Interesting little article from the SMH on Obama’s oratory and the elements of a good speech. Which, according to a Sydney businessman who plans to make money offering a course on how to imitate Obama, actually come out of his writing style first and foremost.
This guy’s theory is based on an analysis of Obama’s books – and the common elements he finds between books and speeches are as follows:
a) Clarity – simple english, easy to understand vocab and short sentences.
b) Tone – not vocal pitch but the “voice” in which you establish yourself – for Obama that meant a blend of self deprecation and confidence.
c) Nuance – explaining complexity with a simple turn of phrase and picking up on subtleties, tying them together and presenting a strong case in the listeners mind.
d) Poetry – the use of metaphor, a poetic voice and literary tools to create a sense of more than just straightforward prose or buzzword filled jargon.
e) Rhythm – developing a common refrain like “yes we can” that links ideas into a broader narrative and develops catch cry status.
The sixth point was a bonus/afterthought. It’s the idea that infusing your messaging with religious imagery and undertones will add that extra touch of inspiration. I guess that’s one that’s particularly transferable to the pulpit.
Clarity is the low hanging fruit – and the most important element for any piece of communication. It’s also where so many politicians and speakers fall over. If people can’t figure out what it is you want them to know it doesn’t matter how beautifully phrased it is or what sort of rhythm you develop. It just won’t stick.