Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Want To Be A Stupendous Speaker? Speak Like Obama!

Imagine you are scheduled to say a few words in public in the very near future. You are probably nervous. Maybe you are even panicking. Possibly you are starting to think of how to skip this speech. Relax. You are one among millions who gets butterflies in stomach when asked to say few words in public. We do admire several people who possess this wonderful skill - public speaking and one of my favorites off late is the American President Barack Obama.

With his excellent public speaking skills President Obama connects with millions of people. It may be a good idea to consider learning from him on how to influence our audiences. No doubt Obama is a master in inspiring his audience’s, which is the number one goal of any public speaker.

He captured world's attention on 10th February 2008 through his famous speech announcing his candidature for the President ship given on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Illinois. The whole world watched his historic victory speech on 4th November 2008 when he became the 44th President-Elect. Obama's speeches remind us the power of words but we know we may not be able to speak like him. Rather we may not even want to speak like Obama. But may be we can learn from the way Obama speaks in order to influence and inspire our audiences.

In an age of accelerating change and increasing uncertainty, people are looking for clear direction, and we need to provide it. Whether we are shaping a new vision, spearheading an initiative into an untried market, speaking to the media, addressing a social function or simply conducting a business meeting, effective public speaking is frequently the margin of difference between success and failure.

I have read several surveys which indicate that most people are not listening to the words being spoken at business meetings. The listeners minds are wandering because the speakers have not made their talk interesting and relevant for the audiences. No doubt there are lot of great "natural" speakers but I believe great speakers aren't always born - they can also be trained. If we work to develop our skills, we can become much better at speaking. Once we have the right perspective, know a few tricks of speaking, and have found a good line or two, things will seems a log less challenging.

Let me share with you some simple tips which can help us to be an effective speaker.

1. Define the audience : To create interest among our audience, we must give them a good reason to listen to us. Their time is valuable, and that means that from our audience's viewpoint, our speech has to answer a simple question: " What's in it for me? "

2. Develop the speech : To make a great speech, we need to start by building a great outline that includes timing along with the what's, why's, and how’s of the speech. Keep in mind the audience and objectives of the speech while preparing it.

3. Practice, practice, practice : Having a solid outline for the speech is absolutely necessary, but the next critical step is rehearsal. It helps in anticipating and avoiding troubles before they happen. We can also join Toastmasters, volunteer to speak at local events and practice at work. The more we speak, the better we will be.

4. Nervous to natural : Be ourselves. An audience will know if we are trying to be someone we are not. Relax - our best self is our real self. Our audience is almost nervous as we are. Involve them as soon as possible to calm everyone's nerves.

5. Breath : Before we open our mouth, take a deep breath and look at the audience. Connect with their eyes, take in their energy and begin.

6. The first three minutes : The first three minutes of the speech is crucial since our audience's attention is naturally high. We have only one chance to make a first impression and we need to grab the audience attention, build rapport, and ensure that they will buy-in immediately to what we are saying.

7. Keep it simple : Have few main points and use numerous real-life examples for each one. Our audiences are keen to learn something new and they are not waiting to test our knowledge.

8. Make all movements purposeful : Moving just to move or out of nervousness is annoying for the audience. There is no need to move all the time. Try standing planted from time to time.

9. Slow down : People often speak too fast when they are nervous. Slow down. Take something to the podium with us that will serve as our reminder to slow down. Obama is a master in this and remember how effective it is.

10. Bring a visual : Place something on the podium that makes us smile. It could be a picture of our family, a silly toy or a rock from the ocean. It might sound silly, but it really works!

11. Close it right : A fine closing will make our audience feel good about what they've learned. Try to inspire them to act and leave them with something by which to remember us and our key message. Make sure to end our speech with a bang!

12. Take feedback : Have someone in the business of speaking to monitor our performance as a speaker. Ask for two or three ways to improve. Then implement their suggestions.

I am sure If we follow the above simple tips we can become a more effective speaker. But the road to true success in any endeavor is the will to continually improve. The first step is a commitment to continuous improvement. Audience evaluations are also useful tool for improving our performance and gauging how effective our speech has been. But when we do this, it is important to avoid the temptation to take reviews personally and defend ourselves. Remember, we can even learn from a crank if we are willing to listen!

Obama is a master at grabbing and keeping his audience’s attention. We may not be able to talk like Obama, but we can always be ourselves and be - A stupendous speaker who can inspire any audience.

Ready for the next speech?



Anonymous said...

great tips shamim. Thanks a lot. Please continue your good work. R. K. Nair. Kochi

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you.Obama speech holds so much of positivity ,relatedness ,effort that made him won the heart of common people.
His idea of ''YES WE CAN'' won millions of heart.

Anamika Sureka

Anonymous said...

hey its nice
Thanks N Regards
Abhishek Tiwari

Anonymous said...

Dear Shamim,

Your article on Public speaking was comprehensive.I would like add the benefits arising out of being a good public speaker. Confidence levels go up. People start looking up to you as a leader. You start learning to think on your feet. As you improve you learn how to influence a crowd or an individual.
This is one skill people get passionate about. There is no such thing as a perfect speech.
'Yes we can' is good,'Jai Ho' is also good.But there is no really perfect, theme,opening,closing.Everything depends on the equation between the audience and the speaker,the context,the feeling generated and how the speaker swings the audience to himself and his message.


Anonymous said...

Hi Shamim, nice to see your article. Where are u based out of? Will you be interested in delivering training for corporate organizations at the highest level? Please do check our website for details on us - www.paradigm-shift.in

Anonymous said...

Hi! Shamim, great work.

Anonymous said...

Hi! Shamim, I liked what i read. Did give me a few useful tips on how i could improve on my Public speaking skills and do better and be more effective. Thanks
U B Menon, Bangalore.


Dear Shamim
Good points.
Keep it up.

Kabeer, Doha , Qatar

Anuvrat said...

Or one can always join Toastmasters Clubs

Tom said...


Your article is also like OBAMA's speach, read till end (listen till end in case of OBAMA); probably the points are common however you drafted in such a way that one can keep the interest flowing till end.
Good work.
I would suggest some of our writers like {passion} should learn from this as their posting is just boring and we dont understand what they want to communicate.

Good luck

Kuna said...

Good points. If you could give some more tips from the book 'Public Speaking' (Dale Carnenegie), it will be more helpful for the readers.


Pradeep Pani

Vipin said...

Good one Shamim..Cheers

Vipin nadakkal

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Shamim,

I was googling for some points for a training and I happen to visit your blogs. I am really impressed with your down to earth writing style. Simple, easy to understand, nice examples... Keep going!

By the bye, let me introduce myself. I am Harish, a development officer with LIC in Cochin. To be good in my profession,
I have to be a good motivator and this definitely calls for good training and inter personal skills. I am also a member of JCI Cochin and we have a trainers forum which helps a lot in public speaking and training area.

Nice to be in touch with you. Hope we can keep in touch.



Anonymous said...

Hi Shamim

I have just complete my reading on your last article about obama speech, really wonderful. Thanks for sharing such tips. One suggestion if you dont mind, why dont you start your own blog something like www.shamimrafeek.com.
You are having wonderful writing skill, you can start your own website.

Jignesh Gohel

Anonymous said...

I would like to express my appreciation for your enhancing & enlightening article.It gives a great source of motivation..
Good Job!
Inspire with more like this!!
Best wishes,