks like he is shifting his gaze to “talk to another side of the room” – but if you look carefully you can see he is getting a cue for his next line from whatever screen he is looking at.

O teleprompter

A video of the speech included a side shot where you can see the teleprompters. They are not big chunky boxes they used to be. These days they are thin (less obvious) screens that would be not so noticeable to the audience. Well, the words on the screen wouldn’t be noticeable anyway.

In my opinion, Obama actually enjoys the “giving speeches” part of his job. He is comfortable on the stage and by now he’s had plenty of practice.

In his early days he would write his own speeches. These days he’s a bit busy so he has speechwriters who are familiar with his cadences. He is usually well prepared and practises his speech out loud many times.

He just needs the teleprompters to give him cues as to where he is in his speech.

His Brisbane address was over 40 minutes – which is a long time. In this case, I imagine he wanted to give the audience “a long time with him” and he had a lot of content he wanted to get across.

Many famous speeches are specially written to be around 20 minutes – JFK’s speeches and MLK’s “I have a Dream”.

Now part of delivering a speech so smoothly is being familiar with your speech content AND being familiar with your presentation technology (in Obama’s case – his teleprompters).

Another vital part is the actual writing and rewriting of the script – an engaging introduction, transitions, adding variety

I’ll discuss some writing tips in part 3.

Now, I imagine that the teleprompter was set up well ahead of time for the UQ speech. It was probably brought from the US along with his crack presentation set-up team.

In another address at the close of the G20 – he had to work off notes and without the advantage of a teleprompter, like other mortals he had to look down.

Obama looking down

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TB Media mosaic

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These days, lots of people and organisations need help with how to COPE with too much work, too much information, too many meetings, delivering difficult news, business writing, effective e-mail, e-mail overload, cross-cultural communication, better social media engagement etc. I like to help people COPE.

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One comment on “How Obama looks so relaxed when speaking – and what you can “borrow” from his technique pt 1

  1. efangelist
    January 13, 2016

    Reblogged this on efangelist and commented:

    An earlier post – yet still helpful. Even if you don’t kine his politics – all communicators can borrow from his style!

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